America’s ‘known wolf’ jihadist problem: Why haven’t we learned from our mistakes?

Muhammad ud-Deen | Greg A L | Wikimedia Commons

Conservative Review, by Benjamin Weingarten, April 20, 2017:

One of the more disturbing and dangerous trends in American national security is the proliferation of “known wolves” — jihadists who are able to commit terrorist attacks against our homeland in spite of the fact that they are on law enforcement’s radar.

This issue is becoming so commonplace that literally in the midst of drafting this piece, news broke of one such potential figure. Kori Ali Muhammad murdered three innocents in Fresno, California during a rampage in which he reportedly screamed “Allahu akbar.” In spite of authorities characterizing his attack as a hate crime rather than terrorism, Muhammad certainly appears to have been a “known wolf”, with local news sources reporting not only a criminal background but a history of “making terrorist threats.”

More chilling were the revelations detailed in a recent episode of 60 Minutes concerning the would-be terrorists known to the FBI who attempted to shoot up the 2015 “Draw Muhammad” cartoon event held in Garland, Texas. The show’s investigators found that an undercover FBI agent working with the pair of jihadists had urged one of them to “Tear up Texas,” and was in an automobile directly behind them in the moments leading up to their failed attack. Maddeningly, the agent apparently did not attempt to intervene and prevent the potential massacre.

But perhaps the most infamous known wolf of all is Anwar al-Awlaki. Awlaki was an American citizen who would become one of the leading jihadist clerics and al-Qaeda recruiters in the world before being assassinated via drone in Yemen in 2011.

Awlaki’s name has surfaced in connection with a FOIA lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch of great importance and relevance as a new administration grapples with how to defend America from the jihadists within.

Judicial Watch filed suit against the FBI in order to force the agency to produce records relating to its investigation of Awlaki, given his confirmed connection to several 9/11 hijackers.

Fox News recently released images captured by the FBI stemming from this investigation that show Awlaki being surveilled on the same day in February of 2002 as he spoke at a conference at the Pentagon on “Islam and Middle Eastern Politics and Culture.”

The fact that Awlaki — who was interviewed by the FBI at least four times in the weeks following the 9/11 attacks due to his known ties to three of the hijackers — was invited to speak at a Department of Defense luncheon intended to serve as a forum for Muslim outreach alone is unsettling.

But the story gets worse:

The FBI documents confirm the imam was under bureau surveillance as part of the “IT UBL/Al-Qaeda” investigation, but the information was not shared with the Defense Department’s Office of General Counsel, which sponsored the 2002 Pentagon lunch.

The high-level FBI surveillance – including specialized teams, as well as video and photos – also calls into question the bureau’s explanation regarding a decision eight months later, in October 2002, by FBI agent Wade Ammerman. While Awlaki was held by Customs officers at JFK airport because of an outstanding warrant for the cleric’s arrest from the Joint Terrorism Task Force in San Diego, Ammerman told Customs to release him. The FBI has maintained Ammerman’s actions were routine. 

Meanwhile, the FBI has been reluctant to divulge details of the Awlaki investigation.

As the Fox News report notes:

The FBI first released blurry ‘Xerox’ copies in 2013 of the photos with poor resolution. Chris Farrell, director of Judicial Watch investigations, said they sued the bureau for more because Awlaki had confirmed contact with the 9/11 hijackers in San Diego and Virginia.

“The FBI continues to obstruct and delay the production of records concerning their investigation of the dead terrorist spiritual leader of the 9/11 hijackers –Anwar Awlaki,” Farrell said…

Farrell said the FBI released screen grabs but refused to release the surveillance videos. “Almost 16 years later [after 9/11 attacks], how are the interests of the American public served by the FBI’s legal gamesmanship and excessive redactions?” he said.

This is a valid question that Congress ought to take up in earnest.

