The Gorka That Matters Isn’t Leaving The Trump Administration

C-SPAN / Via cspan.org

Sebastian Gorka is out at the White House, but his wife, Katharine, remains a force in government, wielding more power than her husband ever did.

Buzzfeed, by John Hudson, Aug. 29, 2017:

A wide array of progressive groups claimed victory on Friday following the dismissal of White House aide Sebastian Gorka, a staunch critic of Islam whose ties to anti-Semitic groups in Hungary made him the target of a public campaign dedicated to his ouster.

But the most effective advocate of Gorka’s brand of hardline policies on Islam is still in the government: Katharine Gorka, his wife and the coauthor of scores of his policy papers. She’s staying on in her role as an adviser to the secretary of homeland security, officials tell BuzzFeed News.

Though less high-profile than her husband, who regularly appeared on television to defend the president with his plummy British accent and distinctive half-beard, half-goatee, Katharine arguably has had a bigger impact on US policy.

Unlike Sebastian, whose failure to obtain a permanent security clearance barred him from some policy discussions, Katharine has dived into the weeds, advising top officials at DHS on counterterror policies, drafting the department’s reports to Congress on terrorism recruitment, and trying to instill her anti-Islamist philosophy throughout the department.

To her supporters, she is the intellectual forebear of President Donald Trump’s promise to call out radical Islam by name and shun political correctness. She is credited with convincing the department to claw back hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants for countering right-wing extremism and prioritizing the role of law enforcement in combating Islamic extremism. Her detractors accuse her of downplaying the threat of white nationalism and alienating Muslim communities who could be partners in US counter-extremism efforts.

“Katie is much more dangerous than Sebastian,” said Eric Rosand, a former senior State Department official responsible for programs on Countering Violent Extremism, or CVE. “She played a significant role in denying CVE grant funding to groups that work to de-radicalize neo-Nazis and other far right extremists and Muslim-American groups that work to build resilience against violent extremism, but without the involvement of the police.”

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White House keeps failed ‘Countering Violent Extremism’ program

Department of State | Flickr

GEORGE SELIM PROMOTES NARRATIVE THAT ISIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ISLAM.

Conservative Review, by Jordan Schachtel, July 29, 2017:

The Trump White House continues to support a failed counter-extremism office in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that engages fringe Islamic activists while rejecting Muslim reformers.

The promotion of “Countering Violent Extremism” (CVE) was initiated by the Obama administration as an approach to stopping radicalization from within vulnerable communities. CVE resources mostly focused on Islamic radicalism, but did not officially recognize the Islamic component due to the former administration’s politically correct approach.

On Thursday, the House Oversight Committee held a hearing on “Combatting Homegrown Extremism.” One of the panelists at the hearing, George Selim, is the director of “Countering Violent Extremism” at DHS. His office was established by the Obama administration in 2015. Before Selim went over to DHS, he was a lead figure in the National Security Council, working alongside Ben Rhodes and Susan Rice as the White House director for community partnerships.

In his position, Selim admitted to holding “hundreds” of meetings with representatives from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim advocacy group originally founded as a Muslim Brotherhood front group to support Hamas, the U.S.-designated terrorist organization. The shocking revelations documenting the extensive relationship between the Obama White House and CAIR came as a surprise to the law enforcement community. At the time, FBI policy had banned meeting with CAIR due to its nefarious ties.

Instead of calling for reform within the Islamic world (a track that several Muslim world leaders and segments of the Trump administration now advocate), the Obama White House under Selim (in both his positions on the NSC and now at DHS) sought to protect Islam from the jihadi groups that wage terror in the name of the religion.

Selim told a House committee in 2016: “To be successful in our homeland security efforts, we have to underscore and reinforce the fact that ISIL does not represent Islam and cannot justify its barbaric terrorism with twisted interpretations of one of the world’s most prominent religions.”

Well-informed families and communities are our best defense against terrorist ideologies, which represent the current threat from ISIL propaganda,’’ Selim continued in September. “Within this context, working with communities to prevent radicalization to violence has become imperative.”

