White House Review Threatens Counter-Terrorism Operations

The White House has initiated a secretive review of all federal law enforcement and military counter-terrorism training.  This process has already blacklisted several recognized authorities and is expected to forbid future use of terms such as “jihad” or “Islamist terrorism.”  Counter-terrorism experts and federal agents are critical of the initiative, which appears to be driven more by concerns about offending Muslims – and Muslim lobbying organizations – than by concern for American national security.  Sources in the FBI and other agencies assert that this political intrusion into the professional training system will undermine the operational capacity of government agents to fight domestic terrorism.

This initiative to censor counter-terrorism training is the culmination of the Obama administration’s twin policies of identifying America’s enemy with the amorphous title “violent extremism,” and designating “community outreach” as the primary strategy for addressing terrorism domestically.  Key national security documents have already excised all terminology that associates terrorism with Islam or Islamic concepts such as jihad.  This initiative seems designed to now do the same with training, which directly counters the recommendations of the Special Report from the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, A Ticking Time Bomb: Counterterrorism Lessons from the U.S. Government’s Failure to Prevent the Fort Hood Attack.  The report states:

“DoD has conducted an extensive internal review of lessons from the Fort Hood attack but needs to strengthen policies and training to identify the threat of violent Islamist extremism, which includes the radicalization process, and to prevent radicalization of service members to violent Islamist extremism.”

An unclassified memorandum from the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense, dated October 14, 2011, states that as a result of recent media attention on the FBI’s Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) training, the National Security Staff has requested all departments and agencies of the Department of Defense to provide their screening process for CVE trainers and speakers.  The only supporting documentation provided with the memorandum is a copy of an article by left-wing blogger Spencer Ackerman, whose series of articles on FBI trainers helped spark this politicaly motivated censorship program.  One has to wonder when did the Department of Defense begin taking its marching orders from 20-something bloggers?  Or, more to the point, since when does blogging in itself count as expertise?  And why is the National Security Staff more concerned about who is providing counter-terrorism training to our law enforcement and military than they are about the fact that a mole inside the FBI is leaking information to a blogger about material being taught to federal agents, texts held at the FBI library, and slides used at closed FBI trainings?

It is too soon to tell what the full impact of this review process will be, but the concern is that it will result in more events such as the Ft. Hood shooting.  If counter-terrorism professionals are not allowed to acknowledge that a person motivated by jihadist ideology, or by such Islamist ideologues as Sayyid Qutb or Abu’l-A’la Mawdudi, may be inclined towards acts of violence against Americans, how will they be able to identify and deter potential attackers?

In the immediate term, this review process should be sending up alarm bells:  it lacks all transparency; the identity of the reviewers has been kept secret; a number of trainers have been blacklisted already and the list of their names is secret; and there is no appeal process for those who have been blacklisted. The Obama Administration is right to assert that America is not at war with Islam, but to deny that a violent strain of Islam is inspiring a wave of terrorist attacks against Americans and American targets is to invite disaster.

Congresswoman Sue Myrick (R-NC), who Chairs the House Subcommittee on Terrorism, HUMINT, Analysis and Counterintelligence, has drafted a letter to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. expressing her concern that “the political nature of these reviews might inadvertently weaken our law enforcement and military counter-terrorism training programs by censoring certain language that is used to objectively identify the asymmetrical threats that are present in today’s world.”  Myrick, and other members of Congress who sign onto the letter, are asking DOJ and DOD to reveal their plans for the review process, but most importantly, they are asking for substantiation on how the changes will improve the current model of counter-terrorism training.

The recent FBI arrest of Jose Pimentel for planning to bomb police and military targets suggests that attackers motivated by Islamist ideology, and instructed by Islamist propaganda, remain a grave threat to American citizens.   It is critical that any changes to training on that threat be well scrutinized and justified and not secretly implemented merely as a way to gain political favor with one constituency or pressure group.

News Release
U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick
Representing North Carolina’s Ninth District
For Immediate Release                 Contact:  Taylor Stanford
December 15, 2011                   (202) 225-1976

Myrick, Colleagues Question Administration Changes To Counter-Terrorism Policy

(Washington, DC) –US Representative Sue Myrick (NC-09), along with several of her colleagues, today sent a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Attorney General Eric Holder regarding possible changes to federal enforcement and military counter-terrorism training and educational programs.

In the letter, Members expressed concern that any review and subsequent changes to the Administration’s Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) training may be influenced by politics and public perception, directly threatening our country’s national security.

Members also supported a February 2011 Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs report, which recommended that the Department of Defense “update its policies on extremism and religions accommodation to ensure that violent Islamist extremism is not tolerated”, and “train servicemembers on violent Islamist extremism and how it differs from Islamic religious belief and practices.”

In closing, Members asked four questions regarding the Administration review of its CVE training:

  1. What non-government organizations, agencies, and other individuals are involved in the review process?
  2. What are the objectives of the training reviews?
  3. What changes are you planning to implement?
  4. How will the changes improve the current model of counter-terrorism training?

“We cannot expect our armed forces and law enforcement agencies to combat the threat of radical Islamist extremism while simultaneously preventing them from discussing it,” Rep. Myrick said in a statement. “Politics and political correctness should never interfere with the security of our nation”.

Signers of the letter are: Rep. Mark Amodei (NV-02); Rep. Dan Burton (IN-05); Rep. Jeff Duncan (SC-03); Rep. Randy Forbes (VA-04); Rep. Trent Franks (AZ-02); Rep. Louie Gohmert (TX-01); Rep. Kay Granger (TX-12); Rep. Randy Hultgren (IL-14); Rep. Mike Kelly (PA-03); Rep. John Kline (MN-02); Rep. Bill Posey (FL-15); Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (CA-46); Rep. Allen West (FL-22); Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (GA-03); Rep. Frank Wolf (VA-10).

Cliff May, of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, covered this issue in his article “What’s Islam Got To Do With It?”