By Patrick S Poole
June 15, 2013
A joint congressional inquiry in the September 11 attacks found that law enforcement had been investigating Awlaki’s contacts with terrorism suspects as far back as 1999. Further, just two days after September 11, Awlaki had described the terror attacks as an accident in an interview with a local television station. Also prior to his appearance at the Pentagon, The New York Times had noted Awlaki’s fiery anti-American rhetoric prior to the attacks, and in November 2001, he had defended the Taliban in an online chat about Ramazan on The Washington Post website. Thus, despite claims that Awlaki had been vetted before the Pentagon event, abundant evidence of Awlaki’s extremist views was more than readily available before he appeared at the Pentagon event.
Equally egregious was the invitation by the National Counter-terrorism Centre (NCTC) to Yasir Qadhi to speak on de-radicalisation at a conference in August 2008. At that time too, Qadhi’s extremist views (such as his statements denouncing “the hoax of the Holocaust”) were well known. Even more than that, at a Muslim outreach event in Houston in 2006, Homeland Security official Dan Sutherland was present when Qadhi openly admitted that he was on the terror watch list.
Yet no one at the NCTC bothered to question Qadhi’s de-radicalisation credentials. By the time he was invited to speak at the NCTC conference, at least one of Qadhi’s Houston students, Daniel Maldonado, had been captured by Kenyan forces fighting with the Somali al-Shabaab terrorist group. A number of other students from Qadhi’s Al Maghrib Institute programme have gone in to careers in terrorism, including Christmas Day underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, who attended a two-week training session in Houston sponsored by Qadhi’s group learning the ‘nuts and bolts of Islam’ from the cleric. Abdul Mutallab also attended two other events in the UK sponsored by Al Maghrib. If Yasir Qadhi is an expert in deradicalisation, one shudders to think what an expert in radicalisation might produce.
The NCTC under the Obama Administration continues this bipartisan policy of Muslim outreach disasters, best exemplified when they gave Shaikh Kifah Mustapha a tour of their top-secret facility as part of the FBI’s Citizen Academy civilian training programme in September 2010. Why was this so catastrophic? In 2007, Kifah Mustapha was named an unindicted co-conspirator by federal prosecutors in the largest terrorism financing trial in American history. During that trial, FBI agent Lara Burns testified that Mustapha was part of a singing troupe that glorified Hamas and encouraged the killing of Jews as part of the fundraising efforts for Hamas.
Yet months before participating in the FBI Citizen Academy programme and visiting the NCTC, Mustapha was removed as an Illinois State Police chaplain in the wake of media reports noting his long-time terrorist support activities. After Mustapha sued the State police for discrimination, a protective order was filed by the US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald that disclosed that the Chicago FBI’s Special Agent in Charge Robert Grant had warned State police officials that Mustapha would never be able to pass an FBI background check. One former FBI official told The Washington Times that Mustapha was ‘a known senior Hamas guy.’
None of that prevented the FBI Chicago field office from hosting Mustapha in the six-week Citizen’s Academy course, which included a guided tour of the NCTC and the FBI Academy at Quantico. Caught in an embarrassing situation, an FBI spokesman admitted to Fox News that he had in fact participated in the programme, but defended the decision, saying that he was “a prominent figure in the community.” A week later, FBI Director Robert Mueller doubled-down on Mustapha’s inclusion in the programme after he was questioned about it following a speech he had given, but refused to address the mountain of evidence that federal prosecutors and the FBI had compiled on the Hamas cleric, saying, “I am not going to talk about any particular individual.”
Court documents filed in March 2013 in a federal court by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan asked the judge for summary judgement against Mustapha’s lawsuit against the Illinois State Police. In them were revealed more warnings about Mustapha’s terror ties from the FBI Chicago field office. Ironically, this was the same office that a few months later invited Mustapha to participate in the FBI Citizens Academy, even telling Illinois State Police officials about the imam’s “demonstrable ties to an organisation that funded terrorism” and providing them a video of Mustapha singing lyrics in praise of Hamas and calling for violence against Jews as children danced around him carrying guns. Attorney General Madigan added that the information provided by the FBI Chicago officials conclusively showed that Mustapha’s activities “damage Illinois State Police due to its anti-Jewish and un-American content and manner.”
No matter how embarrassing the Kifah Mustapha incident was for the FBI and the NCTC, the Department of Homeland Security has no grounds to fault their colleagues, especially after Secretary Napolitano appointed Mohammed Elibiary to her Homeland Security Advisory Council in October 2010. Elibiary had previously served on the Department of Homeland Security’s Countering Violent Extremism Working Group, along with Mohammed Majid, despite his speaking at a December 2004 conference honouring Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini (an event that the Dallas Morning News editorialised as a “disgrace”).
Recently, Elibiary has billed himself as a “deradicalisation expert,” despite clear evidence of his previous defence of terrorist support organisations, his praise for jihadist authors, and his threats made against a Dallas journalist who repeatedly exposed his extremist views. His open support for jihadist ideological godfather Sayyid Qutb prompted The Washington Times to comment, “If Elibiary is one of his [Qutb’s] disciples, he has no business being anywhere in the Government, let alone as an adviser at the uppermost reaches of an agency that purports to protect the homeland.” Considering Mohammed Elibiary’s track record, it seems he has done more to promote violent ideology than to prevent it.