Terror ‘Defector’ Stories Hyped by Media Collapse Underneath the ‘Deradicalization’ Narrative

PJ MEDIA, BY PATRICK POOLE, MARCH 16, 2017:

The “deradicalization” narrative — and a whole industry of academics pursuing large cash grants from governments looking to set up such programs — are built upon the premise that the right set of information and conditions can not only turn terrorists away from violence, but even into respectable and productive citizens.

More often than not, it seems, reality demonstrates the premise’s naivety.

In my previous article, I looked at the current case of Brooklyn native Mohimanul Alam Bhuiya, a former ISIS fighter who defected from the group and is now being enlisted by the Justice Department to help “deradicalize” other terror recruits. Having already plead guilty to his crimes, he is looking for reduced sentencing in exchange for his assistance.

I noted that many “deradicalization” programs established by Western governments have been fraught with repeated and embarrassing failures. But these programs have failed in the Muslim world, too — including in Indonesia, which has the largest Muslim population of any country, and Saudi Arabia, which arguably has the most global influence. If Muslim countries can’t figure out how to craft effective Islamic “deradicalization” programs, what hope do Western countries have?

Two recent high-profile cases of former terrorists turned defectors touted by the international media represented the promise of “deradicalization” programs, but delivered the predictable failure that seems the dominant pattern with such efforts.

THE METEORIC RISE AND FALL OF AL-QAEDA RECRUITER TURNED DERADICALIZER JESSE MORTON

Last August, national and international media organizations were abuzz with the news that a former Al-Qaeda recruiter, Jesse Morton aka Younus Abdullah Muhammed, was given early release from his 12-year federal prison sentence so that he could take up an academic research position at the George Washington University’s Program on Extremism.

Now Morton was not your average material support for terrorism jihadist wannabe. Not only was he in direct communications with senior Al-Qaeda leaders over seas, but as one of the leaders of the New York-based Revolution Muslim network, he was responsible for recruiting an eye-popping number of now-convicted domestic terror supporters.

As the FBI press release published at the time of his conviction on terror charges states, he openly supported the 9/11 attacks and the November 2009 massacre at Fort Hood by Major Nidal Hasan, as well as directed his supporters to commit violence against Jewish organizations and the creators of the “South Park” Comedy Central Network TV program.

Amidst a PR effort by the GWU Program on Extremism, the media adored Jesse Morton’s story of radicalization and redemption:

Morton was sought after for interviews by media organizations all over the world…

[…]

It was no surprise when, exactly five months after Morton’s hiring was announced by GWU, news broke that he had been arrested again, this time for vice:

In their rush to garner media, did the GWU Program on Extremism push Morton out into the public eye far too soon? How much confidence did they have in his “conversion” story? Was the narrative that “deradicalization” was possible in such a high-profile case too tempting for the media to apply basic journalistic scrutiny?

The answer to the first two questions may never be known. But the media’s haste to push the “deradicalization” narrative again exposed their ideological bias when all the evidence urged caution.

[…]

Chasing the “Deradicalization” Unicorn

There are endless calls for governments to increase funding for “deradicalization” programs, and there are many NGOs, researchers, and academics seeking those funds. Yet as I noted in Part 1, these government-sponsored “deradicalization” programs are failing everywhere. Worse, there are not many ways to objectively measure success when something doesn’t happen.

In the recent cases of Jesse Morton and Harry Sarfo, the media failed in their basic journalistic responsibilities — in both instances they advanced the “deradicalization” narrative that fell apart in the matter of months.

Needless to say, the follow-up reporting that undercuts the initial stories did not get anywhere near the hype or attention of the original sensational stories.

It should also be noted that in virtually all of these cases of “reformed” or “deradicalized” terror recruits and operatives lies the threat of criminal prosecution. The suspects themselves have a real-world incentive beyond media recognition to spin personal stories of redemption: avoiding prison time.

Which brings us back to the case of Mohimanul Alam Bhuiya.

