Former FBI agent John Guandolo to speak in Culpeper.
Culpeper County Sheriff Scott Jenkins’ plan for “advanced counterterrorism training” for 20 of his staff has erupted in controversy and sparked a wave of criticism by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the liberal Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
At the center of the dispute: John Guandolo, the lecturer on tap to provide the training – a former FBI agent Muslim groups regard as prejudiced, misleading and “a notorious Muslim basher.”
CAIR wants the sheriff to “drop” the former agent. Sheriff Jenkins and Mr. Guandolo disagree and are standing their ground on a dispute with national implications.
In a letter last week, the head of CAIR’s “Department to Monitor and Combat Islamophobia” appealed to Sheriff Jenkins to cancel the 3-day seminar. Charging Mr. Guandolo with “a lengthy record of anti-Muslim extremism and unprofessional behavior,” CAIR’s Corey Saylor wrote that the former FBI agent “offers only his own prejudiced and inaccurate conspiratorial views, not solid counterterrorism training.”
In “HateWatch,” a blog self-described as “keeping an eye on the radical right,” SPLC slammed Mr. Guandolo as a “disreputable character.” The SPLC blog entry was parroted by Salon.com, a left-leaning online magazine.
A U.S. Naval Academy graduate and former Marine Corps officer, Mr. Guandolo is the founder of UnderstandingTheThreat.com, an organization that provides training and strategic consultation to federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. He served with 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, as a platoon commander during Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm, later as a Marine Force Recon platoon commander with the 2nd Force Reconnaissance Company and for one year as unit leader of the Commander-in-Chief’s In-Extremis Force. This unit was the predecessor of the Special Purpose-Marine Air Ground Task Force-Crisis Response, the rapid-response unit established in June 2013 in the wake of the terrorist attack on U.S. Special Mission Benghazi the year before.
Mr. Guandolo developed the FBI’s first counterterrorism training program focusing on the Ikhwan Al-Muslimoun (the Muslim Brotherhood), according to his bio. Dubbed “Understanding the Jihadi Network in America,” his program won acclaim by the conservative Center for Security Policy (CSP), a Washington think tank headed by Frank Gaffney, Jr. That program is one of the pillars of the training Mr. Guandolo plans to offer February 25 though 27.
He hopes to translate overarching intelligence into practical applications for local law enforcement. In 2011, several high-ranking security and intelligence professionals hailed the training as “thorough, fact-based and logically presented.” Among those professionals was R. James Woolsey, CIA director in the 1990s, who wrote that “for local law enforcement,… this information is critical to identifying, understanding and thwarting threats in your locale.”
The seminar is closed to the press and the public.
Mr. Guandolo is the author of “Raising a Jihadi Generation,” a book critical of Ikhwan. Called a “handbook” for local law enforcement and other security professionals, the book asserts that the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated multiple levels of government and “prepares the ground for, supports and facilitates jihadi operations” at the local as well as national level.
According to Guandolo, Sheriff Jenkins read the book, came away impressed and hooked up with its author to cement the training.
Security vs. Civil Rights, Claims vs. Counter-Claims
Since 9/11, various mosques and Islamic organizations have been the focus of surveillance, and CAIR has been the preeminent organization pushing back against that tide. CAIR calls itself “the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization,” but its critics are legion, and Guandolo is among them. They charge that CAIR’s aggressive lawsuits, demonstrations and propaganda are eclipsed only by the organization’s refusal to renounce Hamas as a terrorist organization. The Gaza-based group designated by the U.S. in 1993 as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), Hamas is the stepchild of Ikhwan Al-Muslimoun.
In 2009, an FBI official wrote that “until we can resolve whether there continues to be a connection between CAIR and its executives and Hamas, the FBI does not view CAIR as an appropriate liaison partner” – that is, a suitable ally for the bureau’s outreach to the Muslim community. Yet, despite the ban, outreach continued, largely by agents with little or no counterterrorism experience, anonymous sources suggest to the Culpeper Times.
Last year, Virginia Congressman Frank Wolf (R-Va.), chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the FBI’s budget, launched a scathing letter to the bureau, calling the policy violations “intolerable” and demanding the ouster of agents responsible (http://bit.ly/1gAMWKb). The issue is still not resolved to Chairman Wolf’s satisfaction.
In conversation, Guandolo refers to CAIR as “Hamas.”
Freedom of Religion or “Bug Lights for Al Qaeda?”
Since 9/11, intelligence and security professionals have shown as much interest in smaller, loosely-knit organizations as they have in full-blown, hierarchical FTOs. There are Muslim Student Associations on most American college campuses, and a few have alumni worth noting. Ramy Zamzam was president of the MSC at Washington’s Howard University before he knocked on the door of a Jaish-e-Mohammed safe house in Sargodha, Pakistan, and got himself and four other aspiring American jihadis arrested. Omar Hamammi (Al-Amriki), the American who fought for Al Shabaab, the Al Qaeda affiliate in Somalia, was MSC president at the University of Alabama.
In 2010, Mitchell Silber, then-director of the Intelligence Division and Counterterrorism Bureau of the New York Police Department, said organizations like Muslim Student Associations and the NYC-based Islamic Thinkers Society are like “bug lights for Al Qaeda.”
In “Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat,” an NYPD monograph that he co-authored, Mr. Silber outlined the four-step radicalization pathway down which a “spiritual sanctioner” moves a candidate from self-identification to “jihadization.” Yemen-based radical cleric Anwar Al-‘Aulaqi served as the sanctioner for Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood killer who now faces the death penalty. Al-‘Aulaqi was killed in September 2011 by Hellfire missiles fired from two Predator drones.