The American people also deserve to know the answers to several other pertinent questions:

  • How is it that an individual could be investigated for terrorist links at the same time he was invited to speak to U.S. government defense officials in an outreach capacity?
  • Can the FBI report of any other analogous instances in which this has occurred?
  • What steps has the FBI taken to ensure that figures like Awlaki under FBI investigation are not actively consulting with U.S. government authorities, whether formally or informally?
  • In outreach efforts under the government’s countering violent extremism paradigm, is the FBI contacted to ensure that partners have been vetted for terrorist ties and are not the subject of current or past investigation, a la Awlaki?
  • Does the FBI believe it committed any additional errors in connection with its handling of its investigation of Awlaki? If so, what are they, and what measures has the FBI taken to ensure they will never be made in the future?

In formal remarks delivered by DHS Secretary John Kelly on April 18 on threats facing America, Sec. Kelly devoted substantial space to the issue of “Homegrown Terrorism,” which includes known wolves like Awlaki.

If we do not have an open and honest accounting of past failures on this count, we cannot hope to correct them in the future.

Given the great damage inflicted by the countering violent extremism project —- whereby the U.S. government outsourced its counterjihadist policies to the very Muslim Brotherhood-aligned groups responsible for purging the materials and figures best-equipped to orient our policies towards the Islamic supremacist threat (some groups of which may directly constitute the threat themselves) — time is of the essence if we are to change course and keep the homeland safe.

Ben Weingarten is Founder & CEO of ChangeUp Media LLC, a media consulting and publication services firm. A graduate of Columbia University, he regularly contributes to publications such as City Journal, The Federalist, Newsmax and PJ Media on national security/defense, economics and politics. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter. 

Gregg Roman: Trump Should Shift Focus from Fighting Obama’s ‘Violent Extremism’ to Fighting ‘Radical Islam’

Associated Press

Associated Press

Breitbart, by John Hayward, Feb. 27, 2017:

Gregg Roman, director of theMiddle East Forum, told SiriusXM host Alex Marlow ofBreitbart News Daily that he expects President Trump to proceed with his planned commission to study radical Islam.

Roman said the Middle East Forum has “drafted an off-the-shelf proposal to give President Trump whenever he thinks it’s time to begin this policy idea he spoke about back in August of last year, some really quick ways to get this moving forward.” The Middle East Forum report to which he referred is here.

“There was a working group that President Obama convened back in 2010 that was called the Countering Violent Extremism Working Group,” he recalled. “They came up with such quotes like, ‘Jihad as a holy war is a European invention,’ ‘The Caliphate’s return is inevitable,’ ‘Sharia is misunderstood,’ ‘Islamic terrorism is a contradiction in terms because terrorism is not Islamic by definition.’ There was a complete muddying of the waters as it relates to the intersection of Islamism as the political ideology that seeks to implement sharia across the West, and that of terrorism.”

“Now, the gem that was really great about Trump’s speech back in 2016, in August, was that he didn’t call this issue ‘violent extremism.’ What he called it was ‘radical Islamic terrorism,’” Roman continued, giving his own preferred definition of the term as “Islamist-inspired terrorism against Western targets.”

“The first thing he did, that I think any president would have to do, is define the problem that the White House would be trying to solve. So he did that. The second thing we would recommend to the president, as it’s written in the report, is to make sure that the structure of this commission should be much like that of what President Reagan put forward when he was trying to find ways in which to defeat the Soviet Union,” he recommended.

“The third thing is once we identify the structure of how this commission would look, we’d have to say who’s going to be on it. We urge the president to put representatives of law enforcement, the military, the intelligence community, diplomatic specialists, but also Muslims themselves, members of the Muslim reform movement and victims of Islamist terror,” he said.

“It’s not just inviting government representatives; it’s also inviting private citizens – those who might be able to reform Islam from within and those who have been victims of terror attacks emanating from Islamist terror groups like al-Qaeda, Jabhat al-Nusra, Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and so on and so forth,” he explained.

“The fourth thing about this commission is that it has to have a strong mandate. It can’t just be another organization, rather another quasi-organization, launched by the White House without any teeth. It should have the power to subpoena. It should have the power to call individuals not just to testify, but also to offer compelling evidence. And it should have the ability to recommend charges to the Justice Department for American groups that may be supporting Islamist activity in the United States,” he said. “It’s time to get the politics out of countering terrorism, and it’s time to really start sinking American law and teeth into this.”

