Editor’s note: Below is the video of the panel discussion “Obama and the Jihad,” featured at the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s 2013 West Coast Retreat. The event was held February 22nd-24th at the Terranea Resort in Palos Verdes, California. A transcript of the discussion follows.
Jamie Glazov: We have a heroic truth-teller by the name of Michele Bachmann. And one of the names that she was concerned about was Mohamed Elibiary. An Egyptian magazine, by the way, just recently boasted that the Muslim Brotherhood is penetrating Washington. And one of the names they mentioned was Mohamed Elibiary.
Just want to tell a very quick story about this individual, and for us to let it swirl around in our head that this is a person that today’s in the Homeland — he’s on the Advisory Council in Homeland Security. Mohamed Elibiary in 2004 gave a speech at an evening dedicated to the Ayatollah Khomeini. It was a tribute to the grand Islamic visionary. This is in 2004. This is a mass murderer — the killing fields, Ayatollah Khomeini. Imagine one of us gives a speech at a conference praising Adolf Hitler or Stalin.
And Robert Spencer, our distinguished guest with us this evening, approached Mohamed Elibiary, if I am correct — right, Robert?
Robert Spencer: Yes.
Jamie Glazov: And he asked him — what were you doing there? And he said — oh, I was there, but I didn’t really know what it was about. But, you know, I was there anyway. And we are not investigating this.
Imagine that you end up at a conference praising Adolf Hitler, and you don’t know why you’re there. And then you’re there anyway, and your reaction is — oh, they’re praising Adolf Hitler here tonight. Well, I’m here anyway, might as well go ahead and make the speech. Because he did go ahead and make the speech.
This is one of the individuals in our government today. And what I’m thinking about is — do we have a right to ask some questions? Should there be an investigation?
Ladies and gentlemen, the future must not belong to the slanderers of the Prophet of Islam. In Islam, “slander” is also known and interpreted to be not even slander; it could be just saying something uncomfortable. It could be saying something that Muslims just don’t want to hear. And my response to that is — no, Mr. President, the future must belong to the truth-tellers.
And we have three of them with us this afternoon.
Andy McCarthy: For all the awful things there are to say about the Obama Administration — and there certainly isn’t time in a panel, in a weekend, in a lifetime, to catalogue all of those — a lot of what we’re seeing today is simply Obama exploiting an atmosphere that has been created over a course of more than 20 years.
I said 20 years — Jamie mentioned the Blind Sheikh prosecution — Tuesday will be the 20th anniversary, if you can call it that, of the World Trade Center bombing. And I thought that was pretty significant, because we just got through the testimony at the confirmation hearing of John Brennan. And Michele catalogued a lot of Brennan’s dubious background last night. But I think the most interesting thing I’ve come across about Brennan is his speech about jihad just a couple of years ago, and explaining his interpretation of the concept of jihad.
And the interesting thing about that is that here we are 20 years after the Trade Center bombing, 20 years of jihad in America, and we actually don’t even know what jihad is yet, even at an official level. And I think the interesting thing — if you go back to that trial and flash forward to today, a couple of interesting things stand out. One is the Blind Sheikh wanted his defense at the trial to be that we couldn’t hold him liable for green-lighting acts of terrorism, for issuing fatwas — or the Islamic edict, juristic edict, approving a course of conduct — any course of conduct, but in this instance, terrorist attacks.
Because in his view, he was simply performing under Sharia the customary traditional role of a jurist of his academic accomplishment, which meant that the members of the flock or the faithful would come to him, propose one course of conduct or another — you know, can I marry this person, can I blow up this building and, you know —
— everything in between. And it was the Sharia jurist’s job to say, you know, yes, that’s permissible or no, it’s not permissible.
So back in those days, we had a great — I thought, the greatest trial judge in the United States at the time, later the Attorney General of the United States, Michael Mukasey, who, after hearing arguments about it, would not allow that defense to be presented to the jury, on the common-sense principle that we are in the United States, and we follow American law in the United States. And it didn’t matter what Sharia said, or really — not just to single out Sharia — what any other religious code would say in terms of where religious law would collide with the civil law. Because there’s a lot of Supreme Court law that says that, you know, basically if you allow chaos like that, you have every person being a law unto himself. And that’s not an acceptable way to have a civil society. So that defense got bounced out pretty easily.
The reason I think that’s interesting is — flash forward almost 20 years, in my own home state of New Jersey. And we had a woman, a Muslim woman, who was married to a Muslim man who she was trying to divorce, who was serially raping and beating her. And she went into New Jersey state court to try to get a protective order. And the court refused to give her the protective order under circumstances where there was no doubt that the attacks and the sexual abuse was actually going on. But the court reasoned that he was simply following his religious principles, under which his own understanding of them was that she had no right to say no.
So think about that. We go from 20 years ago — where a Sharia defense basically gets laughed out of court on a very straightforward, confident idea of American law that we follow our own law in the United States, we don’t — Sharia’s not the law of the land — to a situation we have now where — not just in New Jersey; that case happened to be reversed on appeal — but in almost every state in the Union, we’ve had Sharia principles creeping into our law.
