Rep. Peter King (R-NY) is reportedly stepping down from his chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee. The New York Republican is well known for his Islamophobia and he famously spearheaded anti-Muslim House investigations like the hearing on “Radicalization In The U.S. Muslim Community.” The New York Daily News reports that GOP Reps. Mike Rogers (AL), Mike McCaul (TX), and Candice Miller (MI) are jostling to assume the committee’s chairmanship. But are any of these contenders likely to initiate anti-Muslim hearings of the kind King championed?
Dozens of House members and more than a hundred religious leaders opposed King’s hearings. The committee called on faux Islam experts like Dr. Juhdi Jasser, who narrated the anti-Muslim film “The Third Jihad.” Some of the witnesses King wanted to hear from were forced to back out after backlash because they were too anti-Muslim. At the hearings, King pushed false narratives about Muslim-Americans, for example claiming that “too many mosques…don’t cooperate with law enforcement.” In the past, King has said that “80 percent of the mosques in this country are controlled by radical Imams” and that “almost 90 percent of the terrorist crimes are carried out by the Muslim community.” The Southern Poverty Law Center said King’s hearings “demonized” Muslim-Americans.
McCaul also suggested that Islam and terrorism are linked, saying King’s anti-Muslim hearingshould not “overlook the correlation between Islam and national security.”
Rogers is just as likely to keep King’s anti-Muslim flame going. He not only supported the Muslim-American investigations, Rogers even criticized the Council on American-Islamic Relations for instructing Muslim-Americans to obtain a lawyer when law enforcement officials ask questions, even though they were being targeted. “I want to make it known that I don’t think they have to have an attorney present to talk with residents when they are just finding out how things are going,” he said.
It’s more uncertain what direction Miller will take the committee on this issue. While she called King’s anti-Muslim hearings “very, very important,” Miller added that Islam is a “peaceful” religion and that she didn’t know why the committee “never had any” hearings on other groups that might be a threat to America. She did, however, criticize the media for “prejudging” the investigation as targeting Muslim-Americans disproportionately.
The reality is that only 12 percent of terrorist incidents in America have been caused my Islamic extremists, while right-wing extremists have committed the majority of the incidents (56 percent). Furthermore, a Gallup poll last year found that 89 percent of Muslim Americans “reject violent attacks by individuals or small groups on civilians.” The poll also found that 92 percent of Muslim-Americans “have no sympathy for al-Qaeda.” And contrary to what King has said, a Duke University study published in 2010 found that American Mosques are “actually a deterrent to the spread of militant Islam and terrorism.”
While King’s departure as the House Homeland Security Committee chairman is bad news for Islamophobes, it presents an opportune time to transition the committee’s focus from Muslim-Americans to significant threats in America. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the candidates running to fill King’s role are likely seize that chance.
In Kentucky, a homeland security law requires the state’s citizens to acknowledge the security provided by the Almighty God–or risk 12 months in prison.
November 21, 2012 | In Kentucky, a homeland security law requires the state’s citizens to acknowledge the security provided by the Almighty God–or risk 12 months in prison.
The law and its sponsor, state representative Tom Riner, have been the subject of controversy since the law first surfaced in 2006, yet the Kentucky state Supreme Court has refused to review its constitutionality, despite clearly violating the First Amendment’s separation of church and state.
“This is one of the most egregiously and breathtakingly unconstitutional actions by a state legislature that I’ve ever seen,” said Edwin Kagin, the legal director of American Atheists’, a national organization focused defending the civil rights of atheists. American Atheists’ launched a lawsuit against the law in 2008, which won at the Circuit Court level, but was then overturned by the state Court of Appeals.
The law states, “The safety and security of the Commonwealth cannot be achieved apart from reliance upon Almighty God as set forth in the public speeches and proclamations of American Presidents, including Abraham Lincoln’s historic March 30, 1863, presidential proclamation urging Americans to pray and fast during one of the most dangerous hours in American history, and the text of President John F. Kennedy’s November 22, 1963, national security speech which concluded: “For as was written long ago: ‘Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.’”
The law requires that plaques celebrating the power of the Almighty God be installed outside the state Homeland Security building–and carries a criminal penalty of up to 12 months in jail if one fails to comply. The plaque’s inscription begins with the assertion, “The safety and security of the Commonwealth cannot be achieved apart from reliance upon Almighty God.”
Tom Riner, a Baptist minister and the long-time Democratic state representative, sponsored the law.
“The church-state divide is not a line I see,” Riner told The New York Timesshortly after the law was first challenged in court. “What I do see is an attempt to separate America from its history of perceiving itself as a nation under God.”
A practicing Baptist minister, Riner is solely devoted to his faith–even when that directly conflicts with his job as state representative. He has often been at the center of unconstitutional and expensive controversies throughout his 26 years in office. In the last ten years, for example, the state has spent more than $160,000 in string of losing court cases against the American Civil Liberties Union over the state’s decision to display the Ten Commandments in public buildings, legislation that Riner sponsored.
