A retired Navy guy decided to treat Spencer’s reporting on the dangerously bad training the FBI is giving its agents by offering a justification for that training with his own theological argument for why Muslims are dangerous.
For my own part, I would like to draw a necessarily blurry line between what Mr. Ackerman and the FBI call “main stream” American Muslims and the “pious and devout.” Because the possibility never occurs to the former at least that to be a pious and devout Muslim necessarily means super-ordinating the will of God, as expressed to his Prophet 14 centuries ago in an inalterable text, and that this potentially places the believer in conflict with the values of modern Western Civilization. Most will find a way to live with that conflict. A notable few, weak-minded or otherwise deficient, have spectacularly failed to do so.
Mr. Ackerman clearly sees this as a civil rights issue rather than one of understanding the threat to the Republic – and you’d have to be willfully blind to think there is no threat, regardless of how dangerously you choose to characterize it. He sees the affirmative and bountiful evidence of Muslims in America who are good citizens and looks no further. Steeped in the culture of Western liberalism, he declines to even recognize this possibility: To the degree you are a good Muslim, as defined by rigorously following and promoting the entirety of the Koran (with Islam lacking as it does any centralized institution to contextualize those 7th Century scriptures in a 21st Century world, what other definition could there be?) it becomes increasingly difficult to be a good citizen.
The prophet Mohammed is to his faithful the perfect man and final prophet. He took earlier Abrahimic traditions and crafted out of them the perfect book, with his own life as a perfect example.
There are secular Jews, who identify with the morality of their ethnicity more than its scriptural beliefs. There are so-called “salad bar” Catholics, who pretend devotion in every other way but for whom a woman’s right to choose is inviolable – Teddy Kennedy routinely got their votes. But none among their respective faiths could call them truly pious and devoted. There are Muslims who are good citizens who point out to us the more radically dangerous among them, and those of Islamic (as opposed to Islamist) traditions who eschew the active “lesser” Jihad to await God’s inevitable ordering of the world under Sharia. But to be a truly pious and devout Muslim – of the Wahabist and Salafist sects in particular – requires the follower to accept as unquestioned the guidance and example of Mohammed, and act on them, straight down the line. It is useful to remember that “Islam” means submission to God’s will, and God wills the believer to act.
He’s still ignoring one of the reasons the FBI training makes our country less safe. (When I pointed it out to him, he ultimately dismissed me because I pointed out that according to the FBI, we can’t trust those who endorse torture, and therefore we shouldn’t trust the US Government).
In addition to training FBI counter-terrorism agents that pious Muslims are–must be–prone to violence, the FBI is also training counter-terrorism agents that pious Christians (and Jews) are moderates not prone to violence. Pious Muslims are radical and pious Christians are, by definition, moderate. In these training slides, there are some (non-pious) Muslims who are lumped in the “moderate” category, but no Christians put in the “radical” category.
This, of course, also trains FBI counter-terrorism agents not to be all that worried about Christians who appear to be pious. They won’t be radical and therefore won’t be terrorists. It trains FBI counter-terrorism agents not to look for terrorists among the fundamentalist Christian (or Catholic or any other Christian) community. It makes it far more likely that FBI counter-terrorism agents will miss the Hutarees and Scott Roeders of the world.
In response, he said that we don’t have to worry because these Christian terrorists weren’t good Christians.
They may claim to be “pious” but claiming does not make it so. “Thou shalt not kill” + “Turn the other cheek” = Piety.
Now, aside from the fact that Neptunus Lex is taking it upon himself to dictate what counts as pious or not, rather than the thousands of Christian preachers who might not see it Lex’s way (mind you, I prefer his vision of Christianity, it’s just that I’ve run into a lot of preachers who preach something other than “turn the other cheek”), his distinction between what Christian terrorists like Roeder “claim” and what they “are” is meaningless from an investigative perspective–and therefore is meaningless to the safety of our country. I mean, is Lex asking FBI counter-terrorism agents who have been trained to assume pious Christians are by definition moderates to make the effort to conduct a theological exam on Christians to determine whether they simply “claim” to be pious or are actually pious, according to Lex’s understanding of theology? And how are the faith communities that espouse or condone violence–whether it be the death penalty, America’s wars, or killing abortion doctors–going to feel when they learn that some guy named Neptunus Lex had deemed them not to be pious? I’m pretty sure this is why we’ve got a First Amendment in this country, but it appears to increasingly not apply to Muslims.
Now, thankfully, in the case of the Hutaree and some of the White Supremacist/Sovereign terrorists who also happen to appear to be pious Christians, the FBI has still investigated, though not always. Thankfully, the FBI didn’t make the same mistakes they made with Roeder. But given that non-Muslim terrorists remain a real threat to this country, training FBI counter-terrorism agents that pious Christians are by definition moderate is just as counter-productive as pissing off (and discouraging the cooperation of) the entire Islamic faith community with a theological claim that Islam is a radical religion.