And the reason I think we’ve had them creeping into our law is what a lot of our distinguished speakers have discussed throughout the course of the day, and that is cultural confidence. We really lack it. And we’ve lacked it for 20 years. And the result of that is that the people who are now in charge of our government really have precedents that you could drive a truck through. And that’s pretty much what they’re doing.
I mean, what we’ve done for 20 years is basically suppress any discussion of our enemies’ ideology. I mean, I’ve said probably every bad thing that you can say about the idea of using the civilian courts as your main counterterrorism weapon, the idea of bringing our enemy combatants into court and awarding them all of the Bill of Rights protections.
Let me tell you the one really good thing about using civilian courts. And it’s one that I don’t think has been replicated by any other part of our government. And that is that juries won’t convict people unless you give them a rational explanation not only of what was done but why it was done.
So even though 20 years ago we were saying the same things that we’re saying today — you know, religion of peace, Islam has nothing to do with terrorism — back then, it wasn’t violent extremism, but the basic message of the government was we didn’t really have a national security problem so much as we had 20 knuckleheads in Jersey City who weren’t representative of Islam as a whole. And if we could just reign them in, all would be well. And they said that in the White House, they said it in the White House Pressroom, they said it on the steps of the courthouse, Janet Reno said it, everybody in the government said it.
The only place it didn’t get said was inside our courtroom. Inside the courtroom — because we had to prove to the jury not only what was done in the way of terrorist attacks but why it was done — we were actually able to prove why the terrorist acts were committed. And what we were able to show was that there was an unavoidable, undeniable nexus between Islamic doctrine — and I’m not going to try to parse at this point, you know, Islamism or Islamist, or — we’ve had that discussion again and again.
What I’m talking about is what’s undeniably in Islamic doctrine — the nexus between Islamic doctrine and terrorism committed by Muslims, and the mediating agent from one to the other, where people like the Blind Sheikh — who we wanted to paint as wanton killers but who, in fact, were authoritative figures in their own communities. The Blind Sheikh — think about him for a second — blind, diabetic, bad ticker — he probably had every malady known to man. Can’t conduct an assassination, can’t build a bomb, couldn’t shoot a gun, couldn’t do anything useful to a terrorist organization, except run it.
And why was he able to run it? Why was he able to exercise so much influence that he could not only command acts of terrorism while he was out and about, but bin Laden actually credited him with issuing the fatwa that authorized the 9/11 attacks from his American jail cell? Now, why is he able to do that? He’s able to do it because he’s a doctor of Islamic jurisprudence, graduated from Al-Azhar University — which is the seat of Sunni learning since the 10th century — and he is revered in his community of believers, not just by lunatic al-Qaeda people, but by mainstream Muslims, even people that you would have no doubt were actually moderate people — revered as an accomplished jurist in his tradition.
We had person after person in the defense case come in and testify. They were actually moderate Muslim people. They would not in a million years dream of participating in or supporting a terrorist attack. But every now and then, while they were up on the stand, a question about Muslim doctrine would come up — what does jihad mean, what is Sharia — those types of questions. And at least three times, the people who were on the stand when asked questions like that would answer — I wouldn’t be competent to say. You know, for that, you’d have to ask someone like him, and they would point over to the homicidal lunatic in the corner of my courtroom.
And what that said to us — and I think what it should’ve said to all of America back 20 years ago — so we could’ve maybe understood this threat better and defended ourselves better from it — is that even these moderate, peaceful people, in matters of importance in their own belief system, regarded him as an authority, regarding him as an influential figure whose opinion about important matters was something that they thought was authoritative. And even if they didn’t have the nerve to go out and act on everything he said, they regarded him as an authoritative figure.
That’s what we’ve been dealing with for 20 years. And we haven’t wanted to acknowledge it. So we’ve gone from what I used to call willful blindness — where basically this ideology was fueling a terrorist campaign against us, and we turned a blind eye to it — to now, where we’re actually inviting people who are operatives of this ideology into the tent, and into our councils of government, where they’re advising on things like what our law enforcement, intelligence and military operatives ought to be trained with to go out and do their jobs. That, I think, was the most stunning thing.
Brennan’s testimony was interesting for two reasons — number one, nobody asked him about jihad. You know, again, flash forward, 20 years later. He’s been very public about what jihad means. He went out and said — jihad is a legitimate tenet of Islam, which he happens to be correct about. But it’s not a problem, he said, because what it really means is an internal struggle to purify oneself, or purify one’s community.
Now, let’s put aside the fact that that’s ridiculous. We have an actual authoritative manual of Sharia law, “Reliance of the Traveler,” which has been certified and endorsed by the faculty at Al-Azhar and outfits like the Muslim Brotherhood’s think tank, the International Institute of Islamic Thought. They’ve endorsed this manual. And the manual says that jihad is holy war against unbelievers. I mean, that’s what it flatly says in black-and-white.
But put that aside. Brennan, the guy who we’re going to put in charge of our premier intelligence agency, right — the intelligence agency that needs to see the threat clearly — takes the position that Islam and the West have a universally consensus value system, so that when we say “purify oneself or purify one’s community,” a Westerner and a Muslim means exactly the same thing by that.
