Terrorism Training Casts Pall Over Muslim Employee

John Guandolo

This cottage industry of “terror experts” needs to be reanalyzed. Walid Shoebat, John Guandolo, Robert Spencer, and there are many more.

Terrorism Training Casts Pall Over Muslim Employee

by DINA TEMPLE-RASTON (NPR)

The man at the center of this story is 59-year-old Jordanian-American Omar al-Omari. He looks very much like the college professor that he is — tweed jacket, button-down shirt, thick round glasses, drinking coffee. We met at a coffee shop near downtown Columbus, Ohio, where he laid out a series of events that ended with him being accused of having links to terrorism.

“Actually, I was out of town, out of state, attending a conference and on my way back to Columbus,” Omari said, “and I received a call from one of the attendees of this conference in which I was told my name was used repeatedly during the training. Apparently I was labeled as a suspect. They personalized the attacks. There was a promise to dig into my background, and basically, as an Arab-Muslim American, they thought I’m a suspect.”

Omari was singled out at a three-day seminar for local police and law enforcement in the Columbus area last April. The class was part of a larger nationwide initiative to help local law enforcement not just understand terrorism, but perhaps find ways to stop it. The Obama administration has set aside millions of dollars to fund these training programs, and, not surprisingly, that money has helped create an industry in which self-styled terrorism experts contract themselves out to local police departments as terrorism tutors.

There is no certification process to vet the experts. They simply present their resumes and, often through word of mouth, they get hired. The trainers tend to be former government officials. Sometimes they have had key roles in the federal government fighting terrorism. Just as often, they have not. There’s growing evidence that many of these training sessions are providing officers at the grass roots with a biased view of Muslims in America. That is what appears to have happened to Omari.

The training at the Columbus Division of Police took place over three days in mid-April 2010. The course was titled “Understanding the True Nature of the Threat to America.” Broad outlines of the curriculum are posted on the trainers’ website. The course includes a discussion about the Muslim Brotherhood in the United States; Islamic law as it relates to jihad; and the trainers say they will provide “specific examples of Muslim Brotherhood/Islamic Movement activity in the locale in which the presentation is given.” It was in that context that Omari became a target.

One of the trainers in Ohio that day was a man named John Guandolo. He’s a former FBI agent and former Marine. According to people in the training class that day and Guandolo himself, a photograph of Omari with members of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a local Muslim advocacy group, was put up on the screen. According to the people who were there, Guandolo and the other visiting trainers didn’t say outright that Omari was a terrorist, but they suggested that he had links to bad people — people who were members of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and even al-Qaida.

“I stand by what I said that day about Omari,” Guandolo told me, though he declined to say so on tape. “The facts are on my side.”

Now, to understand why the accusations against Omari were so surprising, it is important to know that at the time he ran a key Muslim outreach program for the state of Ohio. What he was doing for the state’s Department of Public Safety was considered so effective, counterterrorism officials in Washington sent him overseas to talk about it.

Omari is from Jordan. He has been living in the U.S. for 30 years, and he’s an American citizen. Even so, for people in the counterterrorism class in Columbus that day, it seemed entirely possible that he could be a terrorist. And that reaction in the room surprised a lot of people — most notably Deputy Chief Jeffrey Blackwell of the Columbus Division of Police. Blackwell is now in charge of the division’s homeland security unit.

“I was shocked,” he said. “I was shocked that a person at Omar’s level in the state of Ohio in the Department of Public Safety would have his picture displayed by an anti-terrorism group. His reputation was impugned incredibly by the speakers.”

Blackwell and other officials suspended the class to make sense of what happened. “We had a meeting and we discussed what we were witnessing right before our very eyes, what was transpiring in the lecture hall,” Blackwell said. What was so strange about Omari being singled out was that nearly everyone in the room knew him, or at least had heard of him. He was one of Ohio’s most high-visibility Muslims. Many of the visiting officers and Columbus officers had actually worked with Omari on outreach in the Muslim community.

“I knew him really well,” Blackwell said. “And I thought he was a great professional, so that was part of the reason why I was so surprised when his picture popped up in the presentation.”

But for some reason, maybe because former government officials said Omari couldn’t be trusted, Blackwell watched as some people in the room were ready to believe the worst.

“There were a large amount of people there that felt the class was in fact appropriate — that the finger-pointing and the name-calling and the nexuses that were developed and discussed were appropriate to discuss,” he said. “And then you had a huge percentage that were equally and diametrically opposed to that way of teaching and the substance of the anti-terrorism class.”