Just in time for the 9/11 fearmongering season, CNN comes out with this ridiculous article on lone wolf terrorists.
It starts by correctly identifying Khalid Aldawsari as a lone wolf (at least as far as is publicly known thus far). Piggybacking on an Obama comment, it then raises the example of Anders Behring Breivik, which leads to the following passage.
The president told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer: “When you’ve got one person who is deranged or driven by a hateful ideology, they can do a lot of damage, and it’s a lot harder to trace those lone wolf operators.” He pointed to the case of Anders Breivik, who went on a bombing and shooting rampage in July in Norway, killing 77 people. No evidence has been uncovered linking Breivik to other conspirators.
A growing wave
The Norway attack and the Aldawsari case show how modern technological tools, especially the availability of vast amounts of information useful for bomb making and targeting, have made lone terrorists more dangerous than ever before.
In the last two years, eight of the 14 Islamist terrorist plots on U.S. soil involved individuals with no ties to terrorist organizations or other co-conspirators.
These included plans to blow up buildings in Illinois and Texas in September 2009, the November 2009 Fort Hood shootings allegedly carried out by U.S. Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, an alleged plot to bomb a tree-lighting ceremony in Portland in November 2010, and another aimed at blowing up an Army recruiting station near Baltimore the following month.
As a threshold matter, while “no evidence has been uncovered” thus far that ties Breivik to others, Norwegian investigators are just getting around to interviewing some of the people mentioned in Breivik’s manifesto and the prosecutor does “not rule out the possibility” he had accomplices.
But what’s more troubling about this passage is the way it mentions Breivik to support the claim that “lone terrorists [are] more dangerous than ever before,” but then completely ignores the problem of any right wing terrorism save Breivik’s! Given that Aldawsari was nowhere close to actually making a bomb, and given that the only actually executed attack mentioned in this passage (the article later mentions Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, a Muslim convert who killed one soldier at an Army recruiting center) is that of Nidal Hasan, a man trained by the US Government who relied on nothing more than readily accessible guns, it’s not clear that technology is making these Islamic terrorists all that more dangerous.
Indeed, the article ignores that almost every single attack it describes here was solved–but also created in part–by the FBI. It was not the Internet that taught Mohamed Osman Mohamud how to make a bomb. It was the FBI.
Which supports the conclusion that the US Government–whether it be the Army or the FBI–is the thing making Islamic “lone wolves” more dangerous, not technology. Not that I believe that is or necessarily has to be the case (though while we’re talking our dangerous government I will mention the still unsolved anthrax attack), but it is what CNN’s evidence supports.
Yet, as the example of Breivik does show, apparent lone wolves can be dangerous. So why does CNN let this assertion stand?
A senior U.S. counter-terrorism official told CNN that lone assailants have been responsible for every deadly terrorist attack in the West since June 2009, when a U.S. servicemen was shot dead outside a recruiting station in Arkansas by a convert to Islam, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad.
The stat is almost meaningless in any case; what this counter-terrorism official spewing nonsense under cover of anonymity really means is that there have been exactly two “deadly terrorist attacks” committed by Muslims in the US since June 2009, Muhammad’s and Hasan’s, and both happened to be lone wolves.
But this senior counter-terrorism official appears to be ignorant of or ignoring other deadly terrorist attacks, such as Scott Roeder’s killing of George Tiller (the attack actually happened on May 31, 2009, and the DOJ investigated, but did not charge, Roeder’s accomplices in the anti-choice movement), James von Brunn’s attack on the Holocaust Museum, Jerry and Joseph Kane’s attack on a police station, or Jared Lee Loughner’s attack on Gabby Giffords. Sure, some of these count as lone wolves (others as organized members of right wing terrorist groups), but it seems these attacks–as well as the other right wing terrorist attacks that did not result in death–deserve to be part of this discussion, not least because it in part supports CNN’s discussion of how reading extremist materials online may radicalize potential terrorists.
And then, finally, there’s CNN’s uncritical invocation of informants.
Counter-terrorism analysts say that outreach by U.S. law enforcement into Muslim communities is key in providing early warnings of threats. U.S. law enforcement agencies have also kept a watchful eye over individuals who may be moving toward violent extremism. Warning signs include ties individuals may have developed with known Islamist radicals or online interaction through jihadist websites.