“Lastly, the commission itself should implement its recommendations through legislation that the Congress would offer and also through executive orders that the president might put forward. It’s time to defeat radical Islamic terrorism. It’s no longer time to dance around the question like the Obama administration has done for the past eight years, prior to Trump being sworn in,” Roman concluded.

Marlow asked who Roman sees as allies on Capitol Hill in this endeavor and “who are the people who might be a force for preventing things like this from getting done.”

“Two of our allies that I really have to give words out to – I think there’s four of them that I would mention, but first Congressman Bill Johnson and also Ron de Santis are amazing on these issues,” Roman replied. “They’re working with us on another project, which is another recommendation for the administration called the Israel Victory Caucus, but they are two individuals that I think are at the forefront of combating radical Islamic terrorism.”

“The other two that I think you have on your show today are Keith Rothfus and Mike Kelly that are individuals that I’ve worked with when I was out in Pittsburgh in another function, before I came to the Forum, but they’re also at this,” he continued. “Especially Keith Rothfus’ work on terrorism finance. He’s doing it right now from an angle on how drugs affect the funding of terrorism, both here and also the criminal organizations behind it south of the border.”

“The individuals with the committees that are taking an interest in this, in the Senate you have the chair of the Committee on Homeland Security and also the chair of the Committee on Homeland Security in the House – McCaul in the House and Johnson in the Senate,” he said. “We sat down with their advisers and some of the subcommittee staff, the subcommittee staff directors,” said Roman. “It’s really important to understand that it’s not just the staff who are on board with defining the problem and trying to find a solution to it, but also many members of Congress are also interested in this. We had great meetings when we went down to the Hill last week, before the publication of the report.”

Marlow asked what Roman would like to see President Trump say to Congress on the topic of radical Islam during his upcoming address.

“I think definitive plans beyond the drafting of the executive order on immigration and extreme vetting that came out in the first few days of his administration, what he plans to do,” Roman replied. “He gave a directive to Secretary of Defense Mattis to draft a plan to defeat ISIS within 30 days of him drafting the order. I think it’s time that that plan not necessarily be shared – because President Trump has indicated he doesn’t intend to share his battle plans, which he shouldn’t with the public – but general guidelines on how he intends on getting that done.”

“The second thing is I’d like to hear him offer a stripping of the Countering Violent Extremism program that the Department of Homeland Security put forward under President Obama and a firm commitment that he will not be giving federal dollars to Islamist groups like the Muslim Public Affairs Committee or the Council on American-Islamic Relations,” he continued. “We saw two subsidiaries of these groups, allies, get hundreds of thousands of dollars in public funding. I don’t think it’s a good idea to give Islamists money to solve Islamist-backed terrorism.”

“The third thing that I’d like to see is him offer a definitive mindset and blueprint for him introducing his committee and commission on radical Islam. Those three things I think would be good starting steps for him to announce on policy,” he said.

“But I don’t necessarily expect this is going to be the platform for which he will make this speech,” Roman added. “I understand it’s more on domestic policy, tax reform, his infrastructure spending plan, so I won’t be disappointed if he doesn’t announce it. But if he does, those are the three things I would look for.”

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Countering Islamist Extremism the Right Way

islamist-extremism-governments-must-oppose-it-not-fund-it

Groups that preach Islamism must not be relied upon to counter violent extremism.

National Review, by Sam Westrop, Feb. 22, 2017:

As part of President Trump’s unapologetic promise to defeat “radical Islam,” critics expect an overhaul of the previous administration’s Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program. Under Obama, officials adopted counter-extremism policies that European politicians tried over a decade ago and have since deeply regretted.

To tackle the threat of Islamism, the new administration must identify and challenge the specific groups and networks within American Islam that advocate extremist ideas, or officials may inadvertently repeat Obama’s practice of legitimizing Islamists as leaders of all American Muslims.

