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Patrick Poole: DOJ Source: Gov’t Muslim ‘Outreach’ Jeopardized Active Terror Investigations
The nearly six-hour interview I conducted earlier this year with a top Department of Justice official on the condition of anonymity brought forth a number of revelations about serious problems within the U.S. government’s homeland security and law enforcement community.
Last Thursday, I reported here exclusively at PJM on a DOJ memo dated March 31, 2010, from Assistant Attorney General David Kris to Acting Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler. The memo effectively ended the prosecution of Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) co-founder and Chairman Emeritus Omar Ahmad — in addition to the prosecution of other prominent American Muslim leaders — for helping support the Hamas terrorist organization. This decision, according to my source, was not made based on the overwhelming evidence that had been compiled over the past decade by the U.S. attorney’s office in Dallas, but was made due to potential political embarrassment for the Obama administration and out of fear of inflaming the American Muslim community.
But another troubling claim came out during our interview: “Muslim outreach” programs by U.S. government agencies to terror-tied Islamic groups have directly interfered with ongoing terrorism investigations.
My source began by complaining about the counterproductive nature of such programs:
In all my years working for the U.S. government I have rarely seen anything as mystifying as our outreach to Muslims. Do we really need it? Sure. We need to be reaching out to the Muslim leaders who are working to prevent radicalization, not the ones who are making it happen. But that isn’t what we’re doing.
Instead we’re having countless meetings from the Cabinet level on down with groups and individuals that we know are bad guys and who we’ve repeatedly said in court are actively working to support terrorist groups overseas. We even had [FBI General Counsel] Valerie Caproni meeting regularly with these Hamas guys to get their guidance. What advice do you think they were giving her?
And she knew exactly who she was dealing with. It was the FBI who went into federal court and said that CAIR is Hamas.
But at the same time that FBI agents were testifying in the [Holy Land Foundation] trial that CAIR is a Hamas front there was serious disagreement inside DOJ and the FBI about whether we should continue to work with CAIR or cut them loose. So now we do both.
We say publicly that we don’t have an official relationship, but CAIR still has most of the staff in [Attorney General Eric] Holder and [FBI Director Robert] Mueller’s offices on speed dial. Don’t think for a minute that we stopped dealing with them.
And what exactly is our end game for doing this? Nobody knows. Are we getting anything by reaching out to CAIR? Of course not.
Now think for a minute about what we’re doing in any other context. Thirty years ago we didn’t have government liaisons to the IRA. The FBI doesn’t have an interfaith outreach program to the Mafia. Janet Napolitano doesn’t sit down and have lunch meetings with the Mexican drug cartels. And we don’t appoint members of the Crips and Bloods to our advisory boards on gangs. Well, not yet, at least [laughs].
It sounds really silly when you put it like that, but we have been allowing the bad guys to dictate our national policy on terrorism since the World Trade Center bombing [in 1993]. Let’s not forget that during the Clinton administration we had one of al-Qaeda’s top operatives in America — Abdurahman Alamoudi — organizing iftar dinners at the White House! The same guy who stood beside President Bush right after 9/11. Two years later he’s in prison, but his people are still popping up all over Washington.
Then we had [CAIR Executive Director] Nihad Awad advising Al Gore’s aviation security commission back in the late 90s. We said absolutely nothing even though we had him on our wiretaps five years before at a major Hamas meeting in Philadelphia. Nobody from DOJ or the FBI said a goddamn word because CAIR was advising every single federal agency dealing with terrorism at the time. We wouldn’t have these problems if we had cut them off then and there.
Stuff like that really makes me wonder what in the hell are we doing. I could easily give a dozen more examples going on right now. This bizarre fetish we’ve had about Muslim outreach since 9/11 has even damaged ongoing terrorism investigations and is eventually going to get people killed. I really believe that.
I asked for an example of how these outreach programs jeopardized investigations:
Well the best example was the investigation into the missing Somali kids in Minneapolis two years ago.
When Al-Shabaab started gaining support in the Somali community after the Ethiopian invasion in late 2006 and early 2007, all of the government agencies started doing outreach to the Somali imams. But when these kids went missing in Minneapolis, did we get a call from these imams we were reaching out to?
No, they were telling the families to shut up and not to talk to the FBI.
[Author’s note: Subsequent to my interview, Abdirizak Bihi, the uncle of one of the missing kids who was later killed fighting with Al-Shabaab in Somalia, testified before the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee hearing on radicalization in the Islamic community making these same claims: religious leaders and CAIR were intimidating the families of the missing Somali men to prevent them from talking to law enforcement.]
It wasn’t long into the investigation before we started hearing that the ones primarily responsible for recruiting and raising the funds for these kids to go fight with Al-Shabaab were the same imams we had been doing outreach to all along. But everyone was saying “we must do outreach,” like they had all been hypnotized, so the outreach continued.
Now at the same time, the FBI was working to get information from these imams about what might have happened with these kids when somebody somewhere decides to put them on the no-fly list. [Author’s note: It was widely reported that Sheik Abdirahman Ahmed of Masjid Abubakar As-Saddique -- the largest mosque in Minnesota -- and the mosque’s youth director Abdulahi Farah were placed on and later removed from the no-fly list.] So they get stopped trying to leave the country, which tips them off that they’re part of the investigation. And the imams quickly lawyer up. Its months before we actually get their attorneys to agree to let them to talk to us. And we got nothing from them when we did.
Once we started to get a handle on how big this really was, it ended up being becoming the largest CT [counterterrorism] investigation since 9/11. And a couple of months in we finally convene a grand jury to look into this thing. So do we call these imams in? Hell no.
