The Political Warfare Campaign Against U.S. Counter-Terrorism Experts

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation has laid out a strategy for preventing reference to terrorism in association with Islam. They are targeting training and education for the military and law enforcement, and pursueing their strategy by working through NGOs, think tanks and international organizations to label as Islamophobes those counter-terrorism trainers who were not approved by specific front-organizations.  This article looks at the most recent initiative in this campaign of political warfare: a report by the Muslim Public Affairs Council entitled Not Qualified: Exposing the Deception Behind America’s Top 25 Pseudo Experts on Islam.

As Sun Tzu pointed out, the greatest warrior is one who can win without having to fight. Political warfare‚ÄĒoperations designed to influence the perceptions or beliefs of one‚Äôs adversary‚ÄĒis thus an invaluable tool because it is a way of winning a conflict without having to use force.¬† The Soviets knew this well, as did numerous other totalitarian regimes, and the OIC is now using this form of attack to shut down crucial counter-terrorism experts and training in the United States.¬† This meets both a theological and a strategic imperative for the OIC.¬† Theologically, the campaign of psychological warfare against CT experts helps to shut down criticism of Muhammad and of Islam, which is deemed forbidden, based upon several different verses of the Koran.¬† Strategically, it is an advantageous approach because it neutralizes those who have become most knowledgeable on the Islamist threat, thus allowing even greater impunity for agents working to undermine U.S. national security.

The strategy to shut down critical analysis of Islam by declaiming Islamophobia was made public in 2005.  That year, The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), with its 56 member nations, stated that Islamophobia would be a major focus for the coming decade:

A Ten-Year Programme of Action has been developed, which reviews the most prominent challenges facing the Muslim world today‚Ķestablishing the values of moderation and tolerance, combating extremism, violence and terrorism, countering Islamophobia, achieving solidarity and cooperation among Member States, conflict prevention, the question of Palestine, the rights of Muslim minorities and communities, and rejecting unilateral sanctions.‚ÄĚ[1]

In order to combat Islamophobia, the report stated, the OIC would take a number of steps:  it would establish an observatory to monitor all forms of Islamophobia, work with the UN to adopt a resolution to counter Islamophobia, and urge states to enact laws to combat it.  The broad conclusions of the 2005 meeting were these: Islam can never be criticized and Islam must be de-linked from terrorism.

The OIC campaign scored its first big success with the March 2007 publication of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) ‚ÄúResolution 4/9 on Combating Defamation of Religions,‚ÄĚ which stated, ‚Äúthe council expresses deep concern at attempts to identify Islam with terrorism, violence and human rights violations.”¬† The resolution further stated that the Council would urge member states to ensure that ‚Äúpublic officials, including members of law enforcement bodies, the military, civil servants and educators, in the course of their official duties, respect different religions and beliefs and do not discriminate against persons on the grounds of their religion or belief, and that any necessary and appropriate education or training is provided‚Ķ‚Ä̬† The UNHRC document specifically points to education and training for law enforcement and the military as the target of these efforts.

By the following year, the Islamophobia Observatory was up and running, and in March 2008, The 1st OIC Observatory Report on Islamophobia was published.¬† The report stated: ‚Äú‚Ķthe proponents of Islamophobia continue their campaign in defaming Islam and Muslims.‚ÄĚ In laying out a strategy to prevent and preempt this perceived Islamophobia, the report stated that members would work with think tanks and NGOs in the US, the UK and Europe, to monitor and counter the ‚Äúanti-Islam campaign‚ÄĚ (sic).¬† What followed was a series of reports and articles attacking the alleged critics of Islam. In much the same way the Soviet Union used peace movements, trade organizations, and unions as front groups for their anti-American activity, so the OIC and individual Muslim funders worked through international and Western organizations for their purposes.¬† The first notable example was the University of Exeter‚Äôs Report entitled, Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim Hate Crime: A London Case Study. Published in January 2010, the study called on the UK government to evaluate its current policies, asserting that ‚Äúcounterterrorism strategy still wrongly conflates the al Qaeda threat with other Islamist groups which in turn licenses anti-Muslim hate crimes.‚ÄĚ The study was funded by Muslim sources:¬† Islam Expo, the Cordoba Foundation, founded by Anas al-Tikriti, son of a Muslim Brotherhood leader inIraq, and Sultan bin Mohammed al-Qasimi, a member of the Supreme Council of theUnited Arab Emirates and current ruler of the Sharjah emirate.