The British Experience
In 2005, a month after the 7/7 London bombings, the British journalist Martin Bright sought answers to a question that, somehow, no one in government or the media had ever thought to ask before: Who exactly were the people in charge of the Muslim community, and what did they believe?

After the Salman Rushdie riots in 1988, the British government blindly accepted the claims of self-declared community leaders to be representative voices of British Muslims. The government gave these leaders millions and millions of dollars of community funds, and, after 9/11, counter-extremism grants.

Bright’s investigation, however, revealed something quite different from what these Muslim leaders had been telling credulous politicians. The leading recipient of taxpayer funds, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), was in fact run by a violent Islamist group from South Asia, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), which had close ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and had been involved in the mass killing of Bangladeshis during that nation’s 1971 Independence War.

The government embraced Islamist groups such as the MCB so tightly that, as Bright revealed in 2005, Britain’s foreign secretary, Jack Straw, and MCB leader Iqbal Sacranie (an early supporter of Iran’s fatwa for the killing of Salman Rushdie) even used the same speechwriter. With the MCB in charge, Muslim organizations could not receive government backing for projects without the MCB’s stamp of approval. Naturally, the Islamists prospered. Moderate Muslims, meanwhile, were left without a voice.

Over the next decade, the true extent of Islamism’s grip over British Islam was slowly revealed, thanks to a motley collection of journalists, bloggers, and anti-Islamist Muslims willing to challenge government wisdom. Prison chaplains, it emerged, had been chosen primarily from the Deobandi sect, a hard-line branch of South Asian Islam from which the Taliban had emerged. Taxpayer-funded schools in Birmingham, the U.K.’s second-largest city, had been taken over by a network of Islamists who preached hard-line Islamist rhetoric to young children. Compelling evidence was uncovered to show that prominent Muslim charities controlled by JI and the Muslim Brotherhood were funding terrorism abroad. Counter-extremism funds were being handed to Salafist and Jamaat-e-Islami groups. And in 2009, the Labour government cut off ties completely with the Muslim Council of Britain after its officials were found to be signatories to the Istanbul Declaration, a document that advocated attacks on British troops and Jewish communities.

By 2011, the new Conservative prime minister, David Cameron, understood enough to signal a distinct change in government policy, telling the Munich Security Conference:

As evidence emerges about the backgrounds of those convicted of terrorist offences, it is clear that many of them were initially influenced by what some have called “non-violent extremists,” and they then took those radical beliefs to the next level by embracing violence. . . . Some organizations that seek to present themselves as a gateway to the Muslim community are showered with public money despite doing little to combat extremism. As others have observed, this is like turning to a right-wing fascist party to fight a violent white supremacist movement.

The British government overhauled its counter-extremism programs and cut off dozens of Islamist groups from taxpayer funding. Politicians and journalists learned a very important lesson about Western Islam: It is a diverse mix of dozens of different political and religious sects, which includes both violent and non-violent extremists. No single group could represent all Western Muslims, and it was only by delineating British Islam into its diverse, competing constituents that extremism could be effectively tackled and suitable Muslim allies identified. After all, if policymakers did not know which networks and groups within Western Islam were the bad guys, then how could they learn who the good guys were?

As increasingly radicalized Muslim communities across Europe produced eager volunteers for jihad at home and abroad, governments finally began to understand what moderate Muslims had been desperately trying to tell them for years: Non-violent Islamism is not a bulwark against violent Islamism. Extremists are not allies in the fight against extremism.

Meanwhile, in America
Across the Atlantic, American officials distinctly failed to note the lessons that Europe has learned the hard way. The Obama administration’s foreign policy treated Islamists as forces of democratization, and its domestic policy legitimized Islamists as gatekeepers to the Muslim community.

First envisioned in 2011, the Obama administration’s Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program promised to “support and help empower American communities and their local partners in their grassroots efforts to prevent violent extremism.” In February 2015, the government launched CVE pilot programs in Boston, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles. To kick things off, the White House hosted a three-day summit. Writing about the conference in the Los Angeles Times, Obama reiterated that the “focus” of CVE “will be on empowering local communities.”