So, according to Selim’s logic, Muslim reformers are in the wrong, because they propose (like Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi) that a conversation must be had about Islamic doctrine as a whole.

As Andrew McCarthy explains at National Review, “CVE delusionally forbids the conclusion that radical Islamic ideology has any causative effect on terrorist plotting.”

The Muslim Brotherhood believes in essentially the same end-goal as ISIS: the installation of a worldwide Islamic caliphate. The group actually acts as a gateway to violent jihad. For example, the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, and current al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahiri were once members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

“The Trump Administration needs to understand that countering violent extremism as a policy runs against their vision of tougher counterterrorism. As long as the Trump Administration allows Obama holdovers to conduct outreach to Islamists like CAIR under the guise of CVE, the President’s efforts to make America safe again will fail,” Kyle Shideler of the Center for Security Policy tells Conservative Review. “Returning to a strong counterterrorism policy that focuses on solid intelligence and police work requires shutting down the White House CVE effort.”

The CVE strategy is dangerous for two reasons. Not only does it quash discussion over the connection between Islam and terror, but it empowers radical groups like CAIR to act as the voice of the Muslim community. This dangerous blend results in a policy concoction of political correctness and the empowerment of Islamic supremacists that threatens to undermine American national security. If the Trump administration fails to rid itself of CVE, it will succumb to an America-last strategy that has shown no documented successes in curbing terror and extremism.

Also see:

Experiment with terrorist rehab fails 1st U.S. test

ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the existence of an Islamic caliphate in Iraq and Syria and all ISIS fighters are required to swear an oath to support him as their caliph. Is it possible to ‘rehab’ an ISIS terrorist? The federal government thinks so and is trying to test the concept out on a Somali man who tried to leave Minnesota to join ISIS.

WND, by Leo Hohmann, May 7, 2017:

After six Somali refugees were convicted of plotting to board planes and join ISIS in Syria, a U.S. federal judge in Minnesota decided to enroll one of them in an experimental terrorist rehabilitation program.

The program was developed in Europe and operates on the principles of the “countering violent extremism” or CVE, which is also part of the global, United Nations-supported Strong Cities Network.

Rather than going to prison, Abdullahi Mohamed Yusuf, 21, was sentenced in November to a 20-year supervised release. He was granted time served and sent to live in a halfway house. He receives counseling, reports to a probation officer and wears an ankle monitor but is otherwise free to come and go.

Abdullahi Mohamed Yusuf same to U.S. as a child refugee from Somalia but tried to leave and fight for ISIS.

But less than six months from the time he was released, Yusuf has already hit a road block.

He was returned to federal custody last week for allegedly failing a polygraph test and watching a documentary about ISIS in Europe.

According to a report by a U.S. probation officer, Yusuf failed a polygraph while under questioning, then admitted to watching CNN’s “ISIS: Behind the Mask,” a film about a Belgian ISIS soldier that was on TV April 18 at his halfway house, the Star-Tribune reported.

The terms of his 20-year supervised release include a provision that Yusuf not “possess, view, access, or otherwise use material that reflects extremist or terroristic views or as deemed to be inappropriate by the U.S. Probation Office.”

It’s all part of a “unique approach to supervising federal terrorism cases,” the Star-Tribune reports. This approach was approved by federal Judge Michael Davis and the U.S. District Court’s Probation and Pretrial Services department, which chose the Minnesota case to introduce the country’s first terrorism “disengagement and deradicalization” program.

In essence, they would try to “deradicalize” the young jihadist.

The program is based on evaluations and training from German researcher Daniel Koehler, who concluded that Yusuf had “a medium to low risk of future offending and a comparatively advanced stage of disengagement,” according to court filings.

Almost everyone in Minnesota law enforcement is not on board with the controversial program, sources tell WND. And groups that try to educate police on the religious underpinnings of jihad are typically closed out of the discussion.