And the lesson Blackwell took from their reaction?

“That as Americans we are all over the board on our feelings about the terrorism issue,” he said. “And as a law enforcement professional, even law enforcement is divided in how they view people.”

The next day, some people came to Omari’s defense. The head of the local Joint Terrorism Task Force and one of the FBI’s top agents in Ohio both arrived at the academy and assured the class that Omari wasn’t a terrorism suspect. Everyone says that at that point the room erupted in shouts. Half the officers sided with Omari. The other half trusted the trainer, Guandolo. Blackwell said they assumed he must be privy to intelligence on Omari that he wasn’t revealing.

Guandolo suggested when I interviewed him on the phone that there were things he knew about Omari that the FBI didn’t. “We know we have our facts right, because we have to,” Guandolo said. (Nearly a dozen sources contacted by NPR in the intelligence community, the FBI and at the Department of Homeland Security said Omari has no links to terrorists or terrorism. They said the accusations against him are unfounded.)

Bill Braniff, who is in charge of the training program at the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, sees what happened in Ohio as part of a larger problem.

“I think this is something that happens across the nation fairly consistently,” he said. “No one is tracking this with numbers, but anecdotally we are hearing about it all the time. The Muslim-American community is being preyed upon from two different directions. One, the jihadist recruitment and radicalization that is actively preying on their sons and daughters; and two, the elevated levels of Islamophobia — Islamophobia at worst and distrust and alienation at best.”

That distrust had real consequences in Columbus. Omari lost his job with the state of Ohio, though not because of claims that he had ties to terrorism. After that training session, officials began digging into Omari’s past, and they eventually found something: They discovered that his employment application was incomplete. He hadn’t listed all of the schools where he had worked before taking the job with the state of Ohio. Omari says he just listed places where he had taught relevant courses — courses that touched on Middle Eastern studies. But he was fired anyway — some six months after the training session.

Federal officials familiar with the case say Omari was singled out because he distinguished between extremist Muslims and mainstream Muslims in his outreach and training programs. Guandolo, the trainer, had a different view. When he talked to me about Muslim groups in the U.S., he spoke in terms of whether or not Muslims were patriotic.

Omari, for his part, still can’t believe he got fired. “I lost a lot of things over this,” he said. “I lost respect, dignity, reputation — everything really was connected with that, and definitely, you know, how could you defend yourself?”

Chief Blackwell says even more than a year after the episode, he’s still upset. “That was not a good day, in my opinion, for the Columbus Division of Police or law enforcement in general,” he said.

Omari filed suit last week against the Ohio Department of Public Safety and several individuals for wrongful dismissal. He said he’d love to get his job back. And the trainers who came to the Columbus police department? One of them is scheduled to hold another training session in August at the CIA.

PRA: “Manufacturing the Muslim Menace” by Thomas Cincotta

Now the actual study, entitled “Manufacturing the Muslim Menace: Private Firms, and the Threat to Rights and Security,” is well worth the read. It recounts the pervasive atmosphere of Islamophobia and reliance on Islamophobes at the most and ignorance at the least amongst security officials, trainers and others and the corrosive effect in can have on our rights and national security.

Here is an excerpt from the “Executive Summary” of the report:

“Manufacturing the Muslim Menace: Private Firms, and the Threat to Rights and Security”

Since the September 11, 2001 attacks by al Qaeda Homeland Security Professionals Conference,on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, the fed- eral government has mobilized law enforcement agencies at all levels into a coordinated national defense against future terror attacks. To meet this challenge, the growing ranks of the domestic security apparatus—including local police, transit, port, and other agencies not traditionally involved in counterterrorism—require training. The George W. Bush administration’s declaration of “war on terror” bolstered a private counterterrorism training industry that offers courses on topics ranging from infrastructure reinforcement to terrorist ideology.

A nine-month investigation by Political Research Associates (PRA) finds that government agencies responsible for domestic security have inadequate mechanisms to ensure quality and consistency in ter- rorism preparedness training provided by private vendors; public servants are regularly presented with misleading, inflammatory, and dangerous informa- tion about the nature of the terror threat through highly politicized seminars, industry conferences, trade publications, and electronic media. In place of sound skills training and intelligence briefings, a vocal and influential sub-group of the private counterterrorism training industry markets conspiracy theories about secret jihadi campaigns to replace the U.S. Constitution with Sharia law, and effectively impugns all of Islam — a world religion with 1.3 billion adherents—as inherently violent and even terroristic.