Whom exactly was the White House empowering? Representing the pilot program in Boston, leaders from the Islamic Society of Boston (ISB) and the Islamic Center of New England (ICNE) were invited to the White House summit. The ISB was established by the al-Qaeda operative Abdulrahman Alamoudi, who was jailed in 2004 for his role in a Libyan plot to assassinate a Saudi crown prince. The mosque’s trustees have included prominent Islamist operatives, such as Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the spiritual leader of the global Muslim Brotherhood. According to a report published jointly by Muslims Facing Tomorrow and Americans for Peace and Tolerance, twelve congregants, supporters, staff, and donors of the ISB have been imprisoned, deported, or killed or are on the run — all in relation to terrorism offenses.

The ICNE was once a moderate local mosque, until its imam was ousted by Abdulbadi Abousamra (the father of ISIS terrorist Ahmad Abousamra) and Muhammad Hafiz Masood, who is now a spokesman for the Pakistani terrorist organization Jamaat-ud-Dawah. Masood’s brother, Hafiz Saeed, is responsible for the 2008 Mumbai attacks and was arrested this month by Pakistani law enforcement.

Taking part in the government’s CVE program was not just an opportunity for Islamists to rub shoulders with America’s political elite; it was also a chance to obtain taxpayers’ money. As part of the Boston CVE pilot program, a group based at the ISB named United Somali Youth received over $100,000, despite having initially joined protests against the CVE organized by Islamist groups, which claimed that the program was designed to demonize Muslims.

In 2016, despite widespread media criticism of the CVE pilot programs, Congress approved a further $10 million of CVE grants. As Obama was leaving office, the Department of Homeland Security awarded $393,800 to the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), an organization with a long history of ties to extremism. MPAC was founded by individuals closely involved with the Muslim Brotherhood. Its founder, Maher Hathout, declared that the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah was “fighting to liberate their land” and exhibiting “an American value — freedom and liberty.” Before being offered almost half a million dollars, MPAC had also expressed opposition to the CVE program.

Another $800,000 of taxpayers’ money was awarded to Bayan Claremont (an Islamic graduate school in Claremont, Calif.), whose president, Jihad Turk, was recently a member of the executive council of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). In 2008, federal prosecutors named ISNA as an unindicted co-conspirator during the Holy Land Foundation terrorism-financing trial. A judge later ruled that “the government has produced ample evidence” connecting Hamas and ISNA. Bayan Claremont faculty includes Ihsan Bagby, a former senior member of the Council on American–Islamic Relations, which was also designated an unindicted co-conspirator in 2008; Suhaib Webb, a former imam of the ISB who decries the “evil inclination” of homosexuality and “understands . . . animosity” towards Jews; and Edina Lekovic, an MPAC official who was the managing editor of an Islamist student magazine that, in 1999, called on Muslims to “defend” Bin Laden as a “freedom fighter.”

To flaunt its anti-Trump credentials, Bayan Claremont recently returned the $800,000 it received, despite successfully applying for the grant under Obama. Regardless, are these really the “community” leaders that the government’s “countering violent extremism” program should empower?

Making America Safe Again?
The Trump administration’s plans for CVE are not fully known. Most recently, White House sources announced that CVE would focus solely on Islamic extremism and would be renamed “Countering Islamic Extremism” or “Countering Radical Islamic Extremism.” Under Obama, all White House, Homeland Security, and Justice Department documents concerning CVE conspicuously omitted any mention of “Islam” or “Islamism.” Clearly, we should be pleased that the new administration is prepared to name the issue that occupies headline news almost every day. But we still do not know what Trump’s counter-extremism plans actually entail, although it seems unlikely that Muslim Brotherhood groups will receive more government grants.

Among moderate Muslims, however, there is some concern that a ham-fisted approach could be just as ineffective as Obama’s flawed ideas. If Trump fails to delineate American Islam into its various components, and instead treats all American Muslims as part of the same problem, then the government will find it impossible to tackle extremism effectively.