Undercover agents and informants have also played a key role in helping the FBI and other U.S. law enforcement agencies uncover threats. The New York Police Department has developed the most extensive informant network in the country and has the largest number of undercover police officers assigned to terrorism cases. It has also developed a Cyber Intelligence Unit in which undercover “cyber agents” track the online activities of suspected violent extremists and interact with them online to gauge the potential threat they pose.
I’ll respond to CNN’s approving mention of the NYPD’s spy system by reminding, again, that it failed to find the two most dangerous terrorists, Faisal Shahzad and Najibullah Zazi, in spite of ties to Zazi’s imam.
But I’ll also suggest that if this effort remains focused primarily on Muslims it will continue to miss the MLK Day bombers, the George Roeders, and indeed, the Breiviks of the world.
CNN’s biggest piece of evidence that apparent lone wolf terrorists can be dangerous is the lethality of Breivik’s attack. But the entire article takes the example of a right wing terrorist as justification to otherwise ignore the problem of right wing terrorism.
Since we’ve been talking about domestic right wing terrorism of late, I wanted to elaborate on a point I made here. Today, the Department of Justice released a list of all the terrorist-related individuals it found guilty in civilian courts since 9/11. And Scott Roeder, who was found guilty of killing George Tiller on January 29, 2010, is not on that list.
There are two reasons why it might be churlish for me to make that observation. First, the list was released in response to a specific request from the Senate Judiciary Committee in the context of debates over civilian versus military trials for Gitmo detainees, which suggests SJC was interested in a certain kind of terrorist (though, at least in Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich’s response, it seems that the request was not specific to international terrorists). Also, in response to that request, DOJ simply provided a list started during the Bush Administration, and the list was explicitly limited to international terrorists.
The National Security Division’s International Terrorism and Terrorism-Related Statistics Chart tracks convictions resulting from international terrorism investigations conducted since September 11, 2001, including investigations of terrorist acts planned or committed outside the territorial jurisdiction of the United States over which Federal criminal jurisdiction exists and those within the United States involving international terrorists and terrorist groups.
In other words, to develop a list of all terrorists–rather than just the terrorists the National Security Division considers terrorists–it would have to cull out the names of Americans who also engaged in terrorism.
So what would it take, then, for DOJ to consider a guy who stalked a doctor for years, who collaborated with a number of other people engaged in intimidation and violence, and ultimately gunned a man down while he was worshiping at church, a terrorist?
If we find evidence that, in addition to harboring pedophiles, Pope Benedict and the American Catholic Bishops have been intimidating women and their doctors, would Scott Roeder be considered a terrorist (recognizing, of course, there is no allegation that the Catholic Church endorses violence of the type Roeder used)? Or would it take a brown man, involved in the plot, for DOJ to consider this terrorism?
The Department of Justice has just sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee answering early questions about how many terrorists have been convicted or plead guilty in civilian courts. Between those convicted of terrorism-related crimes (150) and individuals with ties to international terrorism convicted of other crimes (like obstruction or perjury–the total here is 240), 390 people have been sent to prison using our civilian courts.
As you might recall, there has been some debate over what the “real” number of terrorists convicted in civilian courts is. After the Obama Administration used the same number the Bush Administration had–a number which combines terrorist charges with non-terrorist charges–Republicans squawked.
But as DOJ points out, having other charges available is one of the advantages to the civilian courts:
The second category includes a variety of other statutes (like fraud, firearms offenses, false statements, or obstruction of justice) where the investigation involved an identified link to international terrorism. There have been more than 240 individuals charged in such cases since September 11, 2001. Examples of the international terrorism nexus identified in some of these cases have also been provided for your review.Prosecuting terror-related targets using these latter offenses is often an effective method—and sometimes the only available method—of deterring and disrupting potential terrorist planning and support activities. Indeed, one of the great strengths of the criminal justice system is the broad range of offenses that are available to arrest and convict individuals believed to be linked to terrorism, even if a terrorism offense cannot be established. Of course, an aggressive and wide-ranging terrorism investigation will net individuals with varying degrees of culpability and involvement in terrorist activity, as the NSD chart reflects. Arresting and convicting both major and minor operatives, supporters, and facilitators can have crippling effects on terrorists’ ability to carry out their plans. [my emphasis]
This is a point David Kris made in Congressional testimony last year–there are actually charges you can’t use in a military commission but which you can use in a civilian court (though the Obama Administration appears prepared to press the limits of MCs anyway).
The list of terrorists convicted itself is interesting in its own right. Among other things, it demonstrates the degree to which terrorism is still largely–though not exclusively–targeted at Muslims (though in the first page itself there are individuals tied to the Tamil Tigers and one woman from FARC who was quietly rounded up last year after the Ingrid Betancourt rescue).
Not on this list? Right-wing American terrorists like Scott Roeder.