And what we know is when a Muslim says jihad, “to purify oneself,” they’re not talking about becoming a better person; they’re talking about becoming a better, more Sharia-compliant Muslim. When they talk about purifying one’s community, they’re not talking about, you know, driving the drug dealers out. They’re talking about making your community more Islamically pure by driving out non-Islamic influences.
That’s what it’s about. And yet we’re going to put in charge of our intelligence service a person whose career in government has been about putting blinders on our intelligence community with regard to the main threat against the United States.
So that’s where we’re at. Twenty years later, we’ve gone from willful blindness to willfully aiding and abetting our own suicide.
Now, to me, the most depressing thing about the Brennan hearing — and I’ll leave it at this — is in order to purge intelligence materials that we train our agents with, he brought in a bunch of consultants. And when I say purge the training materials, what I’m talking about is they have, you know, documents upon documents of things that our agents used to be instructed to read in order to understand the threat. And they were filled with things that, when I was a prosecutor in the mid ’90s, we used to call evidence.
That’s the kind of stuff that they don’t want our agents to see anymore. But it’s at the behest of people who he’s consulted with. Who are those consultants? We haven’t been allowed to find out. We have every reason to suspect that there are operatives of Muslim Brotherhood front groups in the United States. Because those groups have had entrée into the administration.
Do you know, not one senator in that hearing — not only did they not ask him about jihad; they didn’t even ask him about who are the consultants, who is it that you’re bringing in to talk to, to take advice from, to decide what our agents ought to be trained on?
So I’ll leave you with this — we need to make a lot of noise. Because you can’t protect a country, number one, not acknowledging what the threat is — which is what we’ve done for 20 years — and now, in the new phase, actually misrepresenting what the threat is — and pretending that everything is fine, when everything is not fine.
Robert Spencer: The Egyptian magazine that Jamie mentioned in his introduction, that was boasting about Muslim Brotherhood influence in the United States — what it actually said — these are the exact words from the article — that Muslim Brotherhood infiltrators into the US government have transformed the US from a position hostile to Islamic groups and organizations in the world to the largest and most important supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Now see, it’s bitterly ironic, isn’t it, that Michele Bachmann is ridiculed and pilloried for calling for an investigation into Muslim Brotherhood infiltration in the government. And then, over in Egypt, they’re boasting about Muslim Brotherhood infiltration in the government and naming as the infiltrators many of the same people that she adduced as evidence for the need for such an investigation.
Now, the thing about Barack Obama is that he has, of course, enabled this, encouraged it, and continues to do so. Witness the Brennan appointment and the Hagel appointment, and so many others. But as Andy has pointed out, it began far before he became President. And George W. Bush stood in 2001, right after the 9/11 attacks, in a mosque in Washington, D.C. And right behind him was Nihad Awad, the head of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which is a Muslim Brotherhood group in the United States. And George Bush, of course, famously proclaimed Islam is a religion of peace.
Now, Bush was also sanguine about the infiltration of Muslim Brotherhood operatives into the United States. And there are photographs of him in meetings with Abdulrahman Alamoudi, who was the great friend of Grover Norquist, who is now serving 23 years in prison for financing al-Qaeda. That is, Alamoudi is, not Norquist. Unfortunately, Norquist is not yet in prison.
But this indicates that while the undeniable fact is that Obama and the jihad are friends and allies, and the evidence for this grows every day, this problem is far deeper than just Obama. And it is bipartisan. Both parties have been infiltrated. Both parties have been compromised. The Democrats, of course, are actively, at this point, aiding the jihad. So I don’t think that the Egyptian paper was exaggerating or making an empty boast when they said that the United States was now the largest and most important supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood.
But because of Grover Norquist and Americans for Tax Reform, and the fear of Republican politicians to confront him because they want to be on the right side of fiscal responsibility and tax issues, the Republican Party has also been compromised. The Conservative Political Action Conference, the largest gathering of conservatives in the country, is coming up again in March. And the American Conservative Union runs it. The American Conservative Union has on its board Grover Norquist; Suhail Khan, his protégé, who is the son of Mahmood Khan, who was one of the leading founders of the Muslim Students Association, which is another Muslim Brotherhood organization in the United States.
And you will look at the agenda, if any of you are going. Or even if you’re not, I encourage you to look at the agenda, and then look back online at the agendas of the Conservative Political Action Conference for the last few years. You will see nothing about the gravest threat that this nation faces today; in other words, nothing about the Islamic jihad, nothing about Islamic supremacism, nothing about the attempts to bring Sharia into the United States. Nothing whatsoever. For the American Conservative Union, the flagship of conservatives in the country — the Conservative Political Action Conference, which gets 10,000 or so people there every year — this is not an issue. It doesn’t exist.
Now, we saw this coming for a long time. Barack Obama, after all, said in one of his autobiographies — I forget which one, I think it was “The Audacity of Hope” — but it’s amazing that he wrote two autobiographies before he ever did anything — and in one of them, he says that if the tide turns in an ugly direction, he will side with the Muslims. And he has. As Jamie quoted — the future will not/must not belong to those who slander the Prophet of Islam. And he’s making sure that this is happening now.
