The outside help referenced by Mueller and others apparently includes Islamists. In October, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) produced a document, “Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Training Guidance & Best Practices,” for federal, state, and local law enforcement to use in designing their own training programs. In addition to evidence that the interagency working group behind the guidelines included Islamists, MPAC boasts that one of its policy papers from 2010 is used as a reference in the report. In fact, MPAC is one of only nine references cited and is one of only two sources that are not government websites. One of the government websites cited is that of the department of the Los Angeles County sheriff, Lee Baca, who is a prominent apologist for CAIR. Words like “Islam,” “Muslim,” and “jihad” do not appear in the DHS/NCTC document.
MPAC, whose founders were ideologues of the Muslim Brotherhood, has a history of downplaying the threat from homegrown Islamic extremism, while its conferences feature radical speakers. The Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) states that MPAC “routinely speaks in defense of designated terrorist organizations, as well as individuals and charities that are supporters of terrorism; opposes U.S. counterterrorism measures as part of a consistent knee-jerk reaction claiming bias and discrimination behind law enforcement efforts; and reflects a blatant and conspiratorial anti-Semitism.”
Beyond the promises and documents emanating from Washington, there is evidence that Islamists have already succeeded in using the controversy over trainers to scare the government away from experts on jihad. Specifically, a conference on homegrown terrorism was scheduled for August 10-12, to be hosted by the CIA Threat Management Unit. After some Muslim “advocacy groups” learned that the speakers would include IPT executive director Steven Emerson and Stephen Coughlin, a former expert on Islam for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, they protested to the DHS and White House. The event was abruptly canceled.
The Islamists present themselves to the government as the solution to the controversy and warn that if training materials are not properly edited, the Muslim-American community will be alienated and counterterrorism cooperation will be undermined, as Salam al-Marayati, MPAC’s president, suggested in an October op-ed. In reality, however, these groups have been a barrier to cooperation by constantly telling their constituents that the government is systematically discriminating against them and that U.S. political leadership is waging a war on Islam.
CAIR, like MPAC, has offered its help in preventing anti-Muslim bias in counterterrorism training in the past. The FBI ended outreach programs with CAIR because of its failure to address concerns about its ties to Hamas, but the FBI field office in New Haven, Connecticut, did not let that stop it. In October 2010, the office accepted an offer from the Muslim Coalition of Connecticut to train FBI and law enforcement personnel. The leader of the organization used to be a spokesman for CAIR and CAIR’s branch in the state helped put on the event, but the field office circumvented the ban by not listing the FBI as a sponsor. The sessions included teaching about “Islamophobia.” Islamist organizations will undoubtedly use ongoing controversy to pressure governments into accepting their offers of training.
All is not yet lost, however, as the events of the past few months have inspired pushback against the campaign to neuter counterterrorism training under the guise of simply eliminating bias. Congresswoman Sue Myrick, who chairs the House Intelligence Subcommittee on Terrorism, Human Intelligence, Analysis, and Counterintelligence, recently asked her colleagues to sign on to a draft letter addressed to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Attorney General Eric Holder, warning that “the political nature of these reviews might inadvertently weaken our law enforcement and military counterterrorism training programs by censoring certain language that is used to objectively identify the asymmetrical threats that are present in today’s world.” She wants to know the details of the currently vague review process.
The government should be careful not to promote prejudice against Muslims and should remove any materials that are factually incorrect. However, it also has a responsibility to do what is anathema to Islamist pressure groups: teach counterterrorism professionals about the Islamist ideology, the theological roots of Islamic terrorism, and the Muslim Brotherhood network that the government has identified and prosecuted. The last thing it should do is give preference to components of those same Islamist networks over the experts who are exposing them.
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