Although the Kentucky courts have yet to strike down the law, some judges have been explicit about its unconstitutionality.
“Kentucky’s law is a legislative finding, avowed as factual, that the Commonwealth is not safe absent reliance on Almighty God. Further, (the law) places a duty upon the executive director to publicize the assertion while stressing to the public that dependence upon Almighty God is vital, or necessary, in assuring the safety of the commonwealth,” wrote Judge Ann O’Malley Shake in Court of Appeals’ dissenting opinion.
This rational was in the minority, however, as the Court of Appeals reversed the lower courts’ decision that the law was unconstitutional.
Last week, American Atheists submitted a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court to review the law.
Riner, meanwhile, continues to abuse the state representative’s office, turning it into a pulpit for his God-fearing message.
“The safety and security of the state cannot be achieved apart from recognizing our dependence upon God,” Riner recently told Fox News.
“We believe dependence on God is essential. … What the founding fathers stated and what every president has stated, is their reliance and recognition of Almighty God, that’s what we’re doing,” he said.
Rep. Peter King is banking his political legacy on hearings targeting the Muslim American community and the overblown threat of “homegrown terrorism.” To say that Peter King is well known for his animus to Muslim Americans would be a gross understatement; this has been revealed numerous times not just through the hearings but also through King’s statements and writings, (such as “there are too many Mosques in the USA”).
King is continuing his foray into anti-Muslim propagandizing, this time going on Fox News and spewing the false claim that “90% of terrorist” attacks in the USA are committed by Muslims. The fear-mongering is clearly heightened by the way in which King frames his claim:
What I am very concerned about is that while the overwhelming majority of Muslims are good people, the fact is even though Muslims are 1 percent of the population, almost 90 percent of the terrorist crimes are carried out by the Muslim community. And there are not enough people in the community willing to step forward and speak out against this and cooperate with law enforcement.
Notice the hollow disclaimer at the beginning, statements about how “Muslims are good people” precede many anti-Muslim rants.
It is unbelievably irresponsible for Rep. Peter King to nonchalantly speak in this manner, and the surreal part of all this is that he “Chairs” the House Subcommittee on Homeland Security.
Rep. Peter King’s legacy will not be one of a defender of America or the Constitution but rather more akin to the way we remember Sen. McCarthy from the 1950′s (he led a witch hunt against “Communists”). King will be remembered in history as the inheritor of the mantle of bigotry, divisiveness and sick political populist tactics.
Former President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama have persistently affirmed: “We are not at war with Islam,” trying to assure 1.7 billion Muslims that the military actions of the so-called “war against terrorism” do not constitute belligerence against Islam or Muslims. This incessant message of denial is hard to swallow by many sectors of our society, and the world at large, since the United States has engaged in multiple wars of occupation in Muslim countries including Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, it conducts routine military incursions and bombardment campaigns on Pakistan, Yemen, Libya and other Muslim countries.
Furthermore, thousands of Muslim citizens around the world are subjected to arrest without formal accusations or due process of law. Incarcerations and even torture takes place at a network of international secret prisons and “black hole” locations operated or accessed by the CIA and other intelligence agencies.Unfortunately, in the American political arena there is also the perception that the government security and intelligence agencies and military apparatus are at war with Islam and Muslims.
They substantiate this notion with continuous discriminatory and prejudiced policies affecting American Muslims and their institutions. Let us take, for example, the harsh experience New York Muslims are undergoing with the NYPD. They are subject to widespread and ongoing espionage policies from their own police department, which include the opening of dossiers based on ethnic and religious profiling.
This openly unconstitutional practice is not based on suspiciousness of them committing crimes or being engaged in an ongoing criminal enterprise. Rather, the information recorded documents the restaurants they frequent, the books they check out, and even the times and places where they conduct their daily prayers.Evidently, the constant Islamophobic discourses have resonated to the military branches, resulting in the offering of multiple training courses with discriminatory, bigoted and offensive materials.
Some of these academic materials recently discovered are taught at the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Va., in which mainstream Muslim persons and organizations are characterized as radical, violent extremists. The course even calls for treating the Muslim civilian population the way the Japanese were dealt with at Hiroshima, with nuclear attacks on the holy cities of Mecca and Medina and wiping out civilians.
It promotes a total war on Islam affirming that there is no such thing as moderate Islam. The military training course participants are encouraged to think of themselves as a “resistance movement to Islam.” Other various training courses with xenophobic and bigoted content offered to the FBI have also been exposed. These are not isolated and unique classes, but multiple trainings held at numerous venues to hundreds of military officers and intelligence agents that are responsible for the safety and security of our nation.
Notwithstanding the military and FBI’s promises to review their courses and purge the training curriculums of Islamophobic materials, we need ask ourselves: How many other courses (most of them classified as “Secret”) have been offered and, perhaps, are still being offered in these highly secured and secret agencies without public exposure?