Now, this is a very, very serious thing. We know about Brennan. We know about Hagel. We know that there are grave foreign policy issues involved in that regarding Iran and our response to the Iranian nuclear threat and regarding Israel and its position vis-à-vis Iran as well as vis-à-vis Hamas, Hezbollah and Egypt, which is of course rapidly re-Islamizing and is probably going to, as soon as it can, get out from under the Camp David Accord and go to war with Israel. Certainly, they have made it abundantly clear — that is, the Muslim Brotherhood regime there — that that’s what they want to do.
Those things are obvious. Those things are well known, I think. But much less well known and much more serious in the long run, actually — assuming that the Iranians don’t actually nuke us all — but much more serious for the survival of our nation in the long run is the threat to the freedom of speech. And this is part-and-parcel of Obama’s friendship with the jihad, and the deep-rooted alliance with jihadis, Islamic supremacists and Muslim Brotherhood operatives on the part of leaders of both parties. Because Islam forbids criticism of Islam.
Jamie mentioned the definition of slander in Islamic law. It is actually that you do not say something that the person you’re talking about does not want known. So it may be completely true. But it must not be said. If it’s said, it’s slander. This is why people like Andy and me are often charged with slandering Islam just for telling the truth about it.
But criticism of Islam is especially unacceptable when it comes from non-Muslims. Now, this is a direct assault on the freedom of speech. If we cannot talk about this problem, then we cannot resist it. If we cannot speak out against the tyrant, which is why freedom of speech is in the Bill of Rights to start with, then the tyrant wins. And this is exactly what is being put in place.
Hillary Clinton told the father of one of the agents who were killed in Benghazi — she said — we’re going to get that filmmaker arrested and imprisoned. Why the filmmaker? We know now that it had nothing to do with the filmmaker. And we still don’t know all the details of what happened. But one thing we know that they did not kill Ambassador Stevens and the others in Benghazi for was because of this video about Mohammad.
So think about the implications of Obama and Hillary Clinton, and Susan Rice and Jay Carney, and all the rest of them, going out repeatedly and saying it was all about this video. What they were in essence doing was blaming the freedom of speech, and saying if we would just be quiet and stop talking about Mohammad, and stop noticing that he was a warlord and a pedophile and everything else, then everything would be okay. It’s our responsibility to make them behave by not insulting them, and therefore by only saying the things that they want us to say, in which case we are accepting Sharia restrictions on the freedom of speech, and we have already surrendered, and the jihad can proceed unimpeded.
And the imperative of the jihad, the point, is not just to blow up buildings. The point is to impose Sharia upon the world and make us submit to the rule of Muslims, as inferiors denied basic rights, including the freedom of speech. So this whole thing is a Sharia initiative.
And as was pointed out during Hillary’s testimony, much-belated testimony about Benghazi, the only person who is in prison for the Benghazi attacks, to this day, is that poor filmmaker. Now, of course, he has a rap sheet, and he seems to be some sort of unsavory character. And he violated his probation. He violated the terms of his probation by going on the Internet to upload the video, because he wasn’t supposed to go on the Internet. And so he is in prison. He’s been in prison now for months.
Now, let me ask you this — don’t you think that there are almost certainly many more severe violators of probation out on the streets today, and nobody cares? People get released from prison all the time and are out there and commit more crimes. I mean, this is, of course, a national problem. But we’ve got to get this filmmaker into prison. Obviously, he is, for whatever may be on his rap sheet, a political prisoner. And he is a political prisoner for the freedom of speech. He is a political prisoner for the imposition of Sharia restrictions on the freedom of speech in the United States. And this is the work of Barack Obama having transformed the United States government into, as the Egyptian magazine said, the largest and most important supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood.
And so, what can we do now? Well, I think that in the first place, we have to confront the rot where it is. And it is in our own house. And every Republican politician that is afraid to stand up to Grover Norquist and the infiltration he has enabled has to be called out on it. And Grover Norquist himself has to be confronted with this and his influence ended in the party. And if the Republican Party isn’t going to do this, then we’re going to have to do something else, and make a new party.
The stakes here are very high, and the time is very short. America is possible to be saved. But if we do not arrest this erosion of the freedom of speech within the next few years, then we won’t have the chance to do so anymore. Because it will become an arrestable offense to speak out against what’s going on. And if you don’t think that can happen — and people tell me all the time, you know, we have the First Amendment, and so that can never happen — the First Amendment doesn’t enforce itself or protect itself. It’s words written on a piece of paper. It is up to all of us to act to make sure that that First Amendment remains a live and active law in the United States. All it takes is five Supreme Court justices on the side of Barack Obama saying that so-called hate speech is not protected speech under the First Amendment, and we’re done.
And you would say — well, I don’t commit any hate speech. Well, neither do I. But that’s what they call what we do. And that’s how they will outlaw it.
And so I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news. But it is up to us all to act. Nobody else is going to do it. And so I encourage you all, wherever you are and whatever your resources, and whatever your situation, to do everything you can, to call upon your elected officials, or to get them out and get in new elected officials who will confront this issue, confront it head-on, confront it hard, and clear out the Republican Party or start a new party that will deal with it before it’s too late, which it will be very soon.
Thank you very much.
John Solomon: I want to talk about three trend lines that my reporting in the last few months, I think, indicate where the war on terror is going, and where the American people probably need to be better educated.
