Past, Present Officials at Odds on Extent, Seriousness, Understanding of Islamism

Last week, Secretary of State John Kerry and Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper within 24 hours of one another gave conflicting testimony before separate congressional committees about the extent and seriousness of Islamist jihadi terrorism.

In testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs in February, Kerry stated, “Our citizens, our world today is actually, despite [ISIS], despite the visible killings that you see and how horrific they are, we are actually living in a period of less daily threat to Americans and to people in the world than normally — less deaths, less violent deaths today than through the last century. And so even the concept of state war has changed in many people’s minds, and we’re seeing now more asymmetrical kinds of struggles.”

Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency and director of intelligence for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, US Central Command and Joint Special Operations Command — who reputedly was forced to retire because of his disagreement with the White House over calling Islamist extremism for what it is — responded by telling told Fox News Kerry is "out of touch with reality; he clearly is not listening to the entire US Intelligence Community."

Indeed. Clapper subsequently told the Senate Committee on Armed Forces that, “When the final accounting is done, 2014 will have been the most lethal year for global terrorism in the 45 years since such data has been compiled.”

Clapper said, “Preliminary data for the first nine months of 2014 reflects nearly 13,000 attacks which killed 31,000 people,” compared to “just over 11,500 terrorist attacks worldwide [that] killed approximately 22,000 people.”

Clapper told the committee, “About half of all attacks as well as fatalities in 2014 occurred in just three countries: Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan. [The Islamic State, or ISIS] conducted more attacks than any other terrorist group in thefirst nine months of 2014.”

Total Islamist attacks began to skyrocket between 2003 and 2004, when there were approximately 1,500 attacks worldwide, Homeland Security Today was told by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Center of Excellence based at the University of Maryland.

START, which manages the Global Terrorism Database (GTD), said in a report provided to Homeland Security Today that between 2012 through September 2014, ISIS accounted for 25 percent of jihadi attacks, while Al Qaeda and Affiliated Movements accounted for 75 percent. Islamist radicalization dramatically spiked beginning around 2001. Attacks by Islamist lone wolfs also significantly spiked between 2001 and 2002, then profoundly spiked to the highest level since 1979 between 2008 and 2011.

While terrorism in the United States began a consistent decline in 1970, it began to slowly rise again around 2011, and continued to rise through 2014 and 2015, coinciding with Al Qaeda and ISIS’s burgeoning use of social media to radicalize and recruit Muslims and the newly converted.

According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), “So far in 2015, an Ohio man was arrested in January for allegedly plotting an attack on the US Capitol building. Christopher Lee Cornell had read and shared propaganda from ISIS and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) online, indicating that he hoped to undertake his attack in support of ISIS. And in February, six more US residents from Missouri, Illinois and New York were accused of providing support and resources to ISIS.”

ADL also revealed in its report, Homegrown Islamic Extremism in 2014: The Rise of ISIS & Sustained Online Recruitment, that “at least 17 American citizens and permanent residents, motivated by the Islamic extremist ideologies of ISIS and other groups, were charged in 2014 with terror related offenses,” while “Three others were identified as having died while fighting with terrorist groups abroad, and an additional five minors are believed to have attempted to join ISIS but were not charged.”

“The 25 individuals in the US linked to terrorist activity motivated by Islamist extremist ideology range in age from 15 to 44, with an average age of 24.5 and a median age of 21,” ADL said, noting that, “At least 22 of the 25, or 88 percent, read, watched or shared online extremist propaganda.”

The states with the highest numbers of recruits in 2014 were Minnesota, Virginia, California, Illinois and North Carolina, with three individuals from each.

“Eight of the 25 Americans in the 2014 study — some 32 percent — are women.” ADL said it “documented a total of only 12 female US citizens and permanent residents with similar links to terrorism in the entire 11 years between 2002 and 2013.

But these individuals “are only a fraction of the total number of homegrown extremists believed to have joined ISIS and other terrorists groups in the region,” ADL said.

FBI Director James Comey said in November the FBI is currently tracking nearly 150 Americans who travelled to Syria, “a significant number” of whom went there to fight.

Last month, while addressing the National Association of Attorneys Generals, Comey said there’s a "chaotic spider web" of foreign jihadi recruitment efforts ongoing in the US that’s snaring and radicalizing young Muslim men. And they “exist in every state,” he warned, saying, “I have homegrown violent extremist investigations in every single state. Until a few weeks ago, there were 49 states. Alaska had none, which I couldn’t quite figure out. But Alaska has now joined the group, so we have investigations of people in various stages of radicalizing in all 50 states.”

As far as numbers of Westerners who’ve joined the ISIS cause, Clapper said the US Intelligence Community estimates that 3,400 citizens from Western nations have joined jihad in Syria and Iraq — 700 more than the estimate of 2,700 last November. The threat to the West is clear Clapper said. “If ISIL were to substantially increase the priority it places on attacking the West rather than fighting to maintain and expand territorial control, then the group’s access to radicalized Westerners who have fought in Syria and Iraq would provide a pool of operatives who potentially have access to the United States and other Western countries," he warned.

Homeland Security Today Contributing Writer Dr. Dave Sloggett wrote about his study of Westerners joining jihad in his earlier report, Migration of Radicalized European Muslims to Syria to Engage in Jihad Widespread Problem, Study Shows.

Islamist jihadist are … Islamist jihadists, get it?

Echoing Clapper, Flynn recently told the House Committee on Armed Services that, “According to every metric of significance, Islamic extremism has grown over the last year,” adding, “We are at war with violent and extreme Islamists (both Sunni and Shia), and we must accept and face this reality … There are some who counsel patience [a veiled jab at the White House’s sheepish response to global Islamist jihad], arguing violent Islamists are not an existential threat and therefore can simply be managed as criminals. I respectfully and strongly disagree.”