The Justice Department enlisted this former ISIS fighter as part of a “deradicalization” program. However, even in his initial communication with the FBI when he sought to return from Syria, he made clear that his intention was to eliminate any legal consequences for having joined the most lethal terrorist organization in the world.

He faces sentencing in federal court later this year.

An examination of these “deradicalization” programs in the U.S., other Western countries, and even in the Muslim world shows that the Justice Department’s chances of success are risky at best. Yet now we have the media, yet again, pushing a sensational story of a “reformed” former terrorist operative.

Why are they so insistent on not learning any lessons?

While the Justice Department and the media chase the mythical “deradicalization” unicorn, Americans face greater risk because of their pursuit.

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EXPOSED: Writings of GWU’s ‘ex-jihadist’ reveal he’s not so reformed after all

george-washington-dcConservative Review, by Benjamin Weingarten, Sept. 11, 2016:

Among the inexplicable ways in which the United States has responded to Islamic supremacism in the 15 years since September 11 — beyond enabling the world’s leading state sponsor of jihad in Iran, supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and other “moderate jihadists” over relatively secular strongmen, and transitioning from a global war on terror (a tactic) to a program against “violent extremism” (a nebulous non-entity) — a recent story out of the American academy is quite telling.

George Washington University has given a research position within its Center for Cyber and Homeland Security to Jesse Morton (formerly known as Younus Abdullah Muhammad), an ex-jihadist sentenced to more than 11 years in prison for threatening the creators of “South Park” for depicting Muhammad in a bear suit.

Having chosen to serve as an informant for the FBI because of his expertise ‘jihadizing’ fellow Americans through Revolution Muslim (the Al Qaeda-supporting “activist” group that he led on U.S. soil), law enforcement officials and GWU firmly believe Morton is not only no longer a threat, but also an asset.

They believe there is much that can be learned from his experience transforming from regular American to jihadist and back again.

In his defense, some like Nadia Oweidat of the New America think tank have said that Morton’s decision to come out publicly as someone working to counter “radicalism” puts Morton’s life at risk.

Morton himself claims to have been rehabilitated through hours spent in prison supposedly grappling with the great works of the Western canon, such as the writings of John Locke and Thomas Paine, and his interactions with certain friendly law enforcement officers.

Law enforcement officials and GWU firmly believe Morton is not only no longer a threat, but also an asset.

He asserts that he is contrite and seeks to rectify his actions according to an interview with CNN, stating:

This is an opportunity for me to make amends, to some degree … I realize that I was completely wrong in my perspectives.

I suffer from a tremendous amount of guilt … I have seen things that people have done and to know that I once sympathized and supported that view — it sickens me.

Yet nowhere in Morton’s mea culpa is there an overt disavowal of Islamic supremacism, condemnation of Sharia law, or renunciation of his faith as in the case of other notable ex-Islamic supremacists like Hirsi Ali or ex-Communists like Whittaker Chambers.

Interestingly, Morton publicized his release from prison on an Islamic website, but that announcement as well as the website have since disappeared. As The Washington Post noted earlier this year:

Efforts to locate Morton, a father of two who has a master’s degree from Columbia University, were unsuccessful. The Bureau of Prisons website indicates that he was released in February 2015, and he appears to have announced it on the website islampolicy.com.

“While I am no doubt bewildered by the prospects of facing the currents of American society, labeled American Al-Qaeda, I do want to remain cognizant that this opportunity to be a freeman, a husband, a father, and citizen comes from Allah alone,” he wrote.

It turns out that Islampolicy.com was the successor website to Revolution Muslim. And this quotation captured by the Post, indicates that Morton remains a Muslim and harbors a victim-like mentality rather than acknowledging that he was the aggressor.