And the first thing is that the war is shifting from a very traditional way that it’s been carried out by the Islamist organizations that have done it, particularly al-Qaeda. There have been these forums and these websites that have been the predominant way that they’ve communicated their plans, their successes and their after-messages.
But in the last few months, we’re seeing an interesting shift. They’re shifting more to social media, to Twitter and to Facebook. And one might say, what’s the difference — what’s the big deal about that? The deal is, when they were in these forums, in these long-established websites, it was easy for US intelligence to monitor them. Many times, we went in — I think al-Qaeda knew we were there.
In this new change that’s begun, people are allowed to set up these Twitter accounts. They can start propagating their message. It make take six hours or even six days before US intelligence can completely understand that there’s a new Twitter address, a new Facebook, that’s propagated a message. And it’s begun to slow down some of the intelligence-gathering that we’ve gotten used to doing.
And so, our enemy clearly has adapted. And I think this is a storyline, in talking to intelligence people in the last few months, that they’re very worried about. There was a recent example where an al-Shabaab terrorist had opened up a Twitter account — four or five days of significant communication in Africa about plans and other things. US finally caught onto it. They went to Twitter; Twitter shut down the account. And within just a few hours, he opened up another account. And because you can poke people and start a trend, it took us some time before we knew again that this al-Shabaab was communicating on the Internet.
I think this is going to be one of the challenges of 2013, and we’re going to see a need, if the Internet companies are willing to, to work more closely with intelligence in ways they haven’t done before. That’s the first storyline that my reporting indicates.
The second one is I think there’s a growing concern in US intelligence that the traditional a-lateral terrorist al-Qaeda, kind of working on its own, may increasingly be engaged with state-sponsored terrorism and the possibility that the next wave of attacks that we see will be far more sophisticated. There’ll be perhaps a cyber-attack that paralyzes a city in America, followed by a series of more traditional attacks with explosives or other things that we’ve seen or experienced in horrific ways.
I know this in part because on the eve of the last election, when Obama was about to win, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta gave a very horrifying speech. And I don’t know how many of you heard it, because most of the news media didn’t cover it that night. But he basically talked about how much infiltration the American infrastructure had suffered through cyber-attacks. And he talked very candidly to the New York Economic Club that there was going to be a time in the not-so-distant future where the wave of terror would be a state-sponsored attack, maybe a cyber-attack, on the power system or the financial systems. It would bring America to its knees in one arena, and then in would come in these traditional, a-lateral terrorists who would carry out the sort of deadly mayhem that we’ve seen in all the attacks [so far].
I think that’s underreported. And the concerns, when I talk to folks in the FBI and the CIA, is this is the worst-case scenario. And they see the early signs of Iran, North Korea and our other enemies beginning to engage with groups that they used to keep arm’s length away because it wasn’t in their diplomatic interest. And I think that trend line, as I talk to people in both US intelligence and in the Western diplomatic world, is a growing concern among Americans.
But the thing that I most am concerned about is about my own profession, and the extraordinary brain-drain that has occurred over the last four or five years as a result of the economic downturn. Now, when I grew up in the profession, most of the people I learned from were not afraid to ask difficult questions at a White House press conference. They certainly would not have accepted as easily as the media did the early explanations of Benghazi. Just common sense told us that that could not have been a spontaneous protest. You didn’t have to be a genius to figure out that people don’t show up at spontaneous protests with mortars and RPGs, not even in Libya.
And yet, none in the media were willing to ask the questions that needed to be asked — what has happened? And what I like to call [it] is there’s a benign neglect within the media, caused mostly by financial pressures. But it’s resulted in this incredible — centuries of knowhow have walked out of newsroom with buyouts in the last couple of years. And expertise and courage, the skill that you get by being a journalist for 25 years, to ask a hard question, not to be afraid to go against the grain in the press briefing with the White House Press Security and the Pentagon Press Secretary — it’s really been depleted from our industry. And as a result, we’re beginning to see really extraordinary impact.
And I call it benign in the sense that I don’t think the media did this intentionally and said — boy, we’re going to do this, and we’re all in the tank for Obama. I think just the economics created a sort of unexpected shredding down of our capabilities. But its extraordinary consequences are not benign whatsoever. If we’re going to understand and win the war on terror, we have to have a basis of facts upon which to do that — concrete, in-depth facts, understanding and analysis. And we’re not getting that in the media today very much.
The brain-drain is everywhere. When I was executive editor of the Washington Times in 2008, I had six full-time reporters dedicated to national security, names you probably have all heard of — Bill Gertz, Rowan Scarborough, Sara Carter — real names, people who for 25 years knew every nook and cranny of the Pentagon or the CIA. And when someone spoke a word that wasn’t truthful, they were able to get the truth and get it out.
When I went back to the Washington Times just a few months ago, in a consulting role, they’re down to one national security reporter. That’s one of your papers, papers that I know you’ve come to trust. The economics of the profession have drained it in such a way that it’s really begun to affect the American dialogue.
