From Frontpage Mag
By Robert Spencer
Relax. After reports surfaced last month that dozens of private airline employees may have had terror ties, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson this week set the record straight: “It’s not that they’re suspected terrorists. It’s that they hadn’t been vetted through all available databases. We have since corrected that problem and the cases have been resolved.” There is just one problem: This is not really a problem that can be corrected.
This came after the Cox Washington News Bureau reported that there were no fewer than 73 airport workers with possible terror ties, working at airports including Sea-Tac Airport in Seattle, Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta, Logan Airport in Boston, Orlando International Airport in Florida, Memphis International Airport in Tennessee, and others. But Johnson boasted: “We’re doing a better job of consulting all of the right databases when it comes to airport security and a host of other things.”
Is that so? How reassuring. Presumably Johnson and his team have consulted their extensive database of card-carrying Islamic State members, and have diligently compared it to their list of airport employees, and have removed those who appeared on both lists. The only problem with this scenario, of course, is that there is no such database, or anything comparable to it. There is simply no database that Johnson could consult that would enable the Department of Homeland Security to remove everyone with terror ties from airport jobs.
The impossibility of doing this is compounded by the fact that the Islamic State deliberately recruits people who have no criminal records, and instructs its operatives to blend in with the larger society, not wearing caftans or carrying around Qur’ans or even going to mosque – in other words, to obscure any possible information that might show up on DHS databases.
Compounding the impossibility of screening out people with terror ties from airport jobs is the fact that the Obama administration is bound as a matter of policy to ignore and deny the terrorists’ motivating ideology – so how can it vet for it? This goes back to October 19, 2011, Farhana Khera of Muslim Advocates, wrote a letter to John Brennan, who was then the Assistant to the President on National Security for Homeland Security and Counter Terrorism. The letter was signed not just by Khera, but by the leaders of virtually all the significant Islamic groups in the United States: 57 Muslim, Arab, and South Asian organizations, many with ties to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, including the CAIR, ISNA, MAS, the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), Islamic Relief USA; and MPAC.
The letter denounced what it characterized as U.S. government agencies’ “use of biased, false and highly offensive training materials about Muslims and Islam,” and emphasized that this was an issue of the utmost importance: “The seriousness of this issue cannot be overstated, and we request that the White House immediately create an interagency task force to address this problem, with a fair and transparent mechanism for input from the Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities, including civil rights lawyers, religious leaders, and law enforcement experts.”
The task force was needed because “while recent news reports have highlighted the FBI’s use of biased experts and training materials, we have learned that this problem extends far beyond the FBI and has infected other government agencies, including the U.S. Attorney’s Anti-Terrorism Advisory Councils, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Army. Furthermore, by the FBI’s own admission, the use of bigoted and distorted materials in its trainings has not been an isolated occurrence. Since last year, reports have surfaced that the FBI, and other federal agencies, are using or supporting the use of biased trainers and materials in presentations to law enforcement officials.”
Khera complained that my books could be found in “the FBI’s library at the FBI training academy in Quantico, Virginia”; that a reading list accompanying a powerpoint presentation by the FBI’s Law Enforcement Communications Unit recommended my book The Truth About Muhammad; and that in July 2010 I “presented a two-hour seminar on ‘the belief system of Islamic jihadists’ to the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) in Tidewater, Virginia,” and “presented a similar lecture to the U.S. Attorney’s Anti-Terrorism Advisory Council, which is co-hosted by the FBI’s Norfolk Field Office.”