Subpoenas go out to a bunch of mid- and low-level people, but not the big fish. And when the low-level people get their subpoenas, who do they call? The imams who are our prime suspects, oh, and who also are supposed to be our outreach partners. And like magic, the low-level folks all suddenly get CAIR attorneys representing them. The result is that the indictments that have been handed down are virtually all minor players. Instead of going after the guys running the operation, we indict a couple of guys and a Somali woman who raised a couple of thousand of dollars for Al-Shabaab.
Don’t get me wrong, I think they should all go to jail, but do we really believe we’re winning the war on terror when this Somali woman gets indicted and the imams who recruited these kids and sent them to fight and die are allowed to walk free?
I asked: the outreach to the imams finally stopped, didn’t it?
Are you kidding me? They’re still working with these guys!
[Authors note: In fact, one Somali press outlet reported that Homeland Security, the FBI, and several other federal, state, and local agencies held an unpublicized outreach session at the Abubakar As-Saddique mosque earlier this month. According to that report, Sheikh Ahmed and other mosque leaders did not attend for fear of backlash from the Somali community.]
But here’s how we get twisted around our own outreach programs. About two months after all these kids disappear, the Al-Shabaab imams from all over the country get together at a meeting in Ohio, including the Minneapolis imams we’re looking at. Do we wiretap the meeting? Of course not.
Instead, a representative for the imams convinces some dimwit attorney from Homeland Security Civil Rights division to come talk at their meeting about outreach. And so they let this guy talk for about ten minutes, then he’s quickly ushered out of the building so they can get down to business. This gives them perfect cover. “Well we can’t be having a terrorist meeting because we had Homeland Security here!”
And can you guess what happened to the imam’s lackey who arranged for Homeland Security to be at that meeting? He’s now one of [Homeland Security Secretary] Napolitano’s senior advisors and running all of their Somali outreach! They gave this guy a security clearance! I’m not f***ing kidding you!
If anyone wants to understand how utterly insane our outreach policy is they should start right there.
Look, I have to admit that these guys are evil, but they’re absolutely brilliant. They are so inside our decision-making process they will always be twenty steps ahead of us. I honestly think if we stopped doing counterterrorism altogether we would be better off. I really don’t mean that, but for us to return to some semblance of sanity we have got to stop relying on the bad guys to make our counterterrorism policy. And we damn well have to stop hiring these people and putting them in charge of outreach.
We also need to get rid of all these supposed outside experts. Four years ago a bunch of these academic idiots were telling us that Al-Shabaab was a nationalist organization that was only concerned with liberating Somalia from U.S.-backed foreign occupation and there was nothing to worry about. Does anyone still believe that? I mean we just had that Somali kid from Portland [Mohamed Osman Mohamud] try to set off a bomb in the middle of a Christmas celebration that would have killed hundreds of people. The [FBI] ran a solid operation on that one, but they aren’t going to be able to catch them all.
And when the day comes that we have dead Americans lying in our streets, you know what we’re going to hear from these experts? We need more outreach! I guarantee it! And they’ll get huge grants from DOJ, FBI, and DHS to tell us that.
At the time of this interview there was considerable criticism from Muslim groups regarding the upcoming House Homeland Security hearing on Islamic radicalization (which I covered for PJM last month). So later in the conversation, I asked about the claims being made by the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) and CAIR that the Muslim community has been actively helping law enforcement identify potential terrorists in their midst:
That is complete and utter bulls***.
In all my years working counterterrorism I can’t recall a single case where we prosecuted someone based on a tip from MPAC or CAIR or any of these groups. The only time we hear from them is when they think that someone is a government informant. That’s how MPAC blew a big al-Qaeda case in California. When they thought they had somebody spying inside the mosque, they called the FBI and said he was a potential terrorist and the whole case ended up falling apart. So what do we do in response? Did we cut them off? No, DHS has them train thousands of TSA employees in cultural sensitivity. I almost fell out of my chair when I heard about that. Oh, and they still call us when they want to bitch about us arresting one of their friends or employees or board members. But under Obama and Holder that doesn’t happen so much anymore. Just ask Omar Ahmad.
I hear them take credit for all these cases they had absolutely nothing to do with. Like the Lackawanna case. The FBI got one anonymous letter from someone in the Muslim community saying that a group of men had left to train in Afghanistan with bin Laden and he can’t say who he is because he’s in fear for his life. He was probably right to be in fear for his life. Who was he afraid of? Probably the people from his mosque.
But what about the dozens of people in the community who knew that an al-Qaeda recruiter had come through their mosque and knew these men had left to go train with al-Qaeda? From all those people who knew what was going on we got a single anonymous tip. But they raise this example anytime someone dares to question their lack of cooperation. The Muslim community can’t have it both ways. If they don’t want to be tarred every time a Muslim commits a terror attack they can’t turn around and claim to be cooperative with law enforcement when one person does the right thing and everyone else stays silent.
And then you have the case a couple of years ago of the three guys in Toledo who wanted to fight Americans and join the Taliban. When they were arrested the Muslim leaders kept praising themselves that someone from the Muslim community turned them in. But it wasn’t until the trial that it came out that the tip didn’t come from the Muslim community but from an undercover agent. I’m sure that CAIR and MPAC take credit for that as an example of their cooperation with the FBI, and then use that same case to attack the FBI for using an agent provocateur to entrap innocent Muslims.
And these are the groups we have been using as the bridge to the Muslim community for going on twenty years now. I mean the best thing we could do is burn that bridge to the ground and start building some new ones.