The President said in his State of the Union address that al-Qaeda is nearly defeated and weakened in ways that we could never imagine a few years ago. If you were to talk to the three- and four-star admirals and generals that I talk to every day, they do not believe that at all, but they’re afraid to speak up for fear of retribution. But they see a reconstituted al-Qaeda that’s seeping into new societies in Syria and Mali and Algeria, and taking the knowhow that they learned at the Afghan training camps maybe 10 and 12 years ago and spreading it among these sort of amorphous groups that are spreading across numerous [unrestful] areas and across the world. But you wouldn’t know that from the media because we haven’t reported it, nor do we have the access that we used to have to three- and four-star generals.
I wonder often if the sort of journalists that I grew up with and learned from — if we would really be calling the Middle East uprisings the Arab Spring or whether we might really call them the American Autumn, a weakness in national security, an inability to address a situation and at least protect American interests across the globe. And I think that lack of dialogue in the media today is a direct result of the fact that we’ve shrunk down capabilities. We now have 22-year-old kids covering beats that 40- and 50-year-old experts used to cover on a daily basis.
But the final example is the one that most personally motivated me to do something. And that was the Benghazi story. I had just started my new publication called “The Washington Guardian” on Labor Day weekend. And just a few days later, the terrible tragedy occurred in Benghazi. I woke up the morning of September 12th. I was actually headed on a flight within 24 hours to go to Switzerland for a corporate board meeting. And I got a call at 6 o’clock in the morning, rolled out of bed. And it was a diplomatic source of mine saying — listen, the diplomatic core has just suffered its 9/11. What happened in Libya is awful. You need to get some reporting done, John.
And so I got on the phone, I started calling around. The very first thing I came across were a series of IG reports at the State Department, recently published but no one had written about — another sign of our profession — that said diplomatic security was a mess all across the globe, and that there are all sorts of exemptions and problems and lack of resources. And there were things that Congress had instructed the State Department to do that they didn’t do. There was even a comment from one of Secretary Clinton’s chief advisors saying — we knew we had to do this legally, but we didn’t have the money, so we just didn’t do it.
I thought that would be a meaningful thing to do. So I quickly put that together, because the fog of war was still in Libya, and you couldn’t really tell what had happened yet; there were a lot of conflicting reports. So I put out a story, it got on the top of Drudge very quickly. And I waited and watched to see how the rest of the media would react in the next 24 hours.
And sure enough, the next morning, I opened up the Washington Post and I opened up the New York Times, two newspapers I grew up reading and trusting. And there were stories saying Secretary Clinton had done everything possible to protect the assets in Libya. Now, we know that’s not true. There have been great hearings by Congressman Royce, and we know that’s not true. Yet the media took that hook, line and sinker — if I may use a bad cliché — and went with it. So I was kind of amused by this.
Now, that same day, I started to read the very first stories of the Obama Administration storyline, which was — Benghazi was not an organized terror attack; it was a spontaneous protest over this anti-Islamist video, and that really [wasn’t]. I sat around, and I use the line I said before — it is impossible that people came to these protests with mortars. It just doesn’t happen.
So I started to call around. And within 40 hours of the attack on the Benghazi Consulate, I had a story, deeply sourced with more than a half dozen sources, saying that it was al-Qaeda, it was an organized attack, and it had absolutely nothing to do with the video. Now, that’s pretty interesting, because that was about the same time that I later learned that the President got the exact same briefing — that is was not a spontaneous attack; it was al-Qaeda in an organized attack.
But three days later, what happened? UN Ambassador Rice went on national television, gave the same story again. And for days later, even though I had put into the public domain concrete statements from the military and from the US intelligence services that this was an al-Qaeda attack, they went back to the same storyline. Why is that? I think there’s a couple questions — I think there’s a lack of knowledge, a lack of sourcing. But one of the things [UR] has reported — you’re as good as your sources. If you can’t reach the people who really know, you’re left to the spinsters to tell your stories. And too much of the young and inexperienced journalists in our profession today are left to that inexperienced route, and they get taken to the cleaners almost every day by people who are extraordinarily skilled at manipulating public opinion.
So the story rolls on. And for weeks and days afterwards, I continued to break other stories. I got contacted by the families of the two Navy Seals — they were not the security for the ambassador, they didn’t lose the ambassador; they were CIA guys. I wrote that story. The very next day, the New York Times wrote a story contradicting my story.
As we know now, from the hearings and through the congressional impression that we had, these things have changed, and we now know the true storyline. But this diminishment of the media’s capability, I think, is as much a threat to the American discussion and dialogue about the threats that we face, the growing threats that we face, than anything else that we’ve talked about today. And I hope as you go home tonight you think about the sort of things that we need in the media. We need more capability, we need more investment. We need more reporters willing to challenge authority.
So, thank you for your time.
Unidentified Audience Member: As criticism of Islam becomes labeled as hate speech, what happens to the myriad of books you and others have written about —
Robert Spencer: Have you ever seen those pictures of the Nazis with the bonfires, [Stu]?
Unidentified Audience Member: Yeah, I was wondering.
And there’s movies and television shows, documentaries — is that all going to be burned?
Robert Spencer: Well, you know, obviously, this is the United States, and we have a long tradition of the freedom of speech and controversial literature. And so I did paint a grim picture, I know. But I don’t mean to say that we’d all be hustled off to the camps right away. It would be a struggle, and it would be difficult.
