Archive for Obama Administration

Fearmonger Does Little to Improve Conversation on Terrorism

Posted in Loon People, Loon Politics, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 21, 2012 by loonwatch

Fearmonger does little to improve conversation on terrorism

by John L. Smith

For Steve Emerson, the danger is very clear and very present: A surprising number of American officials and institutions are in the tank to Islamic extremists and their handmaidens.

Emerson accuses the Obama administration of being infiltrated by radical followers of Islam inside our own country and throughout the world.

That’s right. Infiltrated.

Emerson, the executive director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, spent an hour last week with the Review-Journal editorial board and was accompanied by Elliot Karp, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Las Vegas. In the short time Emerson spent at the newspaper, he managed to indict a number of law enforcement institutions and officers as patsies for the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic extremists in our midst.

For one, there’s the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Emerson said the FBI is so focused not offending Islamist and Arabic groups with allegiances to Hamas and Hezbollah that it’s getting in the way of anti-terrorism investigations.

“The agents on the ground understand exactly what’s going on,” Emerson says cryptically of the bureau’s political atmosphere. When asked to elaborate, he replies, “I have to protect my sources.”

Forgive me, but I thought the FBI was doing a pretty good job on the terrorism front. Turns out they’re falling down on the job.

It’s OK, though. Emerson has confidence in his own ability to spot the terrorists among us. He brags that his sources are “sometimes even better than the bureau.”

He adds that his field intelligence was superior to the FBI’s in part because “informants are more likely to work for us.”

That’s not all. He also has the sneaking suspicion that a talk he was scheduled to give to a group of CIA operatives was derailed by the Obama administration. Who knew President Barack Obama had enough hours in the day to dispatch CIA Director David Petraeus to teach Emerson a lesson?

Then there’s Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca. In 2010, Baca was honored by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which has been linked to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. CAIR also actively challenges Muslim stereotypes and presents the Islamic side of issues.

“He believes CAIR is a wonderful organization,” Emerson says sarcastically. ” … I’m not calling him evil, or fundamentally stupid, but he is in bed with the bad guys.”

Obviously, Emerson isn’t shy about pointing fingers. Nor is he simply a sign-waving conspiracy theorist. His allies on the right consider him a Cassandra who warns us about the dangers of Islamic extremism at home and abroad, and especially as it affects Israel. He pens op-ed pieces in major newspapers, is often quoted on television and radio talk shows, is cheered on the speaking circuit, and has a loyal following on his website. He is a leading firebrand from the school of thought that goes something like, “Not all Muslims are plotting terrorist acts, just most of them.”

He claims he is the victim of “a fatwa by NPR” largely because National Public Radio officials don’t invite him on their programs these days. But you can still catch plenty of Emerson’s opinions in a variety of media and networks.

Lest you think he’s just a right-wing extremist out to frighten people, Emerson repeats often that his work is dangerous and he has received many threats. He says things like “I’ve got to look over my shoulder every day,” and “If I had a wife and kids, I couldn’t do this.”

Certainly not. He made it sound a little dangerous just sitting in the room with him.

That’s Emerson’s problem whether you believe he’s full of facts or fudge. His hyperbolic rhetoric plays well on the fundraising circuit, but it does nothing to forward the understanding of complex issues.

The Middle East is a political tinderbox. There’s heated talk of possible U.S. and Israeli military intervention in Iran to halt its development of nuclear technology.

At the risk of becoming part of a vast conspiracy to silence Steve Emerson, that complex conversation isn’t improved by his shouts of conspiracy at the highest levels of our government.

John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. Email him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0295. He also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/smith.

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.

At RJC Forum, Gingrich says he’ll Appoint John Bolton as Secretary of State

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 8, 2011 by loonwatch

At RJC Forum, Gingrich Says He’ll Appoint John Bolton As Secretary of State

by Charles Johnson Wed Dec 7, 2011

Speaking today at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s Presidential Candidates Forum, Newt Gingrich announced that for Secretary of State, his pick would be John Bolton.

Yes, that would be the same John Bolton who wrote the foreword for the deranged anti-Obama book by hate bloggers Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, The Post-American Presidency: The Obama Administration’s War on America, and who appeared in a recorded message at Geller’s ugly “Ground Zero Mosque” hatefest last year. (Newt, in typical Gingrich fashion, agreed to speak too but then bailed out.)

Lawyer: FBI Illegally Interrogating Gulet Mohamed

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 14, 2011 by loonwatch

No counsel even if you ask for one. Is this what it has come to and wasn’t this supposed end with the demise of the Bush era?

Lawyer: FBI Illegally Interrogating Gulet Mohamed

(Mother Jones)

FBI agents are taking advantage of an American teenager’s detention in Kuwait to illegally harass and interrogate him without counsel, the teen’s lawyer said Wednesday. Gulet Mohamed, a Somali-born American Muslim, says he was tortured and interrogated after he was detained by Kuwaiti security officials last month. He claims that Kuwaiti interrogators asked him questions about his travels, his past, and his family that he and his lawyer believe were fed to the Kuwaitis by US officials. Kuwait now reportedly wants Mohamed deported, but he’s been added to the no-fly list. Meanwhile, FBI interrogators are continuing to interrogate him in detention and ignoring his requests to have an attorney present, his lawyer, Gadeir Abbas, says.