In the United States, the funding behind similar studies was never made public, but the themes are strikingly similar to those set forth by the OIC:¬† concerns over Islamophobia, defamation of Islam, and the need to change the counter-terrorism policies and practices of law enforcement and military.¬† Among the relevant studies in the United Statesis the Washington Post‚Äôs major story entitled Top Secret America.¬† Published in July 2010, the Post openly stated that more than a dozen WP journalists spent two years developing the study, a significant commitment of resources for a newspaper today.¬† The report was a wide-scale condemnation of the way theUnited States had addressed terrorism post-9/11.¬† But what is most interesting about the report is its close adherence to the OIC strategy of targeting the trainers of law enforcement and the military: ‚ÄúSeeking to learn more about Islam and terrorism, some law enforcement agencies have hired as trainers self-described experts whose extremist views on Islam and terrorism are considered inaccurate and counterproductive by the FBI and U.S. intelligence agencies.‚ÄĚ

This same theme‚ÄĒIslamophobia and defamation in counter-terrorism training–was then repeated in a number of other reports produced by U.S. NGOs. In March 2011, Political Research Associates, a left-wing NGO based in Somerville, Massachusetts, published Manufacturing the Muslim Menace: Private Firms, Public Servants, and the Threat to Rights and Security. This report, too, focused on counter-terrorism trainers, stating:

In place of sound skills training and intelligence briefings, a vocal and influential sub-group of the private counterterrorism training industry markets conspiracy theories about secret jihadi campaigns to replace the U.S. Constitution with Sharia law, and effectively impugns all of Islam‚ÄĒa world religion with 1.3 billion adherents‚ÄĒas inherently violent and even terroristic.[2]

The report named nine specific trainers: Mark A. Gabriel, David Gaubatz, Walid Phares, Clare M. Lopez, Tawfik Hamid, Stephen Coughlin, Nonie Darwish, Detective Ebrahim Ashabi, and Walid Shoebat.  The report also named three training organizations as guilty of Islamophobia:  International Counter-Terrorism Officers Association (ICTOA), Security Solutions International, LLC (SSI), and The Centre for Counterintelligence and Security Studies (CI Centre).

In naming these organizations the report stated: ‚ÄúEach of these organizations occupies a different niche in the counterterrorism training industry.¬† Although different from each other in many regards, all three groups, or their affiliated trainers and spokespeople, propagate dangerous Islamophobic themes and stories to personnel charged with public safety and national security. By presenting themselves as law enforcement and intelligence specialists, these organizations and spokespeople lend their credentials to religious bigotry.‚ÄĚ[3]¬† It is noteworthy that the report‚Äôs concern is not with human rights, a concern more common to the left in the United States, nor with national security, and whether the training is accurate and effective or not.¬† Instead, the report places its primary emphasis on the issues raised by the OIC: Islamophobia and religious bigotry. ¬†Religious bigotry seems an unusual focus for an organization that self-identifies as progressive.

These themes were sounded again in yet another report, this one published by the Center for American Progress (CAP) in August 2011 entitled, Fear, Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America.  With revenue of $36.7 million in 2010, CAP is notable for its closeness to the Democratic leadership and is considered one of the most important Democratic think tanks.  Its former head, now Chair and Counselor, is John Podesta, President Clinton’s White House Chief of Staff and Co-Chair of the Obama Transition team. The new president of CAP, Neera Tanden, is equally tied to the two most recent Democratic administrations.  Ms. Tanden served as congressional liaison for Bill Clinton, then policy director for the Hilary Clinton campaign.  Eventually she became director for domestic policy for the Obama-Biden campaign. As interesting as her ties to the Clintons and President Obama are her family ties. Tanden is the sister of Raj Tanden, whose law firm represented the United Emirate’s royal family in a $1 billion acquisition of U.S. real estate and also handled the controversial Dubai Ports deal. Fear, Inc., like the other reports, focuses on Islamophobia and strives to marginalize and discredit established authorities:

This in-depth investigation conducted by the Center for American Progress Action Fund reveals not a vast right-wing conspiracy behind the rise of Islamophobia in our nation but rather a small, tightly networked group of misinformation experts guiding an effort that reaches millions of Americans through effective advocates, media partners, and grassroots organizing. This spreading of hate and misinformation primarily starts with five key people and their organizations, which are sustained by funding from a clutch of key foundations.[4]

The report names the seven funders it accuses of funding the Islamophobia network and those it labels the ‚ÄúMisinformation Experts‚ÄĚ: Frank Gaffney at the Center for Security Policy, David Yerushalmi at the Society of Americans for National Existence [now of the American Freedom Law Center], Daniel Pipes at the Middle East Forum, Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch and Stop Islamization of America, and Steven Emerson of the Investigative Project on Terrorism.