What I expect would happen — and I think this very well could happen during this administration the next four years — is that there is some hate speech law that’s passed that’s upheld by the Supreme Court, and then there’ll be some kind of test case, in which somebody — maybe me, maybe somebody else — is prosecuted for something that we said. And that in itself will cause a huge controversy, and there will be another discussion about the freedom of speech.
And then, how it plays out, I don’t know. Because then, if you have a law that’s been passed and upheld by the court — but a significant, a huge, element of the population is against it — well, there’s hope for free people. But how it could play out is anybody’s guess.
Unidentified Audience Member: First of all, thank you all for your work. It’s fabulous.
I have heard that the people that were rescued in Benghazi have been isolated. We haven’t heard anything — nothing from any of them. Is that true?
Robert Spencer: Yes.
John Solomon: Yeah.
Unidentified Audience Member: Where are they being isolated?
Andy McCarthy: The administration’s stonewall. No one can get to them. And what I understand — actually, John, you probably know more about this than I do. But the journalists even say they can’t get to them — even all their normal sources.
John Solomon: It’s been very difficult to get any facts on it. We don’t know — we have not yet seen the autopsy from Ambassador Stevens. We don’t know how he died. We don’t know the real reason he was in Benghazi on September 11th, when all the warning signs would suggest that would be the last place you’d want to be if you were in Libya that day. We don’t have many of the answers.
And part of the question is — I don’t think our Congress has asked all of the questions that we need, and certainly the media hasn’t. But there has been a significant effort at keep-away from journalists. Normally — if you saw after the Tehran Embassy, all the folks came back after 445 days of captivity, they were all interviewed — none of the people in Benghazi have been allowed to be interviewed. They’ve been very — and when you try to call them, you’re told they can’t take the call, they’ve been instructed not to discuss the matter, because it’s still under investigation.
Now, if after six months the FBI hasn’t figured out what’s happened, then I guess we don’t have very many capabilities. I think the fact of the matter is the administration doesn’t want the full storyline out there. And it’s been very difficult to get any response whatsoever.
Unidentified Audience Member: So are they political prisoners in the same way that the person who did the video is?
Robert Spencer: Well, they’re not prisoners in the sense of being in jail. They’re basically suppressed by virtue of the fact that they have governmental obligations that prevent them from speaking out if they want to maintain their government positions. And they have superiors in the administration that won’t allow them to speak —
Unidentified Audience Member: Okay.
Robert Spencer: — probably on condition of their employment. In terms of why the press can’t find them, I think it’s because none of them was in the third grade with Sarah Palin. Because if that was true, I think we’d know exactly where they are [at this moment].
Unidentified Audience Member: Andy, would you be able to comment on the possibility of the Blind Sheikh being released, and the other rumor that he was going to be exchanged for Ambassador Stevens?
Andy McCarthy: I thought the Blind Sheikh would’ve been released if Obama had lost the election. I thought that he would’ve been released in that 11-week period between Election Day and Inauguration Day. The reason I think that goes back to — do you remember — it’s probably over a year ago that those democracy activists — most of them, I think, were connected to the International Republican Institute, which is an outfit that McCain is the chair of? It was not reported in the American press. But the Egyptian press was reporting that they were talking about a swap of the Blind Sheikh with the democracy activists. And the Egyptian press actually was saying that the suggestion was coming from the State Department, you know, not the other way around.
In short order after that, a couple of things happened that I thought were pretty funky. One was the State Department spokeswoman, Ms. Nuland, got asked about this. And she said — I don’t think we’ve discussed that with the Egyptians for awhile. All you could take away from that is they hadn’t talked about springing the Blind Sheikh like in the last 10 minutes. But who knows how often they had talked about it?
But the other thing — and this should outrage everyone — is there is a guy named Hani Nour Eldin, who is a member of the Blind Sheikh’s terrorist organization, Gamat al Islamiyya, the Islamic group, which is a formally designated terrorist organization under American law, which means if any of you did anything to support them, that would be a serious felony under federal law. The Obama Administration issued him a visa. I should mention that this is because under the magic of Islamic democracy he went from on Monday being a terrorist to on Tuesday being a parliamentarian. So he’s now an Egyptian legislator. But he’s still a member of Gamat, and Gamat is still a terrorist organization.
They issued him a visa, and he was invited to come to the White House to talk about our foreign policy with the Deputy National Security Advisor. And of course, the first thing he did, reportedly, was demanded the freedom of the Blind Sheikh. So, you know, these guys kind of have a one-track mind.
But Morsi, looking at all this — in his first public statement after he was announced as the victor in the presidential election — said that one of his top agenda items would be to demand from the Obama Administration the freedom of the Blind Sheikh. So this has not gone away. They want to do it, and we have reason to think the State Department — which means the administration probably wants to do it, too, and that kind of makes me think it’ll get done.
Unidentified Audience Member: Can you speak to the Grover Norquist thing? You alluded to it earlier. I think most people know him as the tax guy. But they don’t understand that very close relationship he has with Islam. And can you amplify some of that for us?
