The Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, is being widely criticized for his inaccurate comments about the Muslim Brotherhood but there’s a larger point being missed. He was trying to portray the Brotherhood as a moderate group and downplay its sinister motives. This severely flawed view, when combined with how he was embarrassingly unaware of major terrorist arrests in London, makes a strong case for his departure.
On Thursday, February 10, Clapper was testifying before the House Intelligence Committee when he began sounding like a Brotherhood apologist. He said that “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 described Al-Qaeda as a perversion of Islam.”
Clapper made it sound as if the Brotherhood lacks a central leadership and is just a brand name that various groups around the world use. In reality, the Muslim Brotherhood is based in Egypt and while its branches can act relatively independently based on their local conditions, they are united by their Islamist ideology and a plan to incrementally bring the world under Sharia-based governance. The Brotherhood has a Supreme Guide named Muhammad Badi who gives general direction for the worldwide movement.
The Brotherhood may be “very heterogeneous” in that Islamists can come from any social or economic background but that should not be mistaken for ideological diversity as Clapper seems to believe. His statement that it has “eschewed violence” is patently false, as its focus on non-violent methods is a matter of practicality, not conviction. The group has endorsed armed jihad against Western forces in Muslim countries and the Brotherhood cannot be distinguished from Hamas, which is one of its branches.
Article 2 of Hamas’ constitution makes this clear. “The Islamic Resistance Movement is one the wings of the Moslem Brotherhood in Palestine. Moslem Brotherhood Movement is a universal organization which constitutes the largest Islamic movement in modern times,” it says.
Even if Hamas somehow separated from the Brotherhood, the two remain ideological allies. The Muslim Brotherhood has never condemned Hamas and consistently and loudly supports it. The Brotherhood recently said it would use its influence in the next Egyptian government to revoke the peace treaty with Israel and told Egyptians to “prepare for war with Israel.” Those are not the commands of a non-violent organization.
Clapper’s mentioning of the Muslim Brotherhood’s denunciation of Al-Qaeda is an attempt to make it seem moderate by contrasting the two. This is as valid as trying to assuage the concerns of a community over the presence of an axe murderer by saying he’s condemned a serial killer. The Brotherhood supports the killing of innocent Israelis and its most influential theologian, Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi, has praised those waging jihad against U.S. forces in Iraq and said Muslims should ally with the Taliban against the American military in Afghanistan.
Al-Qaradawi has expressed his doubts about Bin Laden being involved in the 9/11 attacks and in November 2007, then-Supreme Guide Muhammed Mahdi Akef said that Bin Laden is “in all certainty, a mujahid [heroic fighter], and I have no doubt in his sincerity in resisting the occupation, close to Allah on high.” He clarified that he disagreed with Al-Qaeda’s attacks on civilians but endorsed their jihad against “occupation,” even saying the Brotherhood would send jihadists to fight in Iraq “if we are permitted.”
Clapper testified that the Brotherhood consists of “chapters of franchise…but there is no overarching agenda, particularly in pursuit of violence, at least internationally.” He is making the case that the actions of one Brotherhood affiliate cannot reflect upon another. A secret Brotherhood document stated that its “work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house…” FBI Director Robert Mueller said on the same day that the Muslim Brotherhood has supported terrorism inside the U.S. and outside the U.S. In order to agree with Clapper, you must believe that the Brotherhood of Egypt is more moderate than the Brotherhood of the U.S.
The most mind-numbing part of Clapper’s testimony was his description of the Brotherhood as being “largely secular.” This is easily dispelled by reading any Brotherhood document or listening to any of its leaders. It is unapologetically committed to establishing Sharia law. Clapper is contradicted by the CIA and State Department, which call the Brotherhood a "religious-based" group and a "potent political and religious force," respectively.
The DNI’s Director of Public Affairs rushed to rescue Clapper, saying that he meant that “in Egypt 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—he is well aware that the Muslim Brotherhood is not a secular organization.” That certainly does not sound anything like what Clapper said, but even if it was only an inarticulate moment, he was still trying to characterize the Brotherhood as less extreme than it really is.
The Director of National Intelligence’s laughable attempt to ease the concern about the Muslim Brotherhood closely follows President Obama’s statement that the Brotherhood “[doesn’t] have majority support” and “there are strains of their ideology that are anti-U.S., there is no doubt about it,” inferring that are moderate elements in the group. If there are such elements, they are not being heard and belong in another organization.
Supreme Guide Muhammad Badi is rabidly anti-American. In September, he branded Muslim regimes that prevent its citizens from waging jihad against Islam’s enemies as traitors and apostates. He predicted the demise of the United States, expressed his solidarity with the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and called for Muslim unity because “resistance is the solution.” He explicitly marked the U.S. and Israel as enemies to be fought.
“Resistance is the only solution against the Zio-American arrogance and tyranny, and all we need is for the Arab and Muslim peoples to stand behind it and support,” he said. The Brotherhood’s disagreement with Al-Qaeda is based on strategy and tactics, not goals.
This isn’t James Clapper’s only embarrassment. In December, he was interviewed alongside other top security officials by Dianne Sawyer. During the entire morning, the news was saturated with coverage about the arrests of a dozen suspected terrorists in London believed to have been planning to carry out attacks. The purpose of the interview was to assure Americans that President Obama’s homeland security team had a handle on the threats at home around the holidays, but it backfired when Clapper did not know about the arrests even though he’s the country’s highest-ranking intelligence official. If there was ever a time for Clapper to read the news, it was before this important interview.
The Obama Administration initially tried to make it seem as though Clapper was aware of the arrests, saying that Sawyer’s question was “ambiguous.” Clapper’s spokeswoman later admitted that he had not been briefed about the arrests before the interview or, apparently, read the news about it the entire morning. She said that “he wasn’t immediately briefed on London because it didn’t appear to have a homeland nexus and there was no immediate action by the DNI required.”
Terrorism expert Thomas Joscelyn dissected the absurdity of the spokeswoman’s defense of Clapper. The Director of National Intelligence is not tasked with a singular focus on the homeland but overseas the entire intelligence community. There was a “homeland nexus” as the terrorists were at least partly inspired by the Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen who joined Al-Qaeda and the plotters are believed to have the U.S. embassy included in its target list. Furthermore, the plots were foiled because the British had been tracking the suspected terrorist cell for months, something the DNI should have been made aware of even before their arrests.
James Clapper has shown himself to be inexcusably ignorant on critical matters and appears to take a dangerously benign view of the Muslim Brotherhood. The U.S. cannot afford to have a Director of National Intelligence who doesn’t understand the seriousness of the Islamist group’s threat just as it is poised to take power in Egypt. James Clapper needs to go.