Thanks to the web archives, we can read further into Morton’s statement upon his release:

I remember being flown home in a private government jet after five months of incarceration in Morocco and finding out I was facing life imprisonment in the United States. At that moment, when one’s freedom seems to be lost forever, simply for speaking their mind, the soul has nothing left to do but turn to Allah, aza wa jaal. Today I can guarantee that a relief from hardship comes in ways that are mostly unexpected. The reflective one realizes that Allah relieves hardship in ways that oftentimes connect to pathways of deeper, spiritual healing the. Therefore, we must always pay attention to the experiences Allah puts us through, and try to remember that there are lessons to be learned from each and every passing wind. [Emphasis mine]

Clearly Morton viewed his arrest and release as being intrinsic to his Islamic experience and believed his arrest was unjustified. After all, he was just exercising his right to free speech.

Yet nowhere in Morton’s mea culpa is there an overt disavowal of Islamic supremacism, condemnation of Sharia law, or renunciation of his faith.

He continues:

I have been particularly intrigued by what has been classified as countering violent extremism (CVE). While this has led me to contemplate ways of preventing others from throwing their lives away, I remain staunchly opposed to the national security or counterterrorism state and its connection to the elite, neoliberal order, or what Dwight D. Eisenhower referred to as far back as 1961 as the ‘military-industrial complex.’ I believe that today’s counterterrorist, or national security state isn’t merely dangerous to Islam and Muslims, but to humanity and civilization generally.

I must also emphatically state that I absolutely reject the conception that terrorism is justified in any which way and by anybody. I ask Allah to accept repentance for my not having made that absolutely clear in the past. It seems to me definite that we are suffering from an era the prophet (saws) foretold; one marked by ignorant youth who recite the best of speech but do not embody it. If we are to truly stand for the ummah’s liberation, we will have to locate a balanced position between the day’s extremes. [Emphasis mine]

Morton’s views morphed from the jihadist notion that the Great Satan must be destroyed to the Left’s notion that efforts to root out and defeat jihadis represent an immoral, un-American, tyrannical enterprise.

Further, Morton puts forth the argument echoed by many Islamic supremacists that “terrorism,” is never justified. But as Daniel Greenfield has written, while some Islamic leaders have gone so far as to issue fatwas against terrorism, they fail to define the term:

Muslim religious leaders have occasionally issued fatwas against terrorism, but terrorism for Muslim clerics … is a matter of definition. The tactics of terrorism, including suicide bombing and the murder of civilians, have been approved by fatwas from many of the same Islamic religious leaders that our establishment deems moderate. And the objective of terrorism, the subjugation of non-Muslims, has been the most fundamental Islamic imperative for the expansionistic religion since the days of Mohammed.

How to square these sentiments? As Stephen Coughlin notes in his magnum opus, “Catastrophic Failure: Blindfolding America in the Face of Jihad,” the Quran’s definition of terrorism is essentially the killing of a Muslim without right. Is this the definition Morton had in mind when he proscribed terror?

In a later post from August 19, 2015 (note: the Wayback Machine page takes a few moments to load), “Obama’s Support for Sisi’s Counterterrorism Legislation Highlights the Hypocrisy of War on Radicalization,” Morton asserts,

[T]he global war on terror, having been rebranded as a war on Islamic extremism under Obama, has become a war on radicalization that now threatens the very essence of free expression democratic societies depend on.

Morton believes that targeting of individuals on the basis of jihadist ideology is in fact detrimental and that the goal of U.S. policy is to end “Islamism” (which of course would appear to be the exact opposite of President Obama’s policy with respect to the growing global jihad):

Legislation that concentrates on ideology conflates radical belief with violence and will only guarantee perpetual conflict. This seems to be the intended effect of counterterrorism policy everywhere. It suggests that the counterterrorism community itself desires confrontation to the end, until the very existence of Islamism on earth is eradicated.

This sentiment has expanded by way of rising right-wing and anti-Islamic populism. It is aided and abided by an Islamophobia industry that serves to brandish all conservative Muslims as barbarian. Whether in London, Paris, Cairo, or Washington, governments everywhere are utilizing counterterrorism policy and practice to silence dissent and criminalize critique of government policy, particularly if one is an Islamist.

