New Report Scrutinizes US Counter-Terror Training

From the Guardian:

The US government is being accused of pumping millions of dollars into unregulated training schemes for local police officers and other law enforcers that give a distorted, dangerous and inflammatory picture of the Muslim faith.

Political Research Associates, a Massachusetts-based progressive thinktank, spent nine months investigating the burgeoning industry of counter-terrorism training. It concluded that in seminars and conferences across America, police, transit and other law-enforcement officers were being given an ideologically skewed impression of Islam that impugned the entire religion, presenting it as inherently violent and sympathetic to terrorism.

The report, by Thomas Cincotta comes in the wake of articles in the Washington Post and the Washington Monthly, and the full text can be seen here (I get cited on page two). It focuses on three outfits, two which have also featured on this blog: these are the International Counter-Terrorism Officers Association (ICTOA), Security Solutions International (SSI), and the Centre for Counterintelligence and Security Studies (CI Centre). Various individuals feature in the report, but one particularly extravagant figure sticks out both for PRA and the Guardian; Walid Shoebat:

Shoebat is a convert to Christianity, having formerly been a Muslim with links to the Palestinian Liberation Organisation. In his presentation, called The Jihad Mindset and How to Defeat It: Why We Want to Kill You, he accused Muslim men of raping women, children and young boys. “They are paedophiles!” he shouted.

According to the report, Shoebat went on: “The Muslim beheads with a smile. You can see it on YouTube, on TV; the Afghan child trained to execute Christians. You say that Islam is a peaceful religion? Why? It hates the west.”

He also said: “Islam is a revolution and is intent to destroy all other systems. They want to expand, like Nazism.”

Shoebat also believes that Obama is a secret Muslim working for al-Qaeda, promoting abortion in order to weaken the USA, and he promotes the increasingly popular (thanks to Glenn Beck) idea that the Bible predicts the coming of a Muslim anti-Christ. Of all the figures who have jumped on the “anti-jihad” bandwagon, he’s clearly the weakest link in terms of credibility.

However, the SSI’s Henry Morgenstern has responded to the PRA report:

“We have a very good reputation training law enforcers. We are not a kooky organisation.” He said of the report’s authors: “These people are out to weaken the anti-terrorism effort and it’s clearly politically motivated.”

He added: “You cannot whitewash radical Islam – they really do cut people’s heads off, they do carry out honour killings, so we are trying to show law enforcers that this is what they are up against. We are not saying that all Muslims chop people’s heads off.”

This kind of bluster is a familiar refrain: rather than deal with the sloppy and inflammatory opportunism which passes for so much anti-terror “expertise”, it’s easier simply to suggest that those who point out the problem must be “politically motivated” or perhaps in league with extremists. Of course PRA isn’t saying that there are no dangerous Islamic extremists – just that those who purport to be experts in the subject ought to be subjected to some critical scrutiny. And that’s not something which Morgenstern seems very keen on; Cincotta writes that:

Requests to observe trainings by SSI and CI Centre were rejected. One of our investigators was refused entry to SSI’s Boston program, “The Islamic Jihadist Threat” in May 2009 on grounds that the event was restricted to law enforcement officials. Henry Morgenstern, President of SSI, has defended the exclusion of non-law enforcement personnel from SSI’s seminar, raising concerns about transparency and public accountability.

In relation to ICTOA, Cincotta discusses those who attended Shoebat’s speech:

One conference participant from the Southern Nevada Fusion Center told a PRA investigator in attendance that Shoebat’s presentation was “spot on.” The staffer continued, saying that government officials should be saying the same things as Shoebat, but they will not due to fear of “political correctness.”

The predominantly male audience also included George D. Little, Director of the Institute for Criminal Justice Studies at Texas State University, who responded by saying, “I’m confounded. I’m not sure what the answer is. I served twenty years for the United Nations and now I’m at Texas State University. Maybe it is to kill them.”