These were supposed to be terrible things because I was bigoted and hateful. But many of the examples Khera adduced of “bigoted and distorted materials” involved statements that were not actually bigoted and distorted at all, but simply accurate. What was distorted was Khera’s representation of them. For instance, Khera stated,
A 2006 FBI intelligence report stating that individuals who convert to Islam are on the path to becoming “Homegrown Islamic Extremists,” if they exhibit any of the following behavior:
- “Wearing traditional Muslim attire”
- “Growing facial hair”
- “Frequent attendance at a mosque or a prayer group”
- “Travel to a Muslim country”
- “Increased activity in a pro-Muslim social group or political cause”
But the FBI intelligence report Khera purported to be describing didn’t actually say that converts to Islam were necessarily “on the path” to becoming “extremists” if they wore traditional Muslim attire, grew facial hair, and frequently attended a mosque; it simply included these behaviors among a list of fourteen indicators to “identify an individual going through the radicalization process.” Others included “travel without obvious source of funds’; “suspicious purchases of bomb making paraphernalia or weapons”; “large transfer of funds, from or to overseas”; and “formation of operational cells.” Khera selectively quoted and misrepresented the list to give the impression that the FBI was saying that devout observance of Islam led inevitably and in every case to “extremism.”
Despite the factual accuracy of the material about which they were complaining, the Muslim groups signing the letter demanded that the task force “purge all federal government training materials of biased materials”; “implement a mandatory re-training program for FBI agents, U.S. Army officers, and all federal, state and local law enforcement who have been subjected to biased training”; and more—to ensure that all that law enforcement officials would learn about Islam and jihad would be what the signatories wanted them to learn.
Brennan seemed amenable to that. He took Khera’s complaints as his marching orders. In a November 3, 2011, letter to Khera, that—significantly—was written on White House stationery, Brennan made no attempt to defend counter-terror materials and procedures, but instead accepted Khera’s criticisms without a murmur of protest and assured her of his readiness to comply. “Please allow me to share with you the specific steps we are taking,” Brennan wrote to Khera, “to ensure that federal officials and state, local and tribal partners receive accurate, evidence-based information in these crucial areas.”
“I am aware,” Brennan went on, “of recent unfortunate incidents that have highlighted substandard and offensive training that some United States Government elements have either sponsored or delivered. Any and all such training runs completely counter to our values, our commitment to strong partnerships with communities across the country, our specific approach to countering violent extremist recruitment and radicalization, and our broader counterterrorism (CT) efforts. Our National Strategy for Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States highlights competent training as an area of primary focus and states that ‘misinformation about the threat and dynamics of radicalization to violence can harm our security by sending local stakeholders in the wrong direction and unnecessarily creating tensions with potential community partners.’ It also emphasizes that our security is ‘inextricably linked to our values,’ including ‘the promotion of an inclusive society.’”
Brennan assured Khera that all her demands would be met: “Your letter requests that ‘the White House immediately create an interagency task force to address this problem,’ and we agree that this is necessary.” He then detailed other specific actions being undertaken, including “collecting all training materials that contain cultural or religious content, including information related to Islam or Muslims.” In reality this material wouldn’t just be “collected”; it would be purged of anything that Farhana Khera and others like her found offensive—that is, any honest discussion of how Islamic jihadists use Islamic teachings to justify violence. Brennan assured Khera that he saw the problem just as she did, and that remedies were being implemented quickly: “We share your concern over these recent unfortunate incidents, and are moving forward to ensure problems are addressed with a keen sense of urgency. They do not reflect the vision that the President has put forward, nor do they represent the kind of approach that builds the partnerships that are necessary to counter violent extremism, and to protect our young people and our homeland. America’s greatest strength is its values, and we are committed to pursuing policies and approaches that draw strength from our values and our people irrespective of their race, religion or ethnic background.”
The alacrity with which Brennan complied was unfortunate on many levels. Numerous books and presentations that gave a perfectly accurate view of Islam and jihad were purged — and the Assistant to the President on National Security for Homeland Security and Counter Terrorism was complying with demands from quarters that could hardly be considered authentically moderate. Now, four and a half years later, this entrenched policy of the U.S. government ensures that people with potential terror ties simply cannot be vetted, since the administration is bound as a matter of policy to ignore what in saner times would be taken as warning signs.
Johnson’s soothing words are thus null and void. There could be jihadis working in airports all over the U.S. – and no one will know until they strike.