Islamists apparently are the real victims during this age of jihadist metastasization.

While recasting himself as an agent for good with a new home in the academy, he airbrushes his views to make them palatable to a progressive audience.

Morton contends, hyperbolically, that ideology is not the key driver of jihadist violence, but rather that Western (imperialist) actions are the sine qua non of jihad — that again, jihadists are merely reacting to Western aggression:

[I]t is argued that all Islamists, nonviolent and violent, must be silenced. That position, given credence by way of government allegiance with ‘moderate Muslims’, is girded in the belief that radical political preachers create the ‘mood music to which suicide bombers dance.’ That’s a fancy way of saying that radical beliefs precede and incite violent action. In fact, very few of those holding radical beliefs ever go on to commit acts of terrorism and there is no established empirical evidence for such a causal relationship.

The one common denominator in the overwhelming majority of empirical research into violent Islamic extremist incidents is actually an attempt to justify or frame violence as a reaction to western policies. Yet, this fact conveniently goes missing from most expert analysis. When pointed to as the actual cause, any citation of western policy is ruled out as conspiracy theory or paranoid delusion. It is important to note that in exposition after exposition, Osama bin Laden claimed that jihadists were engaging in terrorism not because they hate democracy but “because you (the United States) attach us and continue to attack us.”

In other words, we create jihadis with our policy.

Apparently, ISIS also never cared about the West, until we meddled:

[T]he western press hardly recognizes that ISIS mostly rejected the ‘far enemy’ doctrine and instead preferred regional or localized violence, at least until Obama announced his plan to “degrade and destroy” the movement.

Most dumbfounding of all is this quote:

Were the U.S. and its allies not in such blatant betrayal of the very “set of core principles” Obama claimed to defend at the time of the Egyptian coup, there might be a diminishing appeal of jihadism. Instead, it’s viewed as the only alternative. The only solution is a global grassroots movement dedicated to ending such blatant hypocrisy. This movement must focus on dismantling the entire counterterrorism component of the military-industrial complex. Only then might a paradigm unfold that could first rid that “one indispensable nation” of its own despots and dictatorship, and thereby encourage people across the globe to do the same. Until then, terrorism at the hand of the state and Orwellian legislation will only enhance radicalization, at home and abroad. [Emphasis mine]

Thus, this deradicalized ex-jihadist proclaims that the way to end jihadism is to dismantle the “entire counterterrorism component” of American policy. No wonder he has been so welcomed at an American institution of higher education.

Here is one more excerpt from a May 2015 post regarding the U.S. government’s release of the list of books found at Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound attributed to IslamPolicy.com and apparently written by Morton given a line in the article referencing a release from prison — “This Brave New World I’ve been set free in” — that is in some respects equally chilling:

I think that rather than rely on violence, Muslims with proper minhaj and aqeedah should come up with mechanisms for addressing the reality that people in power profit domestically from goading little kids into elaborate plots and that the military industrial complex profits immensely from war and chaos in the Muslim world.

One thing I realize about some of my previous work at Revolution Muslim was the way it allowed authorities o [sic] fulfill their own agenda. It was a lesson that all those seeking authentic Islam could benefit from. May Allah aza wa jaal liberate this ummah from its ignorance and give us insight to see through a massive propaganda war. We should be at the forefront of providing holistic socio-pschological-political-economic alternatives based in the shariah. [Emphasis mine]

Morton may have “evolved” from jihadist to a modern-day Edward Said — the ubiquitous “thought leader” of Middle Eastern departments at prestigious, self-righteously suicidal academic institutions across America. Said popularized the view of an ethnocentric, imperialist Western aggressor raping and pillaging in a peaceful Muslim world. But that is really beside the point.

Why are federal authorities and a think-tank at an academic institution theoretically dedicated to countering terrorism accepting someone like Morton with open arms? To repeat, he wants to dismantle America’s counterterrorism apparatus!

Why is someone who believes in promoting a system based in Sharia accepted into America’s national security establishment more broadly?