The sad reality is that our nation has institutionalized vigilance based on stereotypical ethnic and religious profiling. Let us just examine for a moment the recent incident at Fort Lauderdale International Airport, where an 18-month-old toddler, a daughter of American parents of Middle Eastern descent, was ordered off a plane by Jet Blue Airline’s officials who claimed she was on the TSA’s “no fly” list: a list obviously fed with the names of people selected based on ethnic and religious profiling. The toddler case is not the only one of its kind, as another 500 American citizens are also in these puzzling and sinister lists in the absence of due process. The lists are not only ineffective, but openly unconstitutional because individuals are included without notification or being told why they are on the list and without the chance to rebut the basis of their inclusion.
What will our political leaders do to try to erase the idea that the Nation is engaged in a war against Islam and Muslims? The major challenge they confront in this task is that the more time elapses, the more discrimination, oppression, persecution and injustices cements against American Muslims and their institutions.
President Obama still has the option and opportunity to rise to the occasion and confront this most delicate situation at the level it merits. He might, perhaps, start cleaning and straightening the Executive Branch from head to toe. The president should take steps that truly guarantee the elimination of racial and religious profiling exercised by law enforcement agencies and should swiftly end all the futile wars on Muslim countries once and for all. Perhaps, he should follow the Executive Order he signed back on Jan. 22, 2009, mandating the “Closure of Detention Facilities at Guantanamo” and the “Immediate Review of All Guantanamo Detentions.” Only such decisive actions will sustain the hollowed presidential words: “We are not at war with Islam.”
WASHINGTON — Iranian-backed Hezbollah agents, not al Qaeda operatives, may pose the greatest threat on U.S. soil as tensions over Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program ratchet up, according to the Republican chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security.
“As Iran moves closer to nuclear weapons and there is increasing concern over war between Iran and Israel, we must also focus on Iran’s secret operatives and their number one terrorist proxy force, Hezbollah, which we know is in America,” said New York Rep. Peter King at a Wednesday hearing of his committee.
The hearing, which featured former government officials and the director of intelligence analysis for the New York Police Department, follows a foiled plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington, D.C., and testimony by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper in late January that Iran’s leaders are “more willing to conduct an attack inside the United States in response to real or perceived U.S. actions that threaten the regime.”
Opening the hearing, King said, “We have a duty to prepare for the worst,” warning there may be hundreds of Hezbollah operatives in the United States, including 84 Iranian diplomats at the United Nations and in Washington who, “it must be presumed, are intelligence officers.”
But Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said he was concerned that the testimony he was about to hear was based on outdated information and not current intelligence. He noted that “no current federal officials” were asked to testify on Wednesday.
“A word of caution is in order,” Thompson said. “When we examine our relationship with another country, we cannot look at any particular moment in time and pretend that it tells the whole story. We cannot view the politics, history and culture of any other country clearly by seeing a snapshot version.”
Referencing Clapper’s earlier testimony, Thompson said the director of national intelligence should be called in for a classified hearing, but added, “We should not engage in a public discussion that creates fear and delivers misinformation.”
King rejected the Democrat’s objections. “We’re not focusing on foreign policy,” he said. “We’re talking about an internal threat to this country.”
Most of the testimony — which came from former officials at the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and Treasury, among others — concerned Iranian-linked attacks in other countries that dated back decades in some cases. However, Mitchell Silber, head of the NYPD intelligence unit that has come under fire for spying on the city’s Muslim community, said that between 2002 and 2010 his agency and federal authorities detected “at least six events involving Iranian diplomatic personnel that we struggle to categorize as anything other than hostile reconnaissance of New York City.”
The suspicious events, some of them publicly revealed for the first time, involved security guards at the Permanent Mission of Iran to the United Nations and Iranian diplomats stationed in New York. Among the cases Silber cited:
On Nov. 16, 2003, at 2 a.m., uniformed NYPD officers on a subway train observed two men filming the train tracks. The men, who initially claimed diplomatic immunity, were security guards at the Iranian Mission who had recently arrived in New York.
In May 2004, despite warnings from the State Department, two more Iranian Mission security guards were observed videotaping infrastructure, public transportation and New York City landmarks. A month later, the guards were expelled by the United States, Silber said, for “engaging in activities that were not consistent with their duties,” or spying.
In May 2005, six individuals “associated with the Government of Iran” were interviewed by the NYPD after a call to a city hot line reported suspicious behavior. The individuals on a sightseeing cruise were reportedly photographing and videotaping landmarks such as the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges as well as “reportedly speaking on their cellphones in an unusual manner.” One of the individuals worked at the Iranian Mission while the other five had diplomatic immunity based on their positions within the Iranian government. They were later released.
In September 2008, during the U.N. General Assembly, several members of the Iranian delegation were seen taking photos of railroad tracks inside Grand Central Station. After questioning, they were “released without incident.