By cataloguing and excluding the “lawful” or “non-violent” extremists now in America, and the role they play in the radicalization of American Muslims, the government can work with genuinely moderate Muslim organizations to identify and prevent Islamists from, for example, operating schools and chaplaincy programs, obtaining taxpayer funds under the guise of community work, or using charitable endeavors to fund Islamist terrorism overseas.

President Trump’s former national-security adviser, Michael Flynn, reportedly wanted to “wage ideological warfare” against radical Islam using social media. But, as with all attempts to tackle Internet problems, this would be a Sisyphean task, and a distraction from the threat posed by homegrown extremists, who carry out their most dangerous work offline.

Islamist groups thrive on legitimacy, which they obtain either by being treated as representatives of ordinary Muslims (as happened under Obama) or by leading unifying protests against the government (which is happening under Trump).

American Muslims are not going anywhere, nor should they. Islamism, however, should be fought. To do so, state and federal governments must delegitimize Islamism in political and civic circles. This cannot be achieved without the cooperation of moderate Muslims. Only a considered, intelligent approach to counter-extremism can effectively tackle the Islamists who have gripped American Islam so tightly.

At the cost of whole Muslim communities becoming isolated from Western society, tens of thousands of radicalized Muslim youth joining terrorist groups overseas, and civil unrest increasing, Europe has discovered that the pernicious effect of extremism is just as dangerous as an explosive act of terrorism. In America, let’s not learn these lessons too late.

— Sam Westrop is a fellow of the Gatestone Institute and a writer for Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.

A White House Initiative to Defeat Radical Islam

trump5MEF, by Daniel Pipes
The Washington Times
February 20, 2017

Originally published under the title “Defeating Radical Islam: How a New White House Initiative Can Get the Job Done.”

Who is the enemy? It’s been over 15 years since 9/11 and still this fundamental question rattles around. Prominent answers have included evil doers, violent extremists, terrorists, Muslims, and Islamists.

As an example of how not to answer this question, the Obama administration convened a Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Working Group in 2010 and included participants who turned up such gems as: “Jihad as holy war is a European invention,” the caliphate‘s return is “inevitable,” Sharia (Islamic law) is “misunderstood,” and “Islamic terrorism is a contradiction in terms … because terrorism is not Islamic by definition.”

The result? The group produced propaganda helpful to the (unnamed) enemy.

In contrast, then-candidate Donald Trump gave a robust speech in August 2016 on how he, as president, would “Make America Safe Again.” In it, he pledged, “One of my first acts as president will be to establish a commission on radical Islam.” Note: he said radical Islam, not some euphemism like violent extremism.

The goal of that commission, he said, “will be to identify and explain to the American public the core convictions and beliefs of radical Islam, to identify the warning signs of radicalization, and to expose the networks in our society that support radicalization.”

How not to do it: The White House Summit to Counter Violent Extremism, starring Barack Obama.

How not to do it: The White House Summit to Counter Violent Extremism, starring Barack Obama.

The commission “will include reformist voices in the Muslim community” with the goal to “develop new protocols for local police officers, federal investigators, and immigration screeners.”

On Feb. 2, Reuters reported that, consistent with the August statement, the Trump administration “wants to revamp and rename” Obama’s old CVE effort to focus solely on Islamism. Symbolic of this change, the name Countering Violent Extremism will be changed to “Countering Radical Islamic Extremism” (or a near equivalent).

To make the most of this historic opportunity, the Middle East Forum has crafted a comprehensive plan for a White House Commission on Radical Islam for the administration to use. Here’s a summary of how we see the commission working and having an impact:

Structure. To be successful, all its members must be selected by the president. Too many commissions have included contrasting ideologies and agendas, grinding out sausage-like self-conflicting reports that displease the administration and end up discarded. Also, learning from the struggles of the Tower Commission, which lacked sufficient powers, and the precedent of the Three Mile Island Commission, which actually had them, the commission needs the power to subpoena documents, compel testimony, and grant immunity.