Morton may have put on a tie and apologized for his misdeeds, but based on his scrubbed public writings from just a year ago, he sounds a lot like other former “moderate,” “ex-radicals” in American history. While recasting himself as an agent for good with a new home in the academy, he airbrushes his views to make them palatable to a progressive audience.

Perhaps Morton will be the first in a wave of new Bill Ayerses, Kathy Boudins, and Angela Davises. The Obama administration does want to clear out Gitmo, and “jobs for reformed jihadis” has a nice ring to it.

George Washington University hires Muslim convicted of soliciting jihad murder

Jihad Watch, by Robert Spencer, Aug. 30, 2016:

Seamus Hughes, deputy director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University’s Center for Cyber & Homeland Security, says: “I trust him. We did our due diligence.” How did they do that? It may be that Jesse Morton is as reformed and repentant as the day is long, but when George Washington University’s Center for Cyber & Homeland Security has a “Program on Extremism” and not a “Program on Jihad,” how diligent could they be in vetting Morton for adherence to an ideology they don’t even admit exists?

What’s more, Morton was convicted of soliciting the jihad murder of “blasphemers.” Would George Washington University hire anyone of any other belief system if he had been convicted of soliciting the murder of those who offended against his belief system? This hire indicates how compromised the universities are: they are so anti-American and so far Left that jihadis are fashionable. Muslims are never a threat, even when they’re plotting violence and murder; they’re protected, privileged victims.

A reminder: “Leader of Revolution Muslim Pleads Guilty to Using Internet to Solicit Murder and Encourage Violent Extremism,” U.S. Attorney’s Office, February 9, 2012:

ALEXANDRIA, VA—Jesse Curtis Morton, aka Younus Abdullah Muhammed, 33, of New York City, pleaded guilty today to using his position as a leader of Revolution Muslim Organization’s Internet sites to conspire to solicit murder, make threatening communications, and use the Internet to place others in fear….

Morton faces a maximum penalty five years in prison for each of the three charges when he is sentenced on May 18, 2012.

That’s fifteen years, and he has served four, because he is “reformed.”

“Jesse Morton operated Revolution Muslim to radicalize those who saw and heard his materials online and to incite them to engage in violence against those they believed to be enemies of Islam,” said U.S. Attorney MacBride. “We may never know all of those who were inspired to engage in terrorism because of Revolution Muslim, but the string of recent terrorism cases with ties to Morton’s organization demonstrates the threat it posed to our national security. We’re grateful to the FBI, NYPD, and their law enforcement partners throughout the world who made today’s conviction possible.”

“Individuals such as Morton who encourage violence and create fear over the Internet are a danger to our society and to the freedoms we enjoy as citizens,” said Assistant Director in Charge McJunkin. “Today’s plea, and other recent cases of those associated with Morton’s organization, demonstrate the widespread nature of this danger. Together with our partner law enforcement agencies, and with the assistance of the community, the FBI will continue to pursue those who promulgate violent extremism and promote the radicalization of others.”…

According to a statement of facts filed with his plea agreement, Morton founded Revolution Muslim in December 2007 and created various online forums that contained postings and information supportive of violent extremism. Morton and his associates used the organization’s websites to encourage Muslims to engage in violence against those they believed to be enemies of Islam and to support Osama bin Laden, Anwar Al-Awlaki, al Qaeda, the Taliban, and others espousing violence. They posted messages in support of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the November 2009 killings at Ft. Hood and attacks and future threats against Jewish organizations, among others.

Through his online forums, Morton conspired with Zachary Chesser, of Fairfax County, Va., and others to solicit the murder of an artist tied to the “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” movement in May 2010, including posting online a magazine that included the artist in a hit list for violent extremists to take out and a message from Anwar Al-Awlaki that explicitly called for the artist’s assassination. In justifying these actions, Morton posted online a speech of his asserting that “Islam’s position is that those that insult the Prophet may be killed” and exhorting his listeners to fight the “disbelievers near you.”