In September 2010, again during the U.N. General Assembly, federal air marshals reported suspicious behavior at the Wall Street Heliport, where four people were seen taking “still photos and videotaping the water line and structural area of the heliport landing pad” from a nearby parking lot. The four produced press cards showing they worked for the Iran Broadcasting Co. and were released.
Although authorities could link none of the incidents to actual plots, “Iran has a proven record of using its official presence in a foreign city to coordinate attacks, which are then carried out by Hezbollah agents from abroad, often leveraging the local community — whether wittingly or not — as facilitators,” Silber testified.
Appearing on WCBS in New York this morning, Representative Peter King offered a strong defense of NYPD’s spying on mosques and Muslim businesses and student groups in several states. Criticism of the recently revealed program has intensified in recent days, but King said he was proud of the police department.
“[Police Commissioner] Ray Kelly and the NYPD should get a medal for what they are doing,” he said. “This is good police work. If you are going after radical Muslims you don’t go to Ben’s Kosher Deli.”
This is perhaps not surprising coming from the man who held highly controversial Capitol Hill hearings into Muslim Americans last year, which many people saw as essentially profiling by public relations; his colleague, Representative Keith Ellison invoked the specter of Joe McCarthy in criticizing King’s efforts and said they served to “vilify” Muslims.
But, alas, King announced last week that he would hold more hearings into domestic radicalization among Muslim Americans in the coming year. “The series of radicalization hearings I convened last March has been very productive,” King said in a statement. “I will definitely continue the hearings in 2012.”
This is a good time to flag a recent study by Charles Kurzman, a sociology professor at the University of North Carolina and member of the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security. His comprehensive examination of crime statistics found that terrorism-related incidents by Muslim Americans has declined markedly, and that Muslim-Americans represent “a minuscule threat to public safety.” He wrote:
The limited scale of Muslim-American terrorism in 2011 runs counter to the fears that many Americans shared in the days and months after 9/11, that domestic Muslim American terrorism would escalate. The spike in terrorism cases in 2009 renewed these concerns, as have repeated warnings from U.S. government officials about a possible surge in homegrown Islamic terrorism. The predicted surge has not materialized.
Repeated alerts by government officials maybe issued as a precaution, even when the underlying threat is uncertain. Officials may be concerned about how they would look if an attack did take place and subsequent investigations showed that officials had failed to warn the public. But a byproduct of these alerts is a sense of heightened tension that is out of proportion to the actual number of terrorist attacks in the United States since 9/11.
If King calls Kurzman to testify at his hearings I’ll eat my hat, but it’s possible Democrats on the committee could arrange for his appearance. He would provide a substantive counterweight to King’s typically anecdote-driven hysteria. Last week the FBI foiled a plot in which a Moroccan man wanted to bomb the US Capitol—you can bet King will give that episode a prominent role at his hearings.
Roy Egan, “a veteran officer with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in Chicago” and a TSA agent, was confronted by a reporter for his rabid anti-Muslim Facebook comments. Right now, the story is limited to local ABC News. I wonder if this will be aired on national and cable news networks.
A word of caution is in order: Roy Egan is just one part of a much larger problem. He is a cog in a much larger Islamophobic machine. The Department of Homeland Security and the TSA are operating inherently racist, bigoted, and fear-mongering policies.
October 12, 2011 (CHICAGO) (WLS) – A veteran officer with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in Chicago is being disciplined after posting hundreds of racist and derogatory comments on Facebook.
His name is Roy Egan. Not only were Officer Egan’s racial and religious rants open for anyone to see, for years he openly identified himself by name on Facebook and listed his employer as U.S. Homeland Security-TSA, the Transportation Security Administration.
For the past nine years, Egan has worked as a TSA baggage screener at O’Hare Airport. The 46-year-old has noted on his Facebook page, “I look for bad stuff going on airplanes.”
But it wasn’t Egan’s personal data that caught the eye of the I-Team. It was his public postings calling “Islam a cult that glorifies death…and a filthy religion.” It is a theme Egan repeated in postings just about every day: that Muslims should be exterminated.
In the garage at Egan’s southwest suburban home, the I-Team questioned the nine-year TSA officer about his anti-Muslim statements.
Goudie: “You posted those, didn’t you?
Egan: It was common stuff I picked off the web and made comments on.
Goudie: What does it say that a TSA officer is saying these kinds of things about Muslims?
Egan: I don’t refer to it in my job.”
Egan’s job is to screen baggage at O’Hare. Since 9/11, the treatment of Muslim travelers and allegations of Middle Eastern profiling, have dogged Homeland Security agencies.
Officer Egan recently posted, “does anything at all make you smile more than a Muslim burning by his own hateful hand.” He maintains such beliefs don’t interfere with his work.
Goudie: “How about if some Muslim name, on a piece of luggage comes by you? Does it get extra scrutiny?