Walid Shoebat, a popular “ex-Muslim” speaker used by multiple private training firms, recently told the audience at an International Counter-Terrorism Officers Association (ICTOA) conference, “Islam is a revolution and is intent to destroy all other systems. They want to expand, like Nazism.”1 Another private sector counterterrorism trainer, John Giduck, told a Homeland Security Professionals Conference “Going back to the time of Mohammed, Muslims’ goal has been to take over the world.”2 Walid Phares, who teaches for The Centre for Counterintelligence and Security Studies and the National Defense University, argues that “jihadists within the West pose as civil rights advocates”3 and patiently recruit until “[a]lmost all mosques, educational centers, and socioeconomic institutions fall into their hands.”4 These “jihadists” put off militant action, Phares claims ominiously, “until the ‘holy moment’ comes.”5 Solomon Bradman, CEO of the training firm Security Solutions International (SSI), likewise claims that a Muslim stealth jihad threatens the United States from within. Such assertions are far from benign. Asked by a PRA investigator what she understood to be Shoebat’s solution to the Islamic threat he described at the ICTOA event previously mentioned, one audience member responded, “Kill them, including the children. You heard him.”6

Islamophobic statements like those above have the effect of demonizing the entirety of Islam as dangerous and “extremist,” denying the existence of a moderate Muslim majority, or regarding Islam gen- erally as a problem for the world.7 The private sector speakers and trainers PRA investigated routinely invoke conspiracy theories that draw upon deeply- ingrained negative stereotypes of Muslim duplicity, repression, backwardness, and evil.8 Islamophobia is “an outlook or world-view involving an unfounded dread and dislike of Muslims, which results in prac- tices of exclusion and discrimination” and may include the perception that Islam is inferior to the West and is a violent political ideology rather than a religion.9

The notion that a generalized Muslim menace poses an existential threat to the United States and western democracy contradicts official national secu- rity doctrine and undermines both domestic security and the constitutional rights of our citizens and resi- dents. Nonetheless, PRA’s investigation finds that public resources are being used to propagate this dangerous falsehood to the nation’s first responders, intelligence analysts, and other public servants.

SIOA is an Anti-Muslim Hate Group

Stop the Islamization of America

Stop the Islamization of America (SIOA), was created by anti-Muslim bloggers and activists Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer. It was born out of its parent organization Stop the Islamization of Europe (SIOE), an organization led by Anders Gravers (also a leader in SIOA), of whom Media Matters wrote,

Despite having put what she says is the “full video” of the event on her site, Geller actually cut out several comments made by Anders Gravers, the Danish Leader for the Stop the Islamisation of Europe. For instance, Geller’s video edits out Graver’s assertion that “[r]ape is also a part of” Muslims’ efforts to convert non-Muslims in Europe, and that “[d]emocracy is being deliberately removed” from the European Union by “incorporating Muslim countries of North Africa and the Middle East in the European Union.” Gravers went on to explain (in a portion of the speech that Geller did include) that the purpose was to gain “some European control of oil resources” at the cost of the “introduction of Sharia law and removal of democracy” in Europe. No, really. Check out this exclusively un-edited portion of his remarks (transcript available here)

SIOE’s motto is, “Racism is the lowest form of human stupidity, but Islamophobia is the height of common sense.” It was criticized by John Denham, Labour’s (UK) Communities Secretary, who stated that it was “trying to provoke violence on Britain’s streets” and called it “right-wing.” The group calls for a boycott of all Muslim majority countries and some countries with sizable Muslim minorities such as Cameroon. It calls on its followers to avoid Fisher Price, Asda, Kentucky Fried Chicken and The Radisson Hotel chain for apparently pandering to the Muslim community (via. Wiki).

SIOA’s declared mission is to educate Americans,

about the threat that Islamic doctrine and those who support it present to our freedoms, and the future of our democracy and country.” The organizers call themselves “scholar warriors/ideological warriors in the cause of American freedom and Constitutional government,” as well as in “the defense of… our society of liberty, knowledge, and human decency

The declared mission gives us a scent of the absurdity that is SIOA, what else can “the threat of Islamic doctrine and those who support it” mean except “Muslims.” In other words the groups mission is to educate Americans about the “threat that Muslims present to freedom.”