Even citizens find it hard to get the ear of their local sheriff or police chief, says Debra Anderson, the ACT for America chapter leader for Minnesota.

“It’s CVE at the highest level down to the local level and even though the grassroots activists are trying to train our law enforcement it’s almost impossible to even get these guys to have a meeting with you,” Anderson told WND. “I get doors shut in my face every day.”

Philip Haney, who spent more than a dozen years screening for jihadists at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security before retiring in 2015, told WND that Minnesota is not the first to experiment with the idea that terrorists can be rehabilitated.

He says it’s been tried many times, in many places, including the Guantanamo Bay detainment camp.

The concept, that religiously motivated terrorists can be reformed, finds its roots in the “countering violent extremism” movement – an approach that began in Europe and was brought to the U.S. by the Obama administration.

“Rehabilitation is part of CVE. In fact, the idea that terrorists can be rehabilitated is woven into the overall CVE concept,” said Haney, co-author of the book “See Something Say Nothing: A Homeland Security Officer Exposes the Government’s Submission to Jihad.”

“But the bottom line is these programs have been demonstrable failures,” he said. “They started with Saudi Arabia rehabbing Gitmo prisoners, and it’s actually achieved the opposite results.”

According to data released in March, the intelligence community has confirmed a total of 121 former Gitmo detainees have re-entered the battlefield. Another 87 former detainees are suspected of rejoining the ranks of their brother terrorists. The total of 208 confirmed and suspected terrorists makes up 30 percent of all those released from Gitmo.

Sweden and Denmark have also engaged in a concerted effort to rehab their jihadists.

“They’re trying it out in Denmark now, but there’s no real quantifiable way of demonstrating the program is effective because they universally overlook the real source of what they call ‘radicalization,’ and no program will ever work if you overlook the source of what is causing this violent behavior,” Haney said.

Such attempts completely ignore the original source of inspiration for Islamic violence – the Islamic texts, which include the Quran and hadiths – the reported words and deeds of the prophet Muhammad, Haney said.

Rehab in Denmark

Morten Storm, a former Danish al-Qaida member, told Newsweek he dismisses the experiment on its face.

“It’s completely ridiculous,” he says. “It means disregarding the life and dignity of the people the jihadists have been terrorizing – simply because the jihadists happen to be Danish. And deradicalizing the jihadists doesn’t work, because they’re religiously motivated. Yes, some may enroll [in the program], but then they’ll go back to the front lines.”

Danish leaders, like Obama’s former U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harp, are striving to pin the causes of terrorism on something other than Islam. Harp famously said it was a lack of jobs in the Middle East that led young men to become terrorists.

But what about here in the U.S. or Europe, where jobs are plentiful and education is often free?

“One school of thought is that the jihadists feel excluded, versus the reality that assimilation into a non-Muslim society is counter to the teachings of Islam, so we’re blaming the host nation for not being inclusive enough and enabling the [Muslim] migrants to be a part of our country when in reality they don’t want to assimilate and be a part of it,” Haney said.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres recently blamed “Islamophobia” for “fueling the rise in global terrorism.”

Strong Cities Network

On Sept. 29, 2015, former Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the launch of the Strong Cities Network at United Nations headquarters in New York.

“At that point, CVE went global, it morphed into this Strong Cities Network, part of a much bigger agenda to enable, or refuse to acknowledge, the threat that we face from Islamic terrorism,” Haney said. “The White House all but admitted it didn’t work and yet they tripled the budget for CVE as part of this attempt to provide alternative narratives that transform how we think about terrorism. The focus of law enforcement went from ‘Islamic terrorism’ to ‘violent extremism in all its forms.’”

The U.S. State Department even launched a Twitter campaign in February 2016 to try to deny the Islamic role in terrorism. It was a bust. The year 2016 was the most Islamically violent year in decades with terrorist attacks launched across Europe and the U.S., from Orlando to Paris, Normandy, Nice, Bavaria and Berlin.