Egan: No, no. That’s against the rules. I wouldn’t do it. There’s no reason for me to open it unless we’re mandated to open it via the machine telling us to. I would never discriminate against a passenger.
Goudie: Do you understand why this attracted our attention?
Egan: I suppose…I don’t hide what I do. I don’t think anything I’ve said is illegal. I don’t think, I definitely don’t do anything illegal.”
“It made me sick. It’s chilling to know that someone who is a federal employee and works at TSA of all places can hold these views with such hatred and such intensity, and to hold them publicly on his Facebook page unabashedly without any sort of regret. It really, it’s scary,” said Ahmed Rehab, Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Egan also posted against gays, Hispanics and blacks. He called President Obama “Muslim-in chief,” made racial comments on Obama’s skin color and said he hopes to “live long enough to see him die.” He described Michelle Obama as a “ghetto snipe” and other names unsuitable to print. And to Attorney General Eric Holder he posted, “die tasting your own blood.”
Egan: “If you read the comment, and it was based on an article that was written, and I’m just commenting on an article. I think he’s committing crimes against our citizens.
Goudie: And he should be dead.
Egan: I didn’t say that. I don’t like the guy.”
TSA officials would not speak on camera, but after learning of our findings TSA officials placed Egan on administrative leave and are moving to fire him.
In a statement, a spokesman said, “TSA has management directives in place governing employee conduct. We hold our security officers to the highest professional and ethical standards. TSA learned of the situation and took immediate steps to initiate the individual’s removal from federal service.”
In my conversation with Egan, conducted before he was suspended, the veteran TSA officer seemed immovable.
Egan: “I don’t do anything against policy, I’ve never done anything against policy that I’m aware of.
Goudie: You’re OK with the things that you’ve posted here, for the public to see?
Roy: I don’t know what you’re fishing for but I’m not trying to do anything against anybody. It’s commentary. It’s freedom of speech commentary.
Goudie: Why would you put this up for the public to see, though?
Roy: I’m not the only one. It’s all over the Internet.”
“We’re going to be in touch with TSA to work with them in order to ensure that this is not a situation that is replicated and that it’s not a deeper problem,” said Rehab.
TSA officials in Chicago declined to answer our questions about screener training and evaluation and whether authorities monitor social media in an attempt to weed out bigoted employees. TSA does have a code of conduct that requires its employees on or off duty to conduct themselves in a way that doesn’t cause the public to question their judgment or harm the agency’s mission.
The man at the center of this story is 59-year-old Jordanian-American Omar al-Omari. He looks very much like the college professor that he is — tweed jacket, button-down shirt, thick round glasses, drinking coffee. We met at a coffee shop near downtown Columbus, Ohio, where he laid out a series of events that ended with him being accused of having links to terrorism.
“Actually, I was out of town, out of state, attending a conference and on my way back to Columbus,” Omari said, “and I received a call from one of the attendees of this conference in which I was told my name was used repeatedly during the training. Apparently I was labeled as a suspect. They personalized the attacks. There was a promise to dig into my background, and basically, as an Arab-Muslim American, they thought I’m a suspect.”
Omari was singled out at a three-day seminar for local police and law enforcement in the Columbus area last April. The class was part of a larger nationwide initiative to help local law enforcement not just understand terrorism, but perhaps find ways to stop it. The Obama administration has set aside millions of dollars to fund these training programs, and, not surprisingly, that money has helped create an industry in which self-styled terrorism experts contract themselves out to local police departments as terrorism tutors.
There is no certification process to vet the experts. They simply present their resumes and, often through word of mouth, they get hired. The trainers tend to be former government officials. Sometimes they have had key roles in the federal government fighting terrorism. Just as often, they have not. There’sgrowing evidence that many of these training sessions are providing officers at the grass roots with a biased view of Muslims in America. Thatis what appears to have happened to Omari.
The training at the Columbus Division of Police took place over three days in mid-April 2010. The course was titled “Understanding the True Nature of the Threat to America.” Broad outlines of the curriculum are posted on the trainers’ website. The course includes a discussion about the Muslim Brotherhood in the United States; Islamic law as it relates to jihad; and the trainers say they will provide “specific examples of Muslim Brotherhood/Islamic Movement activity in the locale in which the presentation is given.” It was in that context that Omari became a target.
One of the trainers in Ohio that day was a man named John Guandolo. He’s a former FBI agent and former Marine. According to people in the training class that day and Guandolo himself, a photograph of Omari with members of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a local Muslim advocacy group, was put up on the screen. According to the people who were there, Guandolo and the other visiting trainers didn’t say outright that Omari was a terrorist, but they suggested that he had links to bad people — people who were members of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and even al-Qaida.
“I stand by what I said that day about Omari,” Guandolo told me, though he declined to say so on tape. “The facts are on my side.”