Personnel. The commission should include a mix of experts on political violence and radical Islam, as well as elected officials, representatives of law enforcement, the military, the intelligence and diplomatic communities, technology specialists, Muslim reformers (as the president insisted), and victims of radical Islam. It should also include liaisons to those who ultimately will implement the commission’s recommendations: secretaries of the departments of state, defense, and homeland security, the attorney general, and the CIA director.

Mandate. The commission should expand on Trump’s commitment to explain the core convictions of Islamists (i.e., the full and severe application of Sharia), to expose their networks, and to develop new protocols for law enforcement. In addition, it should examine where Islamists get their resources and how these can be cut off; figure out how to deny them use of the Internet; offer changes to immigration practices; and assess how political correctness impedes an honest appraisal of radical Islam.

Implementation. For the commission’s work to be relevant, it must coordinate with federal agencies to gather data and craft recommendations, draft executive orders and legislation, provide supporting documents, prepare requests for proposals, outline memos to state and local governments, recommend personnel, and work out budgets.

Finally, the commission should be prepared that its reports may be used as evidence in criminal proceedings, such as was the case several times in the past (e.g., the Warren, Rogers, and Tower commissions).

The overall goal of the White House Commission on Radical Islam should be to bring the American people together around a common understanding of the enemy’s nature, how that enemy can be defeated, and specifics to accomplish this objective.

Perhaps this will start the long-delayed process of winning a war that has already gone on far too long. The United States has all the economic and military advantages; it lacks only a policy and a strategy, which the new administration, relying on a first-rate commission, can finally supply.

Daniel Pipes (DanielPipes.org, @DanielPipes) is president of the Middle East Forum. Christopher C. Hull (IssueManagement.net, @ChristopherHull) is president of Issue Management, Inc.

LITWIN: Obama’s ‘Countering Violent Extremism’ Program Funds Extremist MPAC

AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Breitbart, by Dr. Oren Litwin, February 9, 2017:

Recently, news media reported that the Trump Administration was planning to refocus the Obama program of “Countering Violent Extremism” (CVE) specifically on Islamist extremism.

This would make a welcome change from the previous policy, in which the fox was set to guard the henhouse. Case in point: in one of its final acts of the Obama era, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) awarded a $393,800 CVE grant to the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC).

With ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, MPAC has a history of sanitizing jihad and portraying terrorists as noble. MPAC founder Maher Hathout described Hezbollah as “fighting to liberate their land” and exhibiting “an American value — freedom and liberty.” MPAC president Salam Al-Marayati spoke of Hezbollah’s “legitimate resistance” and maintained that “when Patrick Henry said, ‘Give me liberty or give me death,’ that statement epitomized jihad.”

Longtime MPAC staffer Edina Lekovic previously worked at the UCLA publication Al-Talib and was listed as managing editor of its July 1999 “spirit of jihad” issue with Ayatollah Khomeini and Osama bin Laden on the cover — a year after the embassy bombings in Africa. The text declares: “When we hear someone refer to the great Mujahid (someone who struggles in Allah’s cause) Osama bin Laden as a ‘terrorist,’ we should defend our brother and refer to him as a freedom fighter.” MPAC stood by Lekovic when these details came to light in 2007.

MPAC has also displayed a particular hostility toward the Jewish state. Al-Marayati embarrassed himself by fingering Israel as a potential suspect hours after the 9/11 attacks. In 2013, the Anti-Defamation League selected MPAC as one of the “top ten anti-Israel groups in the U.S.,” observing that it has sponsored anti-Israel events and “helped propagate the notion that American foreign policy is directed by Israel.” MPAC has also disseminated bogus stories accusing Israel of intentionally flooding Palestinian homes and murdering Palestinians to harvest their organs.

MPAC has also targeted Muslim reformers for criticism. When Zuhdi Jasser was named to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom in 2012, MPAC called it “an affront to all Muslims” and characterized Jasser, who battles supremacist interpretations of Islam, as a threat to religious freedom. Interestingly, MPAC’s outburst came not long after it hosted a dinner for Rachid Ghannouchi, a Tunisian Islamist who had blessed the mothers of suicide bombers and hoped that Arab nations would “get rid of the bacillus of Israel.” MPAC celebrated him as “one of the most important figures in modern Islamic political thought and theory.”