In addition, Morton admitted through his statement of facts that he aided Chesser in taking repeated steps in April 2010 to encourage violent extremists to attack the writers of South Park for an episode that featured Muhammad in a bear suit, including highlighting their residence and urging online readers to “pay them a visit.” Among the steps they took were posting on multiple occasions speeches by Anwar Al-Awlaki, which explained the Islamic justification for killing those who insult or defame Muhammad. Morton worked with Chesser to draft a message for the website regarding the South Park threats, including a quote from Osama bin Laden that “If there is no check in the freedom of your words, then let your hearts be open to the freedom of our actions.” Morton and Chesser posted the final version of this statement on various extremist online forums, and Chesser told Morton that he expected the statement would “scare the kuffar.” Kuffar is an Arabic term, referring to an unbeliever, or disbeliever, in Islam….

Now Morton is no longer in the business of trying to “scare the kuffar.” Instead, he is soothing the kuffar to sleep validating the kuffar’s fantasies about “deradicalization.” This absurd idea is based on the assumption that Islam is a Religion of Peace, and that jihad terrorists are misunderstanding and misinterpreting it. So all that needs to be done is teach them the true, peaceful Islam, and all will be well, right?

Well, let’s see. De-radicalization programs have been implemented elsewhere, notably in Indonesia and Saudi Arabia. Let’s look at how they fared. From the Jihad Watch archives:

11 ex-Gitmo prisoners flee the Saudi “rehabilitation program” and join up with terrorist groups

Jaw-dropper: 25 former Gitmo detainees “return to militancy” despite Saudi rehab program!

Graduate from Saudi jihadi rehab program killed in Syrian jihad: “killed a large number of Christians before his acceptance by God”

Flight 253 jihadist wasn’t cured by Saudi anti-jihad art therapy

Former Guantanamo detainee now top al-Qaeda ideologue — “He was transferred to Saudi Arabia in 2006 where he was placed in a national rehabilitation project.”

Indonesian government admits that its jihadist rehab program is a failure

Counterterror expert: “deradicalization” is “practically impossible”

Australia: Muslim teen arrested for jihad plot was in “deradicalization” program

‘Deradicalized’ Islamic State jihadists producing terror propaganda videos in Germany

But Jesse Morton has the magic key to “deradicalization” that no one else has been able to find? Color me skeptical.

Jesse-Morton

“GW hires former Islamic extremist,” by Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, August 30, 2016:

George Washington University has hired a former Islamic extremist to work at its center on homeland security — a man who once denounced the United States and made threats against the creators of the TV series “South Park” for depicting the Prophet Muhammad in a bear suit.

While reformed extremists have worked at universities in Europe to help fight terrorism, this is believed to be a first in the United States.

Jesse Morton, who was known as Younus Abdullah Muhammad when he was a recruiter for the al-Qaeda, brings a “unique perspective” to counter-terrorism work, said Seamus Hughes, deputy director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University’s Center for Cyber & Homeland Security….

During his days as an extremist, Morton earned a master’s degree in international affairs from Columbia University.

Hughes said before making the hiring decision, he discussed Morton with the FBI, leaders in the security community and the lawyers that prosecuted Morton.

He said he’s sure Morton is completely reformed from the days he served time in federal prison after inciting people to join a terrorist organization.

“I trust him,” he said. “We did our due diligence.”

Nadia Oweidat, a fellow at the think tank New America who’s interviewed dozens of former extremists, said she doesn’t doubt Morton’s sincerity.

“People go through phases. They evolve and are finally able to see the light,” she said.

She doesn’t think Morton made up his de-radicalization to get a shorter prison sentence.

“When an extremist defects, they risk being completely targeted by their community — it’s like saying you’re gay publicly,” she said. “There are life-altering consequences and you don’t approach it lightly.”

She said other organizations should also recruit former extremists in the hopes of preventing future massacres such as the San Bernardino shooting or the November terror attack in Paris, both committed by radicalized Islamists.

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