Now, to understand why the accusations against Omari were so surprising, it is important to know that at the time he ran a key Muslim outreach program for the state of Ohio. What he was doing for the state’s Department of Public Safety was considered so effective, counterterrorism officials in Washington sent him overseas to talk about it.
Omari is from Jordan. He has been living in the U.S. for 30 years, and he’s an American citizen. Even so, for people in the counterterrorism class in Columbus that day, it seemed entirely possible that he could be a terrorist. And that reaction in the room surprised a lot of people — most notably Deputy Chief Jeffrey Blackwell of the Columbus Division of Police. Blackwell is now in charge of the division’s homeland security unit.
“I was shocked,” he said. “I was shocked that a person at Omar’s level inthe state of Ohio in the Department of Public Safety would have his picture displayed by an anti-terrorism group. His reputation was impugned incredibly by the speakers.”
Blackwell and other officials suspended the class to make sense of what happened. “We had a meeting and we discussed what we were witnessing right before our very eyes, what was transpiring in the lecture hall,” Blackwell said. What was so strange about Omari being singled out was that nearly everyone in the room knew him, or at least had heard of him. He was one of Ohio’s most high-visibility Muslims. Many of the visiting officers and Columbus officers had actually worked with Omari on outreach in the Muslim community.
“I knew him really well,” Blackwell said. “And I thought he was a great professional, so that was part of the reason why I was so surprised when his picture popped up in the presentation.”
But for some reason, maybe because former government officials said Omari couldn’t be trusted, Blackwell watched as some people in the room were ready to believe the worst.
“There were a large amount of people there that felt the class was in fact appropriate — that the finger-pointing and the name-calling and the nexuses that were developed and discussed were appropriate to discuss,” he said. “And then you had a huge percentage that were equally and diametrically opposed to that way of teaching and the substance of the anti-terrorism class.”
And the lesson Blackwell took from their reaction?
“That as Americans we are all over the board on our feelings about the terrorism issue,” he said. “And as a law enforcement professional, even law enforcement is divided in how they view people.”
The next day, some people came to Omari’s defense. The head of the local Joint Terrorism Task Force and one of the FBI’s top agents in Ohio both arrived at the academy and assured the class that Omari wasn’t a terrorism suspect. Everyone says that at that point the room erupted in shouts. Half the officers sided with Omari. The other half trusted the trainer, Guandolo. Blackwell said they assumed he must be privy to intelligence on Omari that he wasn’t revealing.
Guandolo suggested when I interviewed him on the phone that there were things he knew about Omari that the FBI didn’t. “We know we have our facts right, because we have to,” Guandolo said. (Nearly a dozen sources contacted by NPR in the intelligence community, the FBI and at the Department of Homeland Security said Omari has no links to terrorists or terrorism. They said the accusations against him are unfounded.)
Bill Braniff, who is in charge of the training program at the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, sees what happened in Ohio as part of a larger problem.
“I think this is something that happens across the nation fairly consistently,” he said. “No one is tracking this with numbers, but anecdotally we are hearing about it all the time. The Muslim-American community is being preyed upon from two different directions. One, the jihadist recruitment and radicalization that is actively preying on their sons and daughters; and two, the elevated levels of Islamophobia — Islamophobia at worst and distrust and alienation at best.”
That distrust had real consequences in Columbus. Omari lost his job with the state of Ohio, though not because of claims that he had ties to terrorism. After that training session, officials began digging into Omari’s past, and they eventually found something: They discovered that his employment application was incomplete. He hadn’t listed all of the schools where he had worked before taking the job with the state of Ohio. Omari says he just listed places where he had taught relevant courses — courses that touched on Middle Eastern studies. But he was fired anyway — some six months after the training session.
Federal officials familiar with the case say Omari was singled out because he distinguished between extremist Muslims and mainstream Muslims in his outreach and training programs. Guandolo, the trainer, had a different view. When he talked to me about Muslim groups in the U.S., he spoke in terms of whether or not Muslims were patriotic.
Omari, for his part, still can’t believe he got fired. “I lost a lot of things over this,” he said. “I lost respect, dignity, reputation — everything really was connected with that, and definitely, you know, how could you defend yourself?”
Chief Blackwell says even more than a year after the episode, he’s still upset. “That was not a good day, in my opinion, for the Columbus Division of Police or law enforcement in general,” he said.
Omari filed suit last week against the Ohio Department of Public Safety and several individuals for wrongful dismissal. He said he’d love to get his job back. And the trainers who came to the Columbus police department? One of them is scheduled to hold another training session in August at the CIA.
CNN provided some disturbing video of Shoebat defrauding security personnel and first responders and wasting tax payer money with his lies. Hopefully it won’t be long until Robert Spencer and the rest who get paid to hate-monger to the DHS are exposed by mainstream media.
Watch Part 2 of Drew Griffin’s special investigative report about Walid Shoebat Thursday on AC360° beginning at 10pm E.T.
