The deadly cost of replacing counterterrorism with a Muslim hearts and minds campaign.
The training materials dealt with such topics as the doctrinal basis for Jihad and the origins of terrorism in Islamic law. The story spread into the mainstream media, and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, whose leaders had endorsed terrorist groups and helped raise money for terrorists, began pressuring the FBI to recant the threat of Islamic terrorism.
In February of 2012, Amine El Khalifi was arrested for plotting to carry out a suicide bombing in the US Capitol building. Before he began his mission, he visited the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center, whose former Imam was Al Qaeda leader Anwar Al Awlaki and whose parishioners included Fort Hood terrorist Nidal Hasan. At his sentencing, El Khalifi said, “I just want to say that I love Allah.”
But that did not stop the FBI from announcing a few days later that it had completed purging references to Islamic terrorism from its training materials. A month earlier, Tamerlan Tsarnaev had begun his trip to Russia and by the time he returned, the training materials meant to prepare agents for the reality of the terrorist plot that he and his brother would carry out had been buried out of sight.
Where El Khalifi had failed in Washington, the Tsarnaev brothers would succeed in Boston.
The counterterrorism information purge had been completed by the time the lead Boston bomber returned to America, but it had begun earlier under Obama.
The 9/11 Commission Report had freely used terms like “Jihad,” “Takfir” and “Islam” to define the nature and motivations of the enemy. But the 2009 National Intelligence Strategy did not mention them. Neither did the FBI counterterrorism lexicon. They had been replaced by “violent extremism.”
Violent extremism is generic. Predicting an attack requires specifics. Investigators cannot stop undefined crimes or arrest undefined suspects. The less information they have to work with, the more likely the terrorists are to succeed.
Islam is the crucial link between disparate terrorist groups from Dagestan to Thailand, from Mali to Afghanistan, from Israel to Nigeria and from the United States to Chechnya. Without the Islam factor, there was no reason to suspect that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was a threat to anyone except the Russians.
The old FBI training materials had explained what Chechen, Pakistani, Egyptian and Nigerian terrorists had in common. In the new ones there was a great empty space in which facts died and lives were lost.
In 2011, the year that the Russians were warning America about Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Deputy U.S. Attorney General James Cole was issuing another kind of warning.
Cole, an Obama recess appointment, said, “All of us must reject any suggestion that every Muslim is a terrorist or that every terrorist is a Muslim. As we have seen time and again – from the Oklahoma City bombing to the recent attacks in Oslo, Norway – no religion or ethnicity has a monopoly on terror.”
While Islam might not have an absolute monopoly on terrorism, it had cornered the market. If terrorism were a search engine, Islam would be Google. If terrorism were an operating system, Islam would be Microsoft. If terrorism were a mail delivery service, Islam would be the United States Post Office.
While a new generation of law enforcement officers was being indoctrinated in terrorism denial and taught to watch out for Christian, Jewish and Buddhist terrorists, the real terrorists were hard at work.
On the tenth anniversary of September 11, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev murdered three Jewish men. The authorities wrote it off as a drug murder, even though all the drugs had been left behind.
In December of that year, the White House oversaw the release of Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States. Written by an apologist for Islamic terrorism who described Salafism as a primarily non-violent movement, the report staked everything on outreach to local mosques and institutions.
The new CVE counterterrorism strategy, the non-battlefield version of the disastrous COIN program being run in Afghanistan, pinned counterterrorism strategy on working with “local partners” to counter “violent extremism.” The report never mentioned the word “Jihad” and emphasized that violent extremism could come from anywhere.
CVE outsourced counterterrorism to Islamic mosques and organizations, despite their history of links to terrorism. With CVE, the United States no longer had a counterterrorism strategy; it had a Muslim Hearts and Minds strategy.
The day after the Benghazi attack, a CVE conference was held featuring discussions on how to make moderate Muslim videos go viral. Other efforts included world tours for moderate Muslim rappers. Hundreds of millions of dollars were being spent on various outreach gimmicks overseen by law enforcement officers wasting their time while terror plots were being hatched in their own backyards.
A Rand report praised the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization for bringing together Muslims, Christians and Jews and having local mosques host sessions on the dangers of the Internet. GBIO included the Islamic Society of Boston, whose mosque Tamerlan Tsarnaev attended. The Islamic Society of Boston’s extensive terrorist links had been overlooked in the eagerness to find moderate Muslim partners.
The Boston Marathon attack changed nothing at all. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was given a Miranda reading, like the Christmas Day bomber and the Times Square bomber before him. Obama had attempted to give 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed a civilian trial and plotted to give Osama bin Laden a civilian trial if he could be captured alive. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s atrocities certainly did not force him out of the civilian justice system and into the custody of military interrogators who might have gleaned everything about the terrorist plot and the terrorist plots to come.
The Mirandizing of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was the final step in a counterterrorism policy of calculated ignorance and appeasement. At each step, law enforcement was pressured into trading awareness and investigation for outreach and sensitivity.
The new strategy said that the best way to fight Islamic terrorism was by not offending Muslims, but the Hearts and Minds campaign failed in Afghanistan and it failed in Boston. Pretending Islamic terrorism did not exist, did not make Muslims more willing to turn over terrorists. Instead it made law enforcement less aware of Muslim terrorist threats and cost the lives and limbs of Americans.
Terrorism cannot be fought in the dark. Each step that Obama took to blind law enforcement to the Muslim threat and to give terrorists every possible privilege has been paid for with American blood.
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