MPAC also feeds the lie that the war on terrorism is a “war on Islam,” claiming that FBI sting operations entrap innocent Muslims and depicting investigations of terror-supporting charities as politicized witch hunts that marginalize the Muslim community and result in “taking food out of the mouths of Palestinian orphans.” MPAC has not been an uncritical backer of government CVE efforts, but now it has 393,800 reasons to cheer them on.

Washington once knew better than to put its faith in MPAC. Al-Marayati’s appointment to the National Commission on Terrorism was withdrawn in 1999 after his past raised concerns. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) blasted MPAC in 2008 when it protested a hearing focused on keeping foreign aid out of the hands of terror-linked groups. Furthermore, declassified internal emails indicate a degree of discomfort within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence regarding MPAC’s Muslim Brotherhood ties.

For now, the MPAC grant persists; but for how long? Weeks before his inauguration, Reuters reported that Trump’s transition team had asked the State Department and DHS for the names of those involved in CVE programs: “Some career officials said they feared the incoming administration may be looking to undo the work that the Obama administration has done on countering violent extremism.”

Work that provides an Islamist organization with nearly $400,000 deserves undoing. If the new president truly intends to drain the swamp, Homeland Security would be an excellent place to start.

Dr. Oren Litwin is a writer at Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.

Trump Seeks to End Obama’s ‘Countering Violent Extremism’ Scam

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PJ Media, by Patrick Poole, February 5, 2017:

Among the litany of Obama administration disasters, the rapid collapse of his “Countering Violent Extremism” (CVE) agenda is among the most consequential.

But groups in line to receive federal CVE grants announced just days before the end of the Obama era are now whining as the Trump administration seeks to put an end to the CVE scam.

Driven directly from the White House, the Obama administration’s CVE agenda was a replacement following a purge of counter-terrorism training across the federal government during 2011-2012 in response to a targeted series of reports by far-Left bloggers and reporters claiming widespread bias and “Islamophobia.”

Many of those claims were later debunked, but with the damage done the administration’s purge pressed ahead as it implemented CVE at the demand of Islamic groups, some of whom were directly involved in the formation of the administration’s CVE policies.

But as it became apparent that terror recruitment was escalating rapidly at nearly the same time that CVE was being imposed on agencies and departments across the board, the inability of CVE to actually countering any “extremists” was exposed. The same Islamic groups that urged the imposition of CVE then turned against the efforts when they realized that CVE was still primarily directed at the growing threat of Islamic recruitment, and not towards stigmatizing the administration’s perceived domestic political enemies.

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Also see:

Report: Trump to Concentrate Counter-Extremism Program Exclusively on Islam

 (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

(AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

Washington Free Beacon, by Natalie Jonson, February  2, 2017:

The Trump administration will redesign a U.S. counterterrorism program created to combat radical ideologies so that it exclusively focuses on Islamist extremism, according to officials familiar with the change.

The administration’s plan will streamline the “Countering Violent Extremism” program that currently targets groups such as white supremacists who have carried out bombings and shootings in the U.S., Reuters reported Thursday.

The program will be renamed “Countering Islamic Extremism” to reflect the shift.

The program deploys educational programs and counter-messaging campaigns on social media platforms such as Facebook in an attempt to discourage potential lone wolf attackers.

The restructure echoes President Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric and criticism against the Obama administration for refusing to identify the fight against the Islamic State as a fight against “radical Islamic extremism.”

Proponents of the program as is fear the shakeup will alienate Muslims who are distrustful of the Trump administration. The director of policy for the Muslim Public Affairs Council told Reuters the program’s rebranding is of particular concern because she says it casts Muslims “under a net of suspicion.”

Trump last week issued an executive order barring citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. for 90 days over fears of terrorism. The president also suspended the nation’s refugee program for 120 days.

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I have extensive archives here at CJR on the history of the CVE debacle. And over at Jihad Watch today Robert Spencer explains what happened to him that led to the purge of counter terrorism training and subsequently the CVE program.