However, to capture the full extent of bigotry and inciting hatred of Islam and Muslims that is the substance of the organization we have to look no further than its founders, members and supporters. It is a hatred that gives platform to all the destructive rhetoric and conspiracies about Muslims that we have detailed here at Loonwatch, including: nuke and kill all the Muslims and their holy places, Obama is a Mooslim, Muslim demographic take over of the West, extolling the Crusades, etc. The group also seems to bring together radicals from a variety of backgrounds: Christian Zionists, Extreme Jewish Nationalists, Tea Partiers all united in hate for Muslims.

US Government Rejects SIOA Trademark

Soon after SIOA was launched, both Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer attempted to have their organization’s trademark patented. They assumed that it would go through without a problem but they didn’t expect what came next. The patent office rejected SIOA’s attempt to patent its trademark because of its anti-Muslim nature,

The applied-for mark refers to Muslims in a disparaging manner because by definition it implies that conversion or conformity to Islam is something that needs to be stopped or caused to cease.

“The proposed mark further disparages Muslims because, taking into account the nature of the services (‘providing information regarding understanding and preventing terrorism’), it implies that Islam is associated with violence and threats,” the government agency said.

“The trademark examining attorney refers to the excerpted articles from the LEXISNEXIS® computerized database referencing how many Muslims view terrorists as illegitimate adherents of Islam. … Therefore, the suggestion that Islam equates terrorism would be disparaging to a substantial group of Muslims,” it said.

Accordingly, the applied-for mark is refused under Section 2(a) because it consists of matter which may disparage or bring into contempt or disrepute Muslims and the Islamic religion

The reaction from both Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer was unsurprising, to them it was a signal that Islam had permeated all of our government agencies. Pamela Geller wrote,

It is everywhere, folks, in every aspect of our lives from the big stuff (Major Hasan cover-up) to the minutia (trademark registration)

She doesn’t say what is “everywhere” but one can safely presume based on the written record freely available at her hate site that what she is referring to is the “evil tentacles of the Mooslims.”

SIOA

Undaunted by the rejection from the US Government, SIOA continued with its project. Pushing forward with their now infamous “Leaving Islam” ad campaign as well as opposition to the construction of Mosques and Muslim cultural centers, such as the high profile case of the Cordoba Center or what opponents are dubbing “the Ground Zero Mosque” because of its proximity to Ground Zero.

Both the anti-Mosque and anti-Islam Bus ad campaigns garnered a lot of media attention and were the scene of staunch anti-Muslim rhetoric.

In Miami, where the bus ads kicked off, the city having made a contract to run the ads became aware of the anti-Muslim and Islamophobic nature of the group and upon review made the right decision to remove the ads because they were “offensive.” Of course this riled up Geller and Spencer and they sued Miami which then essentially buckled rather then having to deal with law suits that would cause the city to lose money and time.

In New York, the bus ads went ahead without a hitch though many viewed it as Islamophobic and hateful. Detroit’s transit system however rejected the ads,

Detroit’s SMART bus system has rejected the button-pushing placards that read “Fatwa on your head? Is your community or family threatening you? Leaving Islam?” – and direct Muslims to a Web site urging them to leave the “falsity of Islam.”

“It’s a purely anti-Muslim hate issue,” Dawud Walid of the Council on American-Islamic Relations told the Detroit News on Friday.

“The SMART bus company, or any bus company, should not be used to marginalize a minority group.”

Defenders of the ads, dreamed up by Manhattan-based right wing blogger Pamela Geller and the New York-based Stop the Islamization of America, say it’s a free speech issue and they have sued.

“Americans have a right to know the truth; Islam is a religion of intolerance and violence,” said Michigan lawyer Richard Thompson, who filed the suit.

In New York, the ongoing divisive saga over a planned cultural center has been the scene of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim agitation. Pamela Geller inserted her group into the fray and now SIOA is taking a leading role in the opposition to a planned cultural center which is being dubbed by Geller and company the “Ground Zero Mosque,” though as Reza Aslan put it, it is “neither a mosque nor is it at Ground Zero.”

Some weeks ago SIOA held a protest against the “Mosque” in which protesters attacked two Arab looking men who they mistook for being Muslim. The police had to save them from the crowd, even though they were Arab Christians who came all the way from California to join the protest. That gives you an insight into the kind of people SIOA attracts.

SIOA Facebook Group

SIOA has over 10,000 members on Facebook and it is growing. The SIOA Facebook page is administered by Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer and Anders Gravers,

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It is truly an ode to hate mongering racism, incitement to violence, veiled threats of physical violence against Muslims, conspiracy theories, from birthers to Eurabia clowns.