And Minneapolis, with its large Somali refugee community admittedly struggling with ISIS and al-Shabab “recruitment problems,” was one of three cities the Obama administration chose in 2014 for CVE pilot programs, along with Boston and Los Angeles.

Minneapolis and L.A. would go the extra step and join the global Strong Cities Network, or SCN.

Minneapolis was one of four initial U.S. cities to sign up for SCN, along with New York, Denver and Atlanta.

Jordanian Prince Zeid Raad Zeid al-Hussein, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, came to New York to help roll out the SCN in September 2015 at the U.N., standing beside Loretta Lynch and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Since then, six more U.S. cities have joined the global policing network – Aurora, Colorado; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Los Angeles; San Diego; Montgomery County, Maryland; and Louisville, Kentucky.

See list of Strong Cities Network member cities worldwide.

So the CVE and Strong Cities Network are inexorably linked, both tracing their U.S. points of origin into the heart of the Obama administration and its effort to take the heat off of Islam and place it onto “right wing” terrorists.

Draining the swamp?

All of this was done without consulting Congress, or with any apparent consideration of states’ rights, or the Constitution itself, says Haney.

Part of the U.N.’s focus is to cultivate global governance through cities, bypassing nation-states. This was made evident in the New Urban Agenda adopted by the Obama administration and more than 100 other world leaders at the Habitat III Conference last year in Ecuador.

As for the Trump administration, it has shown little awareness of the power of these programs, nor has it signaled any sense of urgency in reversing them, Haney said.

“I don’t think they really are aware of how much is really being done [through the U.N.], I think Trump is on a steep learning curve, and he’s touching some of these issues and I give him credit for it,” he said. “The question is whether he has the political courage to go forward, because if he’s going to drain the swamp these are the kinds of programs that need to be drained. They put our sovereignty subject to an outside international body.”

Ignoring history

Most of the government attempts at deprogramming jihadists focus on poverty or some other “subjective” cause that deflects attention from the central issue, Haney said. They also ignore the broad sweep of history.

“Islam is not a subjective ideology, but they’re using subjective terms to try to define a religion that is objectively very well defined … poverty, colonialism, lack of inclusiveness, it has all existed well before modern times,” Haney said. “The ideology existed before the times we live in. We saw it in their crossing the Straights of Gibraltar in 711 A.D. [into Spain]. And we saw it in 732 A.D. exactly 100 years after Muhammad died, when they were invading France, only to be driven out by Charles Martel.”

Another incursion was made in 1683 at the Gates of Vienna, only to be repelled by the Polish King John Sobieski.

The West has been in a 1,300-year, on-and-off war with Islam. It seems the war is back on, but few in the West are aware.

Anderson said the Obama policy of playing nice with terrorists has had a severe impact on her state, which is home to so many Somali Muslims.

“They have fundamentally transformed counter-terrorism from a law-enforcement-based approach, which treated them as criminals with all the rights of normal defendants and that in itself was the subject of great debate, but Obama took it a step further and transformed the U.S. system from a law-based approach to a civil-rights and civil-liberties approach. So they’ve basically paralyzed our law-enforcement system,” Anderson said.

Gov. Dayton tells detractors: ‘find another state’

Meanwhile, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, speaking openly at a community forum in St. Cloud in October 2015, told residents that anyone who cannot accept living alongside Somali immigrants “should find another state.” Less than a year later, in September 2016, a Somali refugee went on a stabbing spree at the Crossroads Mall in St. Cloud, injuring 10 people.

“We have a governor who doesn’t listen to us and our mayor in Minneapolis, Betsy Hodges, signed us up for Strong Cities Network, so we have it bad here,” Anderson said. “We’re just a sinking state.”

“On the one hand the grassroots is getting it, we’ve circumvented the hostile media, and we’ve traveled around and what I’m learning is the surrounding states are recognizing Minnesota is ground-zero for jihadi training,” Anderson said.

Waleed Idrus al-Maneesey is a radical imam who heads up the Al-Farooq mosque in Bloomington, Minnesota, attended by at least six known terrorists and terrorist supporters.