Robert Spencer: Sure. Well, as I mentioned, he was a very close associate of Abdulrahman Alamoudi, who was the leading moderate Muslim in the United States in the ’90s. He was the head of the American Muslim Council, which was another Brotherhood organization. And Alamoudi is now in prison for funding al-Qaeda. Alamoudi, as the head of the American Muslim Council, when he was still known as a moderate, spoke on Capitol Hill. And he said — this was in the year 2000 — he said — hear this, Bill Clinton, we are all supporters of Hamas, we are all supporters of Hezbollah. And the Muslim crowd cheered.
So this guy was actually pretty clear about his allegiances. He was very close, however, to Norquist. There are canceled checks from him to Norquist for Norquist’s new organization that he was founding, which was actually for conservative Muslims to work within the Republican Party, the Islamic Institute.
And he is not the only one. Suhail Khan, who I also mentioned, is a protégé of Norquist’s. He was in the Department of Transportation for several years. He is — what is he now? I’m not sure what position he holds now, but he is on the board of the American Conservative Union, which runs CPAC. He’s on video talking about the glories of Islamic martyrdom. He’s very clearly — he’s never repudiated his father’s Muslim Brotherhood activities. He’s very clearly tied in with the network. He actually spoke at events recently in company with officials from the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Islamic Society of North America, both of which are again Muslim Brotherhood groups.
And yet, he is a conservative Republican — a social conservative and a mover and shaker in the Republican Party. And so, he and Norquist and their other associates have worked for years now within the Republican Party to bring Muslims in and to make the Republican Party hospitable to the Muslim Brotherhood agenda.
There is an American Muslim group that appears at CPAC every year. And they are very adept practitioners of the deception in Islam that you are probably familiar with — that Islam counsels deception of the unbelievers in order to — for the furtherance of Islam. One of the ways that’s done is to render them complacent, so they don’t think there’s anything to fight against, and then they don’t fight against what they’re doing.
And this group — it obfuscates Islamic doctrine, it says, as Obama and Brennan say, that jihad is simply an inner spiritual struggle and so on. And it presents itself there as a group that’s going to clear up misconceptions about Islam and so on. It confuses many conservatives, many Republicans, and makes them think that there’s nothing really to be concerned about, about Muslim Brotherhood activity in the United States.
There’s a great deal more that can be said. But this is wholly and solely the responsibility of Norquist, who has facilitated it all. And yet, he is an extraordinarily influential person in the Republican Party today. As the head of Americans for Tax Reform, Ronald Reagan asked him to start the organization. His conservative pedigree is impeccable, and his tax work is indefatigable and courageous. He has this tax pledge that Republican candidates signed saying that they will not vote for any legislation that raises taxes. And by this he gets these Republican candidates beholden to him, because he can bring them an awful lot of support from fiscal conservatives. And then they don’t dare contradict him or challenge or confront him in regard to this Muslim Brotherhood activity. And often, he ends up using them to help him facilitate that activity.
And so, this is a very serious problem that has to be confronted within the Republican Party if the Republican Party is going to form any kind of effective opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood infiltration that is being facilitated by the Democrats.
Jamie Glazov: Ladies and gentlemen, before we go, I’d like to panel to humor me for a minute — one minute each. In terms of Hagel, Brennan and Kerry, who scares you the most, and why? John?
John Solomon: All three of them, because they don’t talk to the media.
You know, I think all three are on a — they’re under the microscope. And I think this debate has been good, if for nothing else, to point out things that most of the media glossed over through all their careers up to this point. And whether they get through or not, there’s going to be a much more aggressive congressional and media approach to what they do. And I think that’s a good part of the democracy that has played out in these last few months. We had honest debate about the problems and their background.
Jamie Glazov: Robert, can you choose one?
Robert Spencer: No. Hagel, Brennan and Kerry are three heads of the same hydra. And they’re all the same. And you strike off one of them, and another one will grow just like it. I mean, Kerry is just the male Hillary. It’s all the same. Obama is not going to appoint anybody who is pro-Israel, and he hasn’t. He’s not going to appoint anybody who is anti-jihad. He hasn’t. These people are consistent. And it runs throughout his administration. And so, these are just the latest. But there are many others who are already there.
Andy McCarthy: For me, it’s an easy one. I think it’s Brennan. Brennan is the most monumental mismatch between man and mission in the history of appointees as far as I’m concerned, because our national security depends on — no matter how much of the Kool-Aid is being drunk throughout the government, our intelligence community has to be clear-eyed about what our threat environment is.
You cannot protect the country in a war against terrorists — this is not a traditional war, where it’s ever going to end, where, you know, we’re going to sit across a table with these guys and sign a treaty — intelligence is the only thing the war is about. Because it’s the way you find out where their cells are, it’s the way that you find out what they’re planning to hit next, and it’s the way that you protect not only the homeland but American interests throughout the world.
Brennan’s program since he has been in the Obama Administration has been to obfuscate what the threat is and to render our trainees, and even our experienced operatives, unable in an efficient way to decode what our threat environment is and steer policy in a way that has to be the way it’s steered in order to protect the country.
So Kerry’s going to be spending a third of his time on global warming.
I think Hagel — Hagel demonstrated himself to be, I think, fairly incompetent during his hearing. He would only scare me if I thought he wasn’t trying to hurt us. But Brennan, I think, is a menace. And in the particular environment we’re in now, that’s a severe problem.
Jamie Glazov: And let’s give our three wise men a hand, ladies and gentlemen.
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