Audience members included Alabama Fusion Center analyst Sean P. Collins, representatives from Nevada area Fusion Centers (Carson City), Henley-Putnam University, U.S. Marines, and U.S. Army, California Highway Patrol, San Diego Police Department and San Diego Sheriff’s Office. PRA’s investigator also noted that in attendance was Sandra Manderson, superintendent, New Zealand Police Attaché to the USA, Canada, and South America.

The report goes on to discuss ICTOA’s alternative Fort Hood commemoration event, which featured Shoebat, Robert Spencer, and Jerry Boykin, and which I blogged on here.

Regarding SSI:

SSI’s seminars for peace officers include courses that train professionals to secure maritime facilities and respond to mass casualty incidents like disasters and school shootings, as well as courses and seminars that evince a pronounced ideological agenda, notably courses on “The Islamic Jihadist Threat,” “Jihad 2.0,” and a conference entitled, “Allah in America.” During a course on “Middle Eastern Culture and Terrorism,” instructors devote time to teach police about alleged Islamic conspiracies like the “Legal Wing of Jihad in America.” SSI’s go-to “expert” on Islam, Long Beach Police Department Detective Ebrahim Ashabi, augmented his teaching with videos of terrorists beheading a hostage at a 2009 keynote address at TREXPO West, a conference sponsored by Police magazine. SSI officials claim their courses “stress that racial, ethnic, or religious profiling is wrong but also poor counter terrorism technique.” SSI claims to teach first responders to protect all Americans, and maintains that they train to avoid ethnic and racial stereotypes. Morgenstern defended Ashabi’s actions at the conference, saying “[Ashabi’s] presenting a very coherent program. Unfortunately, you know, the members of CAIR do not like the fact that he’s showing Americans being beheaded and issues like this which are very fundamental to understanding the threat.”

…SSI also organized an “Allah in America Day” as part of its 3rd Annual Gulf Coast Terrorism Prevention Conference, sponsored by the Sarasota Sheriff’s Office, with “Allah” supplanting “Islamic Jihadism” as the named threat in this 2008 conference. “Allah in America” featured speaker Andrew Whitehead, whose group, Anti-CAIR, claims that “the Council on American-Islamic Relations, CAIR, is a clear and present danger to our Constitution and our way of life.”

As for the SSI’s Counter Terrorist magazine:

Articles like “U.S. Prison Recruitment for Jihad” —a piece by M. Zuhdi Jasser and Raphael Shore, founder of the Clarion Fund, a nonprofit organization “that aims to alert Americans about the real threat of Radical Islam”—reinforce an image of Muslims as menacing militant fundamentalists.

The CI Centre, meanwhile, has apparently threatened PRA with legal action (remember, it’s only “lawfare” if Muslim groups do it), although PRA has pressed on nevertheless:

CI Centre is operated by its finance manager and president, David G. Major, who founded the company in 1997. It is a subsidiary of David G. Major Associates, Inc. (DGMA), which does business as CI Centre. DGMA’s website describes Major’s background in senior intelligence and security circles…

CI Centre is a corporate member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO), a conservative organization founded in 1975 by CIA officer David Atlee Phillips; Major sits on its Board

…The main themes evident in presentations by CI Centre trainers Walid Phares, Stephen Coughlin, Tawfik Hamid, and Clare Lopez, as well as in articles or books by these individuals, raise serious concerns about the content of the CI Centre’s instruction to public servants.

…According to Islam 101 by Gregory Davis—a book recommended by CI Centre to participants of this course —taqiyya, or religious deception, is “systematic lying to the infidel.”…  Davis projects a conspiracist view of a secret war in which Muslims are either bent on destruction of the West or ignorant of the evils or obligations of their faith.

The CI Centre operates a training academy where counterterrorism professionals can learn fromprominent faculty members, such as Walid Phares, a contributor to Christian Broadcast News and Fox News… and Clare Lopez, a retired Central Intelligence Agency officer, currently a principal of the Iran Policy Committee, a hard line militaristic group in Washington calling for regime change in Iran.

