Archive for Counterterrorism

Sahar Aziz: The Contradictions of Obama’s Outreach to American Muslims

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 21, 2011 by loonwatch

The Contradictions of Obama’s Outreach to American Muslims

On the same day that Rep. Peter King held the fourth “homegrown terrorism” hearing focused exclusively on Muslims, the White House released its Strategic Implementation Plan for Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States. Despite the White House’s seemingly benign approach to counterterrorism, its implementation produces adverse effects similar to Mr. King’s confrontational tactics.

The White House Strategy proclaims, “Law enforcement and government officials for decades have understood the critical importance of building relationships, based on trust, with the communities they serve. Partnerships are vital to address a range of challenges and must have as their foundation a genuine commitment on the part of law enforcement and government to address community needs and concerns, including protecting rights and public safety.”

To someone unfamiliar with the history of community outreach to American Muslims, the strategy sounds ideal. However, the Obama Administration has sabotaged its own high-minded public position by adopting the Bush Administration’s counterterrorism model that punishes the broad Muslim community rather than targeting genuine threats. Thus, the Administration’s actual practices conform all-too-closely to Peter King’s vision of terrorism being synonymous with Islam.

While preventing terrorism before it happens is a legitimate strategy, the way in which it is currently implemented comes at a high price to a vulnerable minority — Muslims in America.

Expansive surveillance laws coupled with a relaxation of terrorism investigative standards have placed mosques under intrusive surveillance. Similarly, thousands of informants have been hired, for hefty payments, to induce inept and often mentally ill young Muslim men to join fake terrorist plots. Watch lists are bulging with Muslim names while those incorrectly listed lack due process rights to seek removal of their names. Scores of Muslims with no ties to terrorism are charged for making false statements to federal agents in retaliation for refusing to serve as informants. And attempts to locate “lone wolf terrorists” have resulted in the misguided conflation of Muslim orthodox practices with terrorism.

These assaults on Muslims’ civil liberties have strained relations between Muslim communities and law enforcement agencies.

Community outreach meetings, in theory, are supposed to provide the communities with an opportunity to work with government to keep counterterrorism efforts from violating civil rights and civil liberties. Unfortunately, officials routinely dismiss community grievances, reciting self-congratulatory boilerplate that the American government respects constitutional rights as it fights terrorism. Indeed, the government’s cavalier disregard of community concerns is so pervasive that many leaders have concluded that meetings with federal officials are merely pro forma, check-the-box events providing political cover to a government they believe is systematically and unlawfully profiling Muslims. Others have chosen to boycott the meetings altogether.

The government seems oblivious to the harm these counter-terrorism policies are doing to the potential for trust in Muslim communities. Making matters worse, the immense political pressure on the Justice Department to produce terrorism indictments, and congressional accusations that Obama is soft on terrorists, places the Muslim communities in an intractable dilemma: How can you be partners with agencies who misdirect adversarial behavior from actual terrorists to Muslim communities en masse?

If a young Muslim terrorist suspect manipulated into a phony plot has mental health problems and needs rehabilitative health services, for example, investigators and prosecutors nonetheless pursue the adversarial route — to prosecute and incarcerate. The combined effects of these entrapment efforts and over-charging obviously disturbed young Muslim men threatens to devastate Muslim communities in the same way that the mass incarceration of African American men has transformed the communities from which they have been removed.

Such concerns are validated by documents obtained through a freedom of information request by the American Civil Liberties Union, proving the FBI used community outreach meetings forcollecting intelligence on Muslim AmericansAccording to the ACLU, the FBI did not inform Muslims at outreach events, such as community meetings, religious dinners and job fairs, that conversations and names of those in attendance would be recorded in government files. A 2008 document shows that an FBI agent “collected and documented individuals’ contact information and First Amendment-protected opinions and associations, and conducted Internet searches to obtain further information about the individuals in attendance.” This may explain why individuals, including imams, who were active participants in government outreach programs have found themselves indicted or deported, sending a chill through Muslim communities.

If the government is serious about partnering with Muslim communities, it must stop behaving like an adversary. For starters, community outreach programs should not be exploited to spy on Muslims, recruit undercover informants, and make false promises.

Until the Administration translates its lofty rhetoric into tangible policy reforms, there will not be much difference between Mr. King’s and President Obama’s approaches to counterterrorism.

Sahar Aziz is an associate professor of law at Texas Wesleyan University School of Law and a fellow at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. She is the author of Caught in a Preventive Dragnet: Selective Counterterrorism Against Muslims, Arabs, and South Asiansforthcoming in the Gonzaga Law Review.

VIDEO: FBI Counterterrorism ‘Expert’ Compared Islam to Star Wars Deathstar

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , on September 26, 2011 by loonwatch

What is the FBI thinking?

The FBI says that Gawthrop gave his last presentation to Bureau counterterrorism classes in April 2011, but the newly disclosed videos would suggest that Gawthrop has continued his career as a terrorism “expert” at FBI sponsored events for at least another two months.

VIDEO: FBI Counterterrorism ‘Expert’ Compared Islam to Star Wars Deathstar

by Eli Clifton (Think Progress)

In video acquired by Wired’s Spencer Ackerman and Noah Shachtman, FBI counterterrorism trainer William Gawthrop, who in previously leaked documents was shown to have lectured that the Muslim prophet Mohammed was a “cult leader,” tells his audience that “[After 9/11] we wasted a lot of analytic effort talking about the type of weapon, the timing, the tactics. All of that is irrelevent… if you have an Islamic motivation for actions.”

Ackerman had previously called attention to Gawthrop’s presentation materials for his lectures at the FBI’s training facilities in Quantico, Virginia, in which the counterterrorism “expert” suggested that Islam, unlike Judaism or Christianity, hadn’t moderated its “militancy considerations” since approximately 622 B.C.

Gawthrop, much like many of the experts discussed in the Center for American Progress’s new report Fear, Inc., believes that Islam is, at its roots, a violent ideology at war with the West.

In the newly released video, Gawthrop tells his audience at the New York Metro Infragard at the World Financial Center in downtown Manhattan — an FBI sponsored public-private partnership — that even overthrowing Islamic states, like Iran, who threaten the U.S. and its allies, is insufficient since “there are still internal forces that will seek to exert Islamic rule again.”

Watch it:
Gawrthrop, as he advocates in his PowerPoint presentations, pushes for a direct confrontation with Muslims that challenges the underpinnings of their religion and Koranic teaching. Referring to a slide with the words “Holy Texts” and “Clerics,” Gawthrop says:

If you remember Star Wars, that ventilation shaft that goes down to into the depths of the Death Star, they shot a torpedo down there. That’s a critical vulnerability.

Ackerman and Shachtman report that a different video, which they were unable to recover before it was deleted, showed Gawthrop criticizing outreach programs to Muslims communities:

If we were going back to the 1940s, this would be like the Army and Navy asking Japanese-Americans to participate in the intelligence and operations paths trying to understand the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor. That didn’t happen,

The FBI says that Gawthrop gave his last presentation to Bureau counterterrorism classes in April 2011, but the newly disclosed videos would suggest that Gawthrop has continued his career as a terrorism “expert” at FBI sponsored events for at least another two months.