From Drew Griffin and Kathleen Johnston, CNN Special Investigations Unit
Rapid City, South Dakota (CNN) — Walid Shoebat had a blunt message for the roughly 300 South Dakota police officers and sheriff’s deputies who gathered to hear him warn about the dangers of Islamic radicalism.
Terrorism and Islam are inseparable, he tells them. All U.S. mosques should be under scrutiny.
“All Islamic organizations in America should be the No. 1 enemy. All of them,” he says.
It’s a message Shoebat is selling based on his own background as a Palestinian-American convert to conservative Christianity. Born in the West Bank, the son of an American mother, he says he was a Palestinian Liberation Organization terrorist in his youth who helped firebomb an Israeli bank in Bethlehem and spent time in an Israeli jail.
That billing helps him land speaking engagements like a May event in Rapid City — a forum put on by the state Office of Homeland Security, which paid Shoebat $5,000 for the appearance. He’s a darling on the church and university lecture circuit, with his speeches, books and video sales bringing in $500,000-plus in 2009, according to tax records.
“Being an ex-terrorist myself is to understand the mindset of a terrorist,” Shoebat told CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360.”
But CNN reporters in the United States, Israel and the Palestinianterritories found no evidence that would support that biography. Neither Shoebat nor his business partner provided any proof of Shoebat’s involvement in terrorism, despite repeated requests.
Back in his hometown of Beit Sahour, outside Bethlehem, relatives say they can’t understand how Shoebat could turn so roundly on his family and his faith.
“I have never heard anything about Walid being a mujahedeen or a terrorist,” said Daood Shoebat, who says he is Walid Shoebat’s fourth cousin. “He claims this for his own personal reasons.”
CNN’s Jerusalem bureau went to great lengths trying to verify Shoebat’s story. The Tel Aviv headquarters of Bank Leumi had no record of a firebombing at its now-demolished Bethlehem branch. Israeli police had no record of the bombing, and the prison where Shoebat says he was held “for a few weeks” for inciting anti-Israel demonstrations says it has no record of him being incarcerated there either.
Shoebat says he was never charged because he was a U.S. citizen.
“I was born by an American mother,” he said. “The other conspirators in the act ended up in jail. I ended up released.”
He said his own family has vouched for his prison time. But relatives CNN spoke to described him as a “regular kid” who left home at 18, eventually becoming a computer programmer in the United States.
Shoebat, now in his 50s, says he converted to Christianity in 1993 and began spreading the word about the dangers of Islam. He has been interviewed as a terrorism expert on several television programs, including a handful of appearances on CNN and its sister network, HLN, in 2006 and 2007.
Since al Qaeda’s 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, expertise on terrorism has been in high demand. The federal Department of Homeland Security has spent nearly $40 million on counterterrorism training since 2006. The department doesn’t keep track of how much goes to speakers, nor does it advise officials on the speakers hired by states and municipalities.
Shoebat spoke at a 2010 conference in South Dakota and was so well-received that he was invited back for the May event in Rapid City, according to state officials. He warned the police and first responders gathered in the hotel conference rooms that the Lebanese Shiite Muslim militia Hezbollah had operatives working in Mexico and that drug cartels were raising money with Islamic groups. He also asserted that federal agents could have prevented the 9/11 attacks by looking for a chafed spot, called “zabibah,” that sometimes forms on the foreheads of devout Muslims.
“You need ex-terrorists who can tell you what life is like and what thinking is like of potential terrorists,” Shoebat said. “But had we looked at the zabibah only, we would have deflected a suicide action of killing 3,000 Americans.”
But Shoebat also told the group there were 17 hijackers when there were 19. And perhaps more surprising from a man who bills himself as a terror expert, Shoebat said the Transportation Security Administration could have stopped them. The TSA wasn’t created until after the 9-11 attacks.
Jim Carpenter, South Dakota’s homeland security director, said Shoebat brought “a point of view that certainly is not mainstream.”
“He brings in commentary about living and being raised as a Muslim and converting over to Christianity — gives them a different aspect of breaking the mold, so to speak,” Carpenter said. But he said Shoebat’s appearance was “a small portion” of the two-and-a-half-day conference.
“It’s not like we’re talking about setting up training and a discipline we would follow, that this is the only way and that’s the particular point of view of a Muslim or somebody of the Islamic faith. That’s not the case,” Carpenter said. “That’s his point of view.”
Carpenter said there is “no fear of threat” from Islamic terrorism in South Dakota, where the last census reports showed the state’s Muslim community made up less than one-half of 1 percent of the population. According to Rapid City’s local newspaper, about two dozen Muslims live in the city.
During Shoebat’s presentation, he criticized Muslim organizations and told audience members to be leery of Muslim doctors, engineers, students and mosques.
“Now, we aren’t saying every single mosque is potential terrorist headquarters. But if you look at certain reports by the Hudson report, 80 percent of mosques they found pamphlets and education on jihad. So they’re in the mosque, the mosque in accordance to the Muslim brotherhood is the command post and center.”