While the funding for Fear, Inc. was not made public, at least one of its coauthors has links with the Muslim Brotherhood.  According to an article by Adam Kredo in The Washington Free Beacon, co-author Wajahat Ali was responsible for radical anti-Israel propaganda and has published on a Muslim Brotherhood website.[5] He was also a member of the Board of the Muslim Student Association, also associated with the Muslim Brotherhood. Another co-author, Faiz Shakir, who has since been hired as senior advisor and new media director for Democratic Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, oversaw a fundraising event while a member of the Harvard Islamic Society which directed funds to the Holy Land Foundation, the fundraising arm for Hamas in the United States which was shut down by the U.S. government in 2008.

Then in the summer of 2011, a series of articles by Spencer Ackerman, published on the internet site ‚ÄúDanger Room,‚ÄĚ similarly targeted counter-terrorism trainers, naming Stephen Coughlin, William Gawthrop, John Guandolo, Robert Spencer, John Marsh, Peter Leitner, and Lt. Col. Matthew Dooley.¬† The most recent salvo in this campaign of political warfare against those who are working to understand and educate national security professionals on Islamic terrorism and subversion is The Muslim Public Affairs Council recent report entitled Not Qualified: Exposing the Deception Behind America‚Äôs Top 25 Pseudo Experts on Islam.¬† The report includes such well known names as Steven Emerson, Sebastian Gorka, Tawfik Hamid, Raymond Ibrahim, Zuhdi Jasser, Andrew McCarthy, Walid Phares, Patrick Poole, Walid Shoebat, and Erick Stakelback.¬† The list includes former and current Muslims, academic experts with PhDs, attorneys, former high-ranking government officials, and investigative journalists, many of whom have been studying terrorism for years, if not decades.¬† The report asserts, however, that because they do not have advanced degrees in Islamic studies, they should not be allowed to share their expertise with others.

The political warfare campaign, designed by the OIC and executed by politically partisan front-organizations, has had a profound effect on United States national security. In September 2011, the Obama administration carried out an unprecedented wide-scale review of all counter-terrorism training for local and federal law enforcement and all branches of the military. All existing training materials were reviewed, a large number of slides decks were purged, and many national security experts were disallowed from further training, some even serving within the U.S. government, including the FBI.  All counterterrorism training must now be vetted by an anonymous review panel, and clear instructions have been issued that Islam cannot in any way be linked with terrorism.  Indeed the trainings that are being carried out now focus on cultural sensitivity training. Discussion of al Qaeda’s threat doctrine or religious sources for justifying terrorism is forbidden.

Many analysts and operators across diverse agencies have complained that a culture of political correctness is preventing accurate and meaningful training of law enforcement and the military.  But the real the cause for the current whitewashing of terrorism inspired by Islam is far more insidious than just political correctness. As the quotes from the OIC above prove, the cause is a deliberate and well planned operation to prevent U.S. military and law-enforcement professionals from briefing on the threats that face America from Islamist radicals and terrorists. And to be sure, the OIC has made no secret whatsoever of the operation.  They stated clearly in 2005 what they would do and how they would accomplish it. One can easily plot the course of the operation in the years that followed, from the UNHRC to various think tanks and media outlets.

It is the methodology all totalitarian regimes used in the past to shut down their critics.  The Soviets imprisoned or executed their dissenters, as did Hitler’s Germany, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, Mao’s China.  The OIC is similarly working to shut down all western criticism and analysis of Islam.  The current U.S. administration is complicit in letting them do so.  It is as if the work of the Communist International had made it impossible for the U.S. national security establishment to criticize Communism or to study the ideology of Marxism. When the United States is no longer able to defend itself against terrorist attacks or acts of subversion because our law enforcement and military have not been properly trained, the price for such a policy will come due.

October 2012

Katharine Cornell Gorka is Executive Director of The Westminster Institute, a non-governmental think tank whose mission is to promote individual dignity and freedom for people throughout the world, with a particular focus on the threat posed by extremism and radical ideologies.

[2] ¬†Political Research Associates Project, ‚ÄúManufacturing the Muslim Menace‚ÄĚ
[3] ibid, p. 31.
[5] Adam Kredo, ‚ÄúCAP Report Hijacked,‚ÄĚ Washington Free Beacon, February 27, 2012.