There’s also a discussion of the CI Centre’s “Spy Cruise”, which I discussed here.

The report then follows with some profiles; some of the individuals covered have featured on this blog previously. There are two ICTOA “guest speakers”, Mark A. Gabriel and Walid Shoebat; two SSI “experts”, Dave Gaubatz and Detective Ebrahim Ashabi; and five “CI Centre Faculty”, Walid Phares, Clare M. Lopez, Tawfik Hamid, Stephen Coughlin, and Nonie Darwish.

Meanwhile, the PRA report has drawn hostile fire from a strange semi-anonymous website (it appears to have links with these characters) called Security Industry News Today:

…the left-wing loony Political Research Associates, composed mainly of former writers of High Times – a marijuana advocacy publication – relies solely on CAIR for its assessment of patriotic US companies involved in helping to protect the USA.

…It’s a shame that some Americans feel it necessary to defend Al Qaeda by attacking US based training companies – who offer professional tactical, technical and procedural training to US first responders – with baseless accusations.

SSI will be taking legal action through several high powered Washington attorneys to clear their name and help to elucidate the connection between CAIR, the Huffington Post and terrorists.

A previous report from the site, dating from December, quotes a certain Emmanuel Stern (of “Machaseh Security Service”):

…Stern said he is personally investigating allegations that the writers in question are working together as a network to smear the work of ICTOA, SSI and CI Centre, three among other private intelligence and counterterrorism organizations attacked in recent blogs.

“We are digging deep”, Stern said, “And I think when the dust settles we’ll find clear evidence that these bloggers are working in an organized effort to conduct nothing short of a smear campaign.”

…And this will somehow prove that it’s a good idea for counter-terror training to be in hands of the likes of Walid Shoebat.

14 Responses

  1. […] New Report Scrutinizes US Counter-Terror Training ( […]

  2. It concluded that in seminars and conferences across America, police, transit and other law-enforcement officers were being given an ideologically skewed impression of Islam that impugned the entire religion, presenting it as inherently violent and sympathetic to terrorism.

    I’m stumped!

    Why would anyone ever want to do that?

    Islam means “peace”, you know.

  3. […] displeasure and dismay at critical scrutiny to which the ICTOA has recently been subjected. As I blogged earlier this month, the ICTOA features in a new report published by Political Research Associates on some troubling […]

  4. […] The footnote references an article on the subject which was recently published in the Washington Monthly, and which I blogged on here and here. The subject has also received attention from the Washington Post and in a report from Political Research Associates. […]

  5. […] in which he opined on the terrorist attack at Moscow airport. The ICTOA has recently come under critical scrutiny over some of the people it hires as experts terrorism, such as Walid […]

  6. […] training being offered to law enforcement agencies in the USA; I blogged on the report here, quoting a Guardian piece about it. Articles on the same subject recently published by the […]

  7. […] the earth encircled by a target. From what I’ve seen over the past couple of years (e.g. here), that seems to be enough to qualify as a  ”counter-terror specialist” to the […]

  8. […] training is a subject that has come under increasing scrutiny in recent months: as well as the the Political Research Associates report (which – cough –  includes a quote from me), a critical article appeared in […]

  9. […] a number of posts about this, and ICTOA also featured in Political Research Associates’ report into counter-terror training. In response, PRA was accused of “defending Al Qaeda” and […]

  10. […] Walid Shoebat’s presence at a counter-terrorism training event in South Dakota.  Political Research Associates published report on the subject in November, a critical article appeared in the Washington […]

  11. […] Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman, and from Ranking Member Susan Collins. A report by the progressive Political Research Associates also appeared in the spring, while the summer saw […]

  12. […] Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman, and from Ranking Member Susan Collins. A report by the progressive Political Research Associates also appeared in the spring, while the summer […]

  13. Whatever the way you veiw the Muslim faith there is a need to share it with others.

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