The director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, astonished the House Intelligence Committee yesterday when he told members that the Islamist organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, was "largely secular," and had "eschewed violence." The statement demonstrated Clapper's profound ignorance toward one of the major players in the global Islamic terrorism movement, and seriously puts into question his competency as the head of the Department of National Intelligence.
In response to a question from Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC) about the threat posed by the Brotherhood, Clapper demonstrated in one fell swoop why he is singularly unqualified to head up the intelligence community of the United States government. Politico's Josh Gerstein quotes Clapper:
The term 'Muslim Brotherhood'...is an umbrella term for a variety of movements, in the case of Egypt, a very heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence and has decried Al Qaeda as a perversion of Islam. They have pursued social ends, a betterment of the political order in Egypt, et cetera.....In other countries, there are also chapters or franchises of the Muslim Brotherhood, but there is no overarching agenda, particularly in pursuit of violence, at least internationally.
(See video here.)
Middle East scholar Michael Ledeen believes that Clapper's ignorance is only half the problem. He notes that the DNI's remarks "are not his personal opinions; they are the collective judgment of the Intelligence Community." Indeed, one must assume when the Director speaks - especially in front of a congressional committee - that he has amassed the consensus opinions from every agency under his sweeping jurisdiction. If this is the case, what does that say about the perspicacity of our intelligence community? Is it really this dysfunctional? A frightening thought, to be sure.
This isn't the first time that Director Clapper has amazed America with his lack of knowledge about what is going on in the world. Last December, in a Diane Sawyer interview, he admitted he had no knowledge of a roundup of 12 terrorists in London that had been front page news that day and dominated the news cycle on the cable nets. Later, the White House tried to cover up Clapper's jaw-dropping ignorance by claiming that he was immersed in details of the START treaty.
Can we be comforted knowing that Clapper is not a multi-tasker?
Examining Clapper's remarks before the Intel Committee, one can't help but be astounded, and not a little bewildered at his cluelessness about the Brotherhood. It's not like the Islamists are trying to hide the nature of their organization, their goals, their history, or their reason for being.
As former CIA operations officer Brian Fairchild writes, there are no secrets between the Brotherhood and the rest of the world. Muhammad Mahdi Akef, the supreme guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, from 2004-2010 repeatedly made clear the religious nature of his organization. He said on December, 11, 2005, “The Muslim Brotherhood is a global movement whose members cooperate with each other throughout the world, based on the same religious worldview — the spread of Islam, until it rules the world."
Akef went on to say, “[W]e are in the global arena, and we preach for Allah according to the guidelines of the Muslim Brotherhood. All the members of the Muslim Brotherhood in the international arena operate according to the written charter that states that Jihad is the only way to achieve these goals.”
This is the organization Mr. Clapper referred to before the Intelligence Committee as "largely secular."
Again, it's not as if the spooks have to dig very deeply to ferret out the truth about these extremists. Here's a quote from Akef in which he makes it crystal clear that Clapper's contention that the Brotherhood has "eschewed violence" to be slightly premature. On August 17, 2004, he stated: “Islam considers the resistance to be Jihad for the sake of Allah and this is a commandment, a personal obligation [fardhayn] incumbent on all of the residents of the occupied countries. This commandment takes precedence over all other religious duties. Even a woman is obligated to go to war, even without her husband’s permission, and youth are permitted to go out and fight.”
How very peace-loving of them.
Then there's the Brotherhood's supposed animus toward al-Qaeda. No doubt AQ's #2 Ayman Al Zawahiri, who once headed a Muslim Brotherhood cell, rejected the extremists because they weren't violent enough for his tastes. But that didn't stop Akef from speaking admiringly of Osama bin Laden when he was asked if he thought Osama bin Laden was a terrorist or a jihad fighter. Akef responded: “Without a shadow of a doubt — a jihad fighter. I do not doubt the fact that he opposes the occupation, nor that he does this to get closer to Allah.”
I don't hear where the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood has "decried al-Qaeda as a perversion of Islam." If not a mutual admiration society between the Brotherhood and bin Laden, there appears to be a respect for al-Qaeda's intent to wage jihad in Allah's name.
Late yesterday, DNI spokesman Jamie Smith issued the inevitable correction, saying that Clapper is "is well aware that the Muslim Brotherhood is not a secular organization," and that what he was really trying to say was that "the Muslim Brotherhood makes efforts to work through a political system that has been, under Mubarak's rule, one that is largely secular in its orientation."
Does the White House believe that no one will watch the video? That's not even close to what Clapper said, or meant. His intent was crystal clear. He didn't stutter or fall over his words. He spoke confidently and appeared to be in command of the facts.
Of course, his "facts" were a little peculiar. You would think with all the fancy gizmos and gadgets they've got at Langley, that someone would plug them into the internet so they could find out what's really going on in the world. What took a few bloggers about 15 minutes to compile using basic search techniques, Clapper and his hapless crew of analysts couldn't discover with billions of dollars of high tech equipment.
It's time for James Clapper to resign.