On NPR, Dina Temple-Raston has a new piece on concerns over the quality of counter-terrorism training in the USA:
The man at the center of this story is 59-year-old Jordanian-American Omar al-Omari.
…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.
…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.
…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.
Among those obviously unimpressed by Guandolo’s claim was Deputy Chief Jeffrey Blackwell of the Columbus Division of Police:
“I was shocked,” he said. “I was shocked that a person at Omar’s level in the 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.”
The same incident was discussed by Temple-Raston back in March, following the publication of a report by Political Research Associates:
One case study: Columbus, Ohio. Richard Bash, the deputy chief of the city’s division of police, runs the department’s Homeland Security Division. Last year, the Columbus Police Department hired a team that included a retired FBI agent to help teach police and local officials how to understand and recognize possible signs of terrorism. It was supposed to be a two-day training course but was stopped after the first day.
“The class was stopped the second day because what we found, the information being relayed was not accurate,” Bash said….
He said they were basically stereotyping.
“That’s not the kind of information that is going to make our cops or federal officials smarter about terrorism,” said Sam Rascoff, a law professor at New York University who used to run intelligence analysis at the New York City Police Department.
Improper counter-terrorism training is a subject that has come under increasing scrutiny in recent months: as well as the Political Research Associates report (which – cough – includes a quote from me), a critical article appeared in the Washington Post in December, and there was a lengthy article in the Washington Monthly in March which prompted an expression of concern from Joe Lieberman, in his capacity as Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman, and from Ranking Member Susan Collins. And just last week, CNN investigated Walid Shoebat’s presence at a counter-terrorism training event in South Dakota.
It’s clear that the field of counter-terrorism training has provided career opportunities for a number of unsuitable individuals, to the detriment of professionalism and – ultimately – of public safety. When challenged, these individuals lash out with accusations of left-wing conspiracies or secret Muslim influence (I’ve been on receiving end of some of these – apparently I’m being financed by either George Soros or Hizb ut Tahrir, depending on which charlatan you talk to). However, Temple-Raston shows that real counter-terrorism professionals are also speaking out against improper and incompetent training.
Guandolo, meanwhile, was profiled by Right Wing Watch back in 2009, after he made an appearance on a radio show hosted by David Barton, the notorious “Christian nationalist” pseudo-historian who has come to general prominence thanks to endorsements from Glenn Beck and Mike Hukabee. Barton introduced Guandolo as “the guy who briefed the FBI on terrorism and radical Islamic terrorism” until “so many Islamic folks worked their way into the FBI” and “got him thrown out”; Right Wing Watch, however, quotes a 2009 article from the The Times-Picayune which explains that Guandolo in fact left the FBI following an “intimate relationship” with a government witness he was supposed to be protecting, leading to the collapse of a corruption case.
Guandolo is also involved with Frank Gaffney’s “Team B II Report” on Shariah – The Threat to America (discussed in the Washington Post article), and he has taken part in Colorado Christian University‘s Sharia Awareness Project, alongside the likes of Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin.
A further report from Temple-Raston, broadcast today, has details of an alternative approach to counter-terrorism in Miami, which has involved building relationships with local Muslims. It includes a quote from Wifredo Ferrer, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida:
“We have found that Muslim and Arab community members have been really helpful in informing us and disrupting plots against the United States… So it is really a win-win for both sides.”
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