FBI agents’ most recent visit to Mohamed began around 10:00 a.m Kuwaiti time Wednesday, Abbas told Mother Jones. Agents, he said, questioned Mohamed for several hours, and Mohamed’s uncle (who lives in Kuwait) and brother (who traveled there after Mohamed was detained) were present for part of the time. Mohamed repeatedly told the agents that he did not want to answer questions about his travels to Somalia and Yemen without his lawyer present, according to Abbas. (Mohamed, his family, and his lawyer say the teen was visiting family and learning about the heritage of his father, whom he never knew.)

Cathy Wright, an FBI spokeswoman, said she “cannot at this point verify that a meeting took place today or an interview took place today.”

Mohamed has made similar requests for counsel during previous FBI visits, Abbas said. US law and constitutional precedent generally require that interrogations cease once a suspect asks for his lawyer. The FBI has countered that under Kuwaiti law Mohamed doesn’t have the right to counsel while being interrogated, according to Abbas. That seems to be an agency line: after I called the bureau for comment on Abbas’ allegations, Wright urged me to ask the Kuwaitis about Mohamed’s right to counsel. After I noted that US law is generally understood to restrain FBI agents (even in foreign countries) from interrogating an American after he has asked for a lawyer, Wright acknowledged that the FBI is “subject to the rules of the FBI and the rules of the [Department of Justice] for criminal prosecution,” but added that the agency didn’t “want to be perceived as commenting on [Kuwaiti] rules or laws.”

At one point during Wednesday’s interrogation, Abbas said, the FBI agents performing the interrogation stood up and started shouting and physically crowding Mohamed. They also reached for his pockets—a move that Mohamed’s brother and uncle believe was an attempt to confiscate the cell phone Mohamed has been using to communicate with the press and his lawyer. At that point, Abbas says, “a Kuwaiti official came into the room and directed the FBI agents to sit down and calm down and told them not to treat Gulet like that.”

“In the absurd world that is represented in this case, Gulet’s torturers are intervening to protect Gulet from his own government,” Abbas said. “Not only is the FBI’s behavior grossly immoral and insensitive to the plight that Gulet Mohamed has endured and is currently facing, but the FBI’s opportunistic actions to leverage Gulet’s dire situation to pepper him with senseless questioning is illegal.”

[UPDATE: Late Wednesday, Abbas sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder outlining his allegations and asking Holder to launch “an immediate investigation into the conduct of the FBI agents involved.” More on that here.]

Mohamed, his lawyer said, is a victim of “proxy detention,” where the US government asks a friendly foreign country to do the dirty work of harshly interrogating an American citizen it suspects of terrorism. Last Friday, in the wake of stories about Mohamed in theNew York Times, the Washington Post, and other major news outlets, the Obama administration finally commented on the story, via a State Department spokesman who denied that Mohamed had been detained “at the behest of the United States government” and promised that the teenager was being offered consular services.

Almost a week later, Mohamed remains in detention. He’s still on a no-fly list, and the White House won’t return calls asking for comment about his situation. It’s possible that the US government believes Mohamed is a terrorist. He recently traveled to Somalia and Yemen, two countries known for harboring Islamic extremists. The questions he says he was asked by Kuwaiti and FBI interrogators suggest that he may have been under surveillance while he was in the US. But being able to return to the United States and facing charges (if there are any) with the assistance of a lawyer are fundamental constitutional rights—rights that Mohamed is currently being denied. So what’s the reason the US claims it can’t help him? They’re desperate to protect his privacy, according to the State Department.

Agency public affairs officers have said that they cannot release information about Mohamed or reveal any suspicions the government might have about him because he has not signed a Privacy Act waiver. According to Abbas, Mohamed only recalls signing a document offered to him by US officials in late December, shortly before his family and Abbas became aware that Mohamed was being detained. The document was presented as a contact form, Abbas said. “They said you’re going to be leaving in 72 hours and we want to know who to contact, so Gulet listed his mother, his brother, and his sister,” and signed the form, not realizing that it would prevent the government from providing information about him to anyone else. Mohamed didn’t recall checking any of the yes/no boxes on a second page of the form (PDF), according to Abbas. On a privacy act waiver, those boxes determine whether or not it’s okay to contact the media, Congress, someone’s employer, and so on.

Mohamed is not the first American to be subjected to “proxy detention.” Last July, 26-year-old Yahya Wehelie, another American of Somali descent who traveled to Yemen, was finally allowed to return to the US after two months stranded abroad. He only received a no-fly list waiver to return after he had “spoken with the FBI 10 times and submitted to a polygraph test,” according to the Washington Post. Like Mohamed, Wehelie says he was visiting Yemen to learn Arabic (he was also hoping to find a bride, according to the Post). Like Mohamed, Wehelie says he was beaten while in the custody of a foreign government (Egypt, in his case) and asked questions that closely mirrored those later asked by the FBI. And like Mohamed, Wehelie has not been charged with a crime.

Human Rights First’s Daphne Eviatar has a good rundown of other people who have been subjected to “proxy detention,” which she calls “the Obama administration’s extraordinary rendition-lite.”

Nick Baumann covers national politics and civil liberties issues for Mother Jones’ DC Bureau. For more of his stories, click here. You can also follow him on twitter. Email tips and insights to nbaumann [at] motherjones [dot] com. Get Nick Baumann’s RSS feed.