Nuking Muslims and Mecca

One demented SIOA member believes that the “rules of engagement with Muslims” are “#1: Kill the enemy, #2: There is no rule #2,”

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Another doozie, this time from David Gaston. Apparently the Ghost Busters are out to start World War III,

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Another nuking fantasy from Ben Kjellssecondson (the last name sounds like it was put together by someone blindly tapping away at the keyboard),

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It isn’t only pyscho images, but in discussions members dispute with each other on which option, “nuking the Middle East” and killing all the “diaper heads” or wanting Israel to “conquer the whole Middle East” are better solutions to the Mooslim menace,

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There are more nuking and destroying Mecca and Muslim pics which we have saved but this gives you a taste and flavor of the annihilation of Muslims that many in SIOA want to see.

Murdering Muslims

David Gaston, still a member of SIOA posts what he calls “Army Math” next to a picture of dead Afghan civilians,

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This is particularly disturbing when we read that some SIOA members claim to be in the United States Armed Forces and add images with thinly veiled hints of physical violence against Muslims,

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This is something that the MRFF, Military Religious Freedom Foundation and the military should definitely look into. We are seeing a growing trend amongst members of the military who view Muslims as their enemy, and it is only simple mathematics to note that more than a few will not leave their hatred of Muslims at the battlefield but will bring it home.

Crusader Mentality

You can say that many in the SIOA have Biblical or Medieval mentalities — literally. They believe that Israel has a right to the land because it says so in the Bible, they believe the solution to terrorism is Crusades, they believe all of this is prophecy and that Jesus approves,

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More ghastly calls for violence in the name of Jesus,

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Did we mention that some of them really don’t like the Quran,

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Conspiracy Theorists

The paranoia and fear amongst many of the members of SIOA takes form in a number of ways. They hold all the crazy conspiracies that we are used to by now about President Obama: he is a Muslim, anti-Semite, Communist, anti-Christ, etc. They believe in the conspiracy theories of Eurabia, the myth that Muslim women’s wombs are the most dangerous weapons of all because they spell the demographic take over of the West, etc.

Obama and our leaders are anti-Semitic fascist Nazis,

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Obama wants to make America into a Muslim country,

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Another one from Ron Ben Michael, who earlier said Israel will rule the whole Middle East,

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Ron sees no difference between Obama and the other two. They’re all “evil Mooslims” trying to burn Israel.

Then there is the Muslim demographic time bomb, there were a number of pics related to this topic, but this one summed up all the craziness in one image,

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So what is the solution. Well, SIOA members won’t leave you dissapointed,

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Notice the comments. “Kick Muzzies ass out of Europe” and the prayer to Jesus, “I hope this one day happens.” Delightful.

The Fabulous Duo: Christian Zionists and Extreme Jewish Nationalists

While there are all sorts of wackos on SIOA, and some misguided ones who don’t know what they got themselves into, the majority of those attracted to SIOA seem to be Extremist Christians and Jews with a sprinkling of atheists. The SIOA Facebook page was littered with pics of Jesus, prayers to Jesus, Israeli flags, stars of David, etc.

For instance, what does this pic have to do with SIOA’s mission?

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The guy is totally insane, just look at his crazy comments.

Then there is this gem, from our friend Ron, which extolls the power of the Israeli Air Force,

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Disproportionate power anyone? How aboud David v. Golaith?

Conclusion

There are many more posts and pics that manifest the loonacy that is SIOA, and we have them all saved. The sad thing is that this is no laughing matter, these people are calling for murder and genocide. Some of it may be tongue in cheek but a lot of it reveals the inner depths of hatred that lurks inside and motivates this organization, which is one step removed from being the inspiration for an armed anti-Muslim vigilante group.

Even more reprehensible are the admins and creators of this organization, Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller who allow such vile, conspiratorial and dangerous pronouncements from their members. How could we expect any less, as is clear from mounting evidence, both Spencer and Geller share in the above views though at times not as explicitly as their followers.

Stop the Islamization of America is nothing less than a hate group that deserves to be monitored and observed by Homeland Security and the likes of the Southern Poverty Law Center. It is one of a plethora of extreme right-wing organizations that have arisen since Obama has taken office and should be included in any further report or update on the rise of right-wing extremism.

Any organization that targets a minority that makes up one percent of the population of America, claiming that the minority is trying to take over is beyond hysterical, it is a threat to the fabric of our nation.