WaPo Notes “Self-Described Experts” Advising Law Enforcement on Islam

The Washington Post has just published a lengthy investigation by Dana Priest and William M. Arkin into the “vast domestic intelligence apparatus” which has sprung up since 9/11. It includes a section on the various outside “experts” who are consulted by law enforcement agencies, and there’s an interesting quote from Charles Allen, described as “a longtime senior CIA official who then led the DHS’s intelligence office until 2009”:

“The CIA used to train analysts forever before they graduated to be a real analyst… Today we take former law enforcement officers and we call them intelligence officers, and that’s not right, because they have not received any training on intelligence analysis.”

Priest and Arkin add:

In their desire to learn more about terrorism, many departments are hiring their own trainers. Some are self-described experts whose extremist views are considered inaccurate and harmful by the FBI and others in the intelligence community.

In particular, the authors note the recent Shariah: The Threat to America report produced by the Center for Security Policy:

The book’s co-authors include such notables as former CIA director R. James Woolsey and former deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin, along with the center’s director, a longtime activist. They write that most mosques in the United States already have been radicalized, that most Muslim social organizations are fronts for violent jihadists and that Muslims who practice sharia law seek to impose it in this country.

Frank Gaffney Jr., director of the center, said his team has spoken widely, including to many law enforcement forums.

“Members of our team have been involved in training programs for several years now, many of which have been focused on local law enforcement intelligence, homeland security, state police, National Guard units and the like,” Gaffney said. “We’re seeing a considerable ramping-up of interest in getting this kind of training.”

Government terrorism experts call the views expressed in the center’s book inaccurate and counterproductive. They say the DHS should increase its training of local police, using teachers who have evidence-based viewpoints.

Also mentioned by Priest and Arkin are a certain Ramon Montijo and a certain Lacy Craig; however, another figure discussed is well-known to this blog:

Walid Shoebat, a onetime Muslim who converted to Christianity, also lectures to local police. He too believes that most Muslims seek to impose sharia law in the United States. To prevent this, he said in an interview, he warns officers that “you need to look at the entire pool of Muslims in a community.”

When Shoebat spoke to the first annual South Dakota Fusion Center Conference in Sioux Falls this June, he told them to monitor Muslim student groups and local mosques and, if possible, tap their phones. “You can find out a lot of information that way,” he said.

(State Fusion Centers, Priest and Arkin explain, “bring together and analyze information from various agencies within a state”)

The use of Shoebat in particular should ring alarm bells. By his own account, he was raised in an Islamist household in the West Bank in the 1970s and he once planted a bomb at a bank for the PLO; there are a number of question-marks around his story, but even if it were true it would not make him an expert on Islam or on terrorism. As I’ve blogged previously, Shoebat claims that Obama is a Muslim, trained in extremism in a madrassa in Indonesia, and – in presentations to churches – that the Bible predicts the rise of a Muslim Anti-Christ. Boykin similarly mixes uncompromising antipathy to Islam with apocalyptic Christian beliefs, as I blogged here.

Chip Berlet has some more background to Shoebat’s involvement in this kind of training:

“Kill them…including the children.”

That’s how to solve the threat of militant Muslims?

This quote is from what one official involved in homeland security said was the theme of a speech by Walid Shoebat at an anti-terrorism training in Las Vegas in October 2010.

…George D. Little, Director of the Institute for Criminal Justice Studies (ICJS) at Texas State University, in San Marcos, TX, also attended the Shoebat speech at the Las Vegas training. When first contacted by e-mail after the ICTOA conference, Little responded “I believe there are good Muslims like there are bad ones just like there are good Christians and bad ones.” Little, however, dodged repeated question about what he specifically thought of the content of Shoebat’s speech, and now refuses to comment altogether.

Shoebat is popular in Texas, having helped organize an anti-Islamic event near Fort Hood; spoken at an evangelical church; and conducted a statewide law enforcement training, “Preparing Law Enforcement Executives for the Future, co-sponsored by the state’s Attorney General, Greg Abbott. Shoebat is also periodically interviewed as an expert on Islam on Fox News and is extensively quoted by the right-wing conspiracy website, World Net Daily.

Another Las Vegas conference attendee, Edwin Uries [sic – actually “Edwin Urie“, or “Ed Urie”] praised Mr. Shoebat’s ICTOA speech. “From my perspective, Mr. Shoebat’s presentation was so much on the mark, so specific, and so correct that I was concerned that he would be the target of those about whom he spoke. Maybe the objections are merely a part of that,” wrote Uries in an e-mail. Uries is an adjunct professor at Henley-Putnam University and a specialist in counterrorism.

…Shoebat’s speech in Las Vegas was sponsored by the International Counter Terrorism Officers Association (ICTOA). Michael Riker, president of the ICTOA, said that “Numerous public safety personnel along with military personnel heard from Walid Shoebat” at the event.

As Chip notes, I have also written on this: I blogged on Shoebat and  the ICTOA here, and I’ve done posts on on various other strange “private intelligence” organisations: the Griffith Colson Intelligence Service, which has links with the ICTOA (see here and here); Security Solutions International (which provides the ICTOA’s official magazine); and an organisation called IC-HUMINT, the director of which is linked with Veteran Defenders of America.

In turn, the IC-HUMINT used to be linked to the now-defunct VIGIL Network, which was run from south London by Dominic Wightman. Wightman does not share the uncompromising anti-Islam views of some of his US counterparts, but he is a mountebank: a formerly bankrupted businessman whom I know from personal experience to lack personal integrity, and whose idea of research and activism is manipulation and the creation of bogus documents. Wightman and VIGIL got access to police in the UK, thanks to help from an attention-seeking MP named Patrick Mercer; Mercer now knows the truth about him, but is keeping a low profile on the subject.