Dar al-Farooq in Bloomington is one mosque that draws suspicion. It operates under the guidance of imam Walid Idrus al-Maneesey, who is also a member of the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America, the organization responsible for issuing fatwas in North America.

The mosque supports the Islamic University of Minnesota, which turned out its first graduating class recently with intense training in Shariah law, the Quran and Islamic jurisprudence. At least six Somali terrorism suspects have been known to attend al-Maneesey’s mosque.

And now the Minneapolis police are tolerating an Islamic Shariah cop who patrols the Cedar Riverside neighborhoods looking for violations of Islamic dress and food laws, as well as social interaction deemed inappropriate between the sexes. He has recruited 10 others to work under him and police have not arrested any of them.

Another example of Minneapolis police backing off of Somali Muslim criminal activity occurred last June in the Linden Hills community on Lake Calhoun. For three straight days a gang of Somali thugs terrorized the neighborhood, riding vehicles over lawns, shouting threats of rape and pretending to shoot people on the beach. One neighbor’s dog was beaten. Not a single arrest was made and the police chronically showed up “too late” to catch the thugs when they were called by residents.

“They are more interested in protecting their civil rights and civil liberties than protecting the local population,” Anderson said.

“What the average citizen does not know is they no longer have reliable law enforcement,” she added. “They don’t know that. Linden Hills is a perfect example of that.

“So this is a country gradually surrendering to Islamic sharia law. We are, already, incrementally surrendering. Former Obama-appointed U.S. attorney for Minnesota, Andrew Luger, several times made public statements that showed his bias toward Muslims and against non-Muslims in Minnesota. After the Somali arrests, and after the Brussels, Belgium, terrorist attack he said ‘we’re here to protect you, our Muslim friends, from Islamophobia.’”

MEF Sues DHS for Hiding Information on Its Funding of Islamists

News from the Middle East Forum, May 1, 2017:

Philadelphia – May 1, 2017 – The Middle East Forum has filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to secure the release of documents related to the Obama administration’s Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) grant program.

The grant program, which began last year, is intended to assist “efforts at the community level to counter violent extremist recruitment and radicalization to violence,” but MEF was concerned about U.S. Islamist groups – themselves radicals – receiving CVE funds. Indeed, grant recipients have included the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), an organization with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and a long history of sanitizing Islamist terrorism.

On January 10, MEF filed a detailed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with DHS seeking documents about the selection criteria and specific decisions in awarding CVE grants. The request indicated that the documents are mostly located at the DHS Office for Community Partnerships (OCP), headed by George Selim.

Having failed to receive even a response to its request within the 20-day period mandated by law, MEF contacted DHS. Finally, on March 23, DHS FOIA officer Ebony Livingston informed us that the request had been routed to the Federal Emergency Management System (FEMA), which found no pertinent records.

On April 26, MEF filed a lawsuit alleging that DHS violated the law by not only failing to produce the documents, but failing even to conduct a search for the documents.

The complaint, prepared by attorney Matt Hardin, a specialist in FOIA litigation, seeks injunctive relief compelling DHS “to search for and produce all records in its possession responsive to plaintiff’s FOIA request.”

“We filed a detailed FOIA request, specifying the documents we were looking for and where they likely were,” said MEF Director Gregg Roman. “DHS not only failed to produce the documents, it failed even to conduct a search and closed our case without bothering to tell us. This is not just unacceptable but illegal.”

The case has been assigned to Judge Royce C. Lamberth of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. It bears noting that Judge Lamberth previously handled FOIA litigation concerning former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails.

“The CVE program should be canceled altogether,” said Sam Westrop, director of MEF’s Islamist Watch project. “And guidelines should be put in place to make sure that extremist groups like MPAC never receive taxpayer money to counter extremism.”


The Middle East Forum, a Philadelphia-based think tank, is dedicated to defining American interests in the Middle East and protecting America from Islamist threats. It achieves its goals through intellectual, activist, and philanthropic efforts.

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. 

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.