Still, civil liberty advocates charge that security and intelligence professionals are prone to paint with the broadest of brush strokes.
In 2011, a wave of investigative reports and appeals by the American Civil Liberties Union, CAIR and others prompted the Obama administration to impose sharp restrictions on domestic intelligence-gathering operations involving Islamic institutions. By October of that year, mosques were ruled off-limits to surveillance and undercover operations. Such operations were permissible only with the prior approval of the Sensitive Operations Review Committee, a special board established by the Obama administration at the Justice Department.
At that time, the Pew Research Center announced its latest public opinion survey of American Muslims. Pew headlined its poll by announcing that there were “no signs of growth in alienation or support of extremism.” There may have been no growth, but had there been a decline? Alarming results can be found in the latter pages of the 136-page report. There, Pew disclosed that while 70 percent of U.S. Muslims viewed Al Qaeda “very unfavorably,” the remaining 30 percent viewed Al Qaeda “favorably,” “somewhat unfavorably,” didn’t know or refused to answer.
Offer of help from Culpeper-based opposition
The Culpeper Sheriff’s Department training initiative is opposed also by the Islamic Center of Culpeper (ICC) (http://icculpeper.blogspot.com/). In a letter to Sheriff Jenkins, ICC Director Nabeel Babar said the center’s board members “would be happy to meet with law enforcement officials…to educate them on Islam with information that is a true representation of our faith.”
An endocrinologist who served at the Culpeper Regional Hospital for the last four years, Dr. Babar lives in Culpeper but now serves at Rockingham Memorial Hospital in Harrisonburg, Virginia. With no mosque in Culpeper, Dr. Babar describes his group as “a virtual society” that hopes to build a meeting place. ICC was registered in 2013 as a 501(c)(3) public charity and religious organization.
Culpeper County Sheriff’s Office should not have invited John Guandolo due to his “extremely prejudiced, misleading views,” the affable, soft-spoken Dr. Babar stated. “His views are not at all representative of our faith. Ours is a religion of peace.”
On Tuesday, a spokesperson with Sheriff Jenkins’ office told the Culpeper Times emphatically: “The training will continue as planned.”
Sheriff under fire
Reached Wednesday, Sheriff Jenkins is confident that he did his homework. “Several of my supervisors had come to me with information about Mr. Guandolo, the training he offered and highly recommended that we participate. With some of their FBI contacts, we could offer the training here, locally, so that deputies wouldn’t have to travel to Northern Virginia or Richmond,” said Jenkins.
Deputies participating will receive a discounted rate and Jenkins considers it a cost savings as he won’t be paying for mileage and/or meals. The seminar will be held at Germanna Community College. Attending this training will satisfy 24 of the 40 hours of additional training that deputies are required to complete.
Jenkins was aware of information about Guandolo and sexual indiscretions.
“I’m not going to pass judgment on that,” said Jenkins. “For me, his reputation in his field of expertise is what’s important…and everything that I’ve learned tells me that what he has to say is worth learning about.”
Culpeper law enforcement are not the only ones participating in the three-day seminar.
Jenkins said that he had a followup discussion with Guandolo Monday after an online article by Kenric Ward of Watchdog.org http://watchdog.org/129024/counterterrorism-muslim-fbi/ appeared in local media sparking immediate reaction from Culpeper residents and beyond.
Guandolo had recently returned from conducting seminars with justice academies in North Carolina.
Guandolo assured Jenkins that if, at any time during the presentation, there was information presented that could not be backed up by fact, money would be refunded.
Jenkins admits to some frustration that people aren’t giving his office and deputies enough credit.
“I commend them for taking this training,” said Jenkins. “Do folks think they are empty vessels and that they are going to be brainwashed by attending a three-day seminar?” If that’s the case, they shouldn’t be in uniform. It’s ridiculous.”
As far as addressing the concerns of Dr. Babar, Jenkins said that he had heard from him early this week and intends to meet with him.
Reports of Jenkins’ challenges quickly reached neighboring Fauquier County. One elderly resident, retired from the Missile Defense Agency, and who asked not to be named, is alarmed.
“We need to listen, our American way of life is being threatened…it’s like psychology being reversed…our young people are made to feel guilty and called racists if they speak up.”
“I may be old but I’m not stupid. We’re looked to as the moral compass…we need to continue to be that and stand up for what is right.”
“These bedroom communities outside of Washington. My fear is that most are sleeping.”
A former Navy Commander, Tom Wyld served since 2008 as director of intelligence for a private security firm specializing in training and operational support of U.S. Navy SEALs. His near-daily reports on global and domestic threats by state- and non-state actors were read by special operators, the intelligence community, diplomats, journalists and senior military and law enforcement leaders. Prior assignments include Communications Coordinator, Swift Boat Veterans & POWs for Truth; federal lobbyist for State Motorcyclists’ Rights Organizations (e.g., ABATEs); and Chief of Staff and PR Director for the Institute for Legislative Action, the lobbying and political arm of the NRA.)
Managing Editor Anita Sherman contributed to this article.
February 24: The counterterrorism seminar planned for this week is on schedule. We’ve learned this morning that the community-at-large will now be able to learn what former FBI agent John Guandolo has to say.
Guandolo will give a free two-hour public presentation, entitled “The Muslim Brotherhood/Jihadi Threat to America and Virginia,” Wednesday, February 26th, 2014, starting at 7:00 pm, at Germanna’s Daniel Technology Center.