The conservative Hudson Institute said it never issued such a report and has no idea why its name was invoked.
Shoebat warned that making special accommodations for Muslim beliefs was a step toward establishing Islamic religious law. And he recounted how he wore a T-shirt that read “Profile me” on a trip to the airport and approached the screeners at the security checkpoint.
“I got tapped down, I got checked, I got all these different things,” he said. “I say it’s wonderful.”
Shoebat and business partner Keith Davies run several foundations and three websites that are all linked. Shoebat said the major group, the Forum for Middle East Understanding, includes his own Walid Shoebat Foundation.
In tax records filed by Davies, the Forum for Middle East Understanding reported 2009 earnings from speaking engagements, videos and book sales of more than $560,000. The documents are thin on specifics, and so is Shoebat.
“Basically, we are in information, and we do speaking and we do also helping Christians that are being persecuted in countries like Pakistan, and we help Christians that are suffering all throughout the Middle East,” he said. Asked how they do that, he said, “None of your business” — adding that disclosing details could endanger people he was trying to help in Islamic countries that have laws against blasphemy.
Shoebat’s name doesn’t appear on any of the paperwork. As for his own salary, he said he makes “probably what a gas station makes or a garage makes.”
“Everybody thinks I’m just raking in the dough, which is absolutely incorrect,” he said. He referred details to Davies, who offered to provide a copy of the group’s tax returns — but didn’t. When asked who served on the foundation’s board of advisers, Davies gave “Anderson Cooper 360″ the name of a former pilot, who didn’t return phone calls. But he could not name the high-ranking military officers he said were on the board.
Federal officials say they don’t know exactly how much money has gone to speakers like Shoebat. But in April, the bipartisan leaders of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee raised concerns about “vitriolic diatribes” being delivered by “self-appointed counterterrorism experts” at similar seminars.
Sen. Susan Collins, the committee’s Republican chairwoman, and Connecticut Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman asked the department to account for how much federal grant money went to state and local counterterrorism programs and what standards guided those grants. The request followed reports by the liberal Political Research Associates and the Washington Monthly that raised similar questions.
The Homeland Security Department told CNN that it has standards — and if training programs don’t meet them, “corrective action will be taken.”
“We have not and will not tolerate training programs — or any DHS-supported program — that rely on racial or ethnic profiling,” the agency said in a written statement.
April 5, 2011 DAYTON, OH – Sister Cora-Ann, a Catholic nun from the Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Dayton, Ohio got the surprise of her life yesterday, when she was asked to leave the plane she had just boarded at the Omaha International Airport. “I had just sat down in my seat, and started to thank God for our blessings and recite a prayer in Latin”, she recalled, when one of the passengers sitting next to me called the flight attendant. The passenger was Elizabeth Bennet, who later stated: “It is not that we were prejudiced, but she did seem very suspicious. She was dressed in Muslim garb and just before we were about to take off, she started mumbling something in an Arabian or Talibani-sounding language. What was I supposed to do?” Damien Thorn was a passenger seated in the adjacent row and said: “I knew there was something sinister about her, the moment she stepped into the plane. She was wearing those burqa clothes that you see the Iranian women wearing, and she only had a very small carry-on bag.” The flight attendant responded to the call and asked Sister Cora-Ann for her name, boarding pass and a photo ID.
Blanche Dubois was another passenger sitting close to Sister Cora-Ann and explained: “Once I heard that her name sounded like Koran, I got worried. That does not mean that there is anything wrong with me, does it? I just did not want to die. I was so scared, that I just yelled out her name to all passengers.” Mr. Okonkwo was a passenger seated a few rows behind and stated: “Once we all heard that the passenger’s name was Koran, things started falling apart.” Frodo Baggins, a frequent traveler, said he had heard that Muslims do not eat beef. “I did not think that she was Muslim, and to help her out, I took out some of my beef jerky and asked the lady to eat it to prove that she was not a Muslim.”
However, Sister Cora-Ann politely refused the beef jerky and reminded the other passengers that it was the time of Lent, during which Catholics often abstain from eating meat. The unrest in the plane kept growing, because most passengers were now convinced that Sister Cora-Ann was indeed Muslim and they demanded that Sister Cora-Ann leave the plane. “I did not want to cause my fellow humans any distress, so I left the plane”, she said.
“We were so happy that we could continue our journey”, said Frodo Baggins. “Once she de-boarded, it felt like a huge burden was lifted from us.” Apparently, there was indeed a Muslim on the plane, by the name of Abdullah Abdullah the 23rd, sitting in the last row. “Of course I knew that she was a Catholic nun and not a Muslim, because I went to a Catholic school and my favorite teachers were Catholic nuns.” Abdullah Abdullah went on to say “But let us face it: If you are a Muslim on a plane and someone else is being asked to leave the plane, the best thing is to be quiet and enjoy the show!”