Earlier last month, Flynn told "Fox News Sunday” that, "We are facing a form of cancerous component of the Islamic religion which has a fanaticism that has everything that is against our way of life and they in fact have declared war on us and I think we have to recognize that.”

Flynn’s comment goes to the very heart of the White House’s insistence that jihadists are not representative of Islam, and therefore should not be referred to as “Islamist” because Islamists are neither religious [Muslim] nor Islamic.

The administration has consistently called Islamist jihadists simply as ubiquitous “terrorists;” executors of “workplace violence;” perpetrators of “anti-Semitism;” and, today, Islamist jihadists are being referred to as "violent extremists"? In fact, The Obama administration has established an office within the FBI whose mission is to “counter violent extremism.”

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson told Fox News host Bret Baier recently that the president refuses to call jihadists what they are – “radical Islam” or “Islamic extremism,” is because of pressure from the Muslim community not to do so.

Obama “radical Islam” gives the terrorists a religious legitimacy they don’t deserve. Johnson agreed, saying, “To refer to ISIL as occupying any part of the Islamic theology is playing on a battlefield that they would like us to be on. I think that to call them some form of Islam gives the group more dignity than it deserves frankly. It is a terrorist organization.”

“Whether it’s referred to as Islamic extremism or violent extremism, what it comes down to is ISIL is a terrorist organization that represents a serious potential threat to our homeland which has to be addressed,” he said. “I’m more concerned about that frankly than I am what two words we use to refer to them.”

But refusing to acknowledge the theological motivations of Muslim jihadists will sabotage efforts to stop jihadism, accurately pointed out USA Today columnist James S. Robbins on February 19.

“Although the Islamic State, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram and the Taliban cite Islam as the basis of their death cults, Obama argues that their acts are contrary to Islam, and, therefore, refuses to associate them with Islam,” Robbins wrote, noting that at the recent White House summit on “combating violent extremism … all topics are fair game except Islamist extremism. From the administration’s point of view, it may as well not even exist, despite the fact that the first I in ISIS and ISIL stands for ‘Islamic,’ as in Islamic State.”

Robbins called out the White House for “consistently downplay[ing], if not outright ignor[ing], the religious dimension of the war on terrorism. This has much to do with President Obama’s apparent belief that any mention of Islam in the context of terrorism will reinforce negative views of the United States abroad, and supposed American prejudices against Muslims.”

“However,” Robbins wrote, “avoiding the religious dimension of the struggle against violent extremism is a mistake. The White House may not like it, but for the jihadists, this conflict is all about Islam.”

Continuing, Robbins noted, “The critical dynamic in creating a terrorist movement is a mobilizing ideology that legitimizes grievances and sanctifies violence. In the case of the contemporary jihadist movement, the central organizing concepts of the ideology are based on Islam. And so far as the jihadists are concerned, theirs is the only legitimate expression of the Muslim faith. Every aspect of their strategy is centered on this belief. It is impossible to understand what ISIL and other jihadist groups are doing without acknowledging this fact. And without addressing its root cause, the movement cannot be defeated.”

“Yet,” he concluded, “the Obama administration consistently sends the message that it either does not comprehend or refuses to accept the nature of the struggle. Any strategy not based on the facts is a recipe for failure.”

Also calling a spade a spade, Atlantic Contributing Writer Graeme Wood wrote that, “The reality is that the Islamic State [ISIS] is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.

“Muslims can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do,” Wood wrote, “But pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it. We’ll need to get acquainted with the Islamic State’s intellectual genealogy if we are to react in a way that will not strengthen it, but instead help it self-immolate in its own excessive zeal.”

Continuing, Wood wrote, “Many mainstream Muslim organizations have gone so far as to say the Islamic State is, in fact, un-Islamic. It is, of course, reassuring to know that the vast majority of Muslims have zero interest in replacing Hollywood movies with public executions as evening entertainment. But Muslims who call the Islamic State un-Islamic are typically, as the Princeton scholar Bernard Haykel, the leading expert on the group’s theology, told me, ‘embarrassed and politically correct, with a cotton-candy view of their own religion’ that neglects ‘what their religion has historically and legally required.’ Many denials of the Islamic State’s religious nature, he said, are rooted in an ‘interfaith-Christian-nonsense tradition.’”

“Western officials would probably do best to refrain from weighing in on matters of Islamic theological debate altogether,” Wood concluded.

“The groups, their members, their names come and go, but Islamic Jihad, now resurgent once again, has endured — and conquered — for over 1,300 years. We must focus on the Islamic doctrine, law and scriptures that animate and inspire Jihad vs the West,” said Clare Lopez, a former decades-long CIA officer whose specific areas of expertise includes Islam and Iran.

Continuing, Lopez told Homeland Security Today, “It’s not about religion — it’s about terrorist ideology; an ideology committed to the killing of Americans, destruction of our country and subordination of our constitution.”

Lopez said “there’s no consideration due either ideology or those who hold and act on such ideology. Quite to the contrary, it’s the constitutional professional duty of our national intelligence and security leaders to protect us from ‘all enemies foreign and domestic,’ and if this ideology is the enemy, then it’s prosecutable if they fail to deal with it as they ought to.”

“Until our national security leadership acknowledges and focuses on the true nature and identity of this enemy coming at us (Islamic jihad and all who follow its call), we will continue to lag behind the curve — and without doubt there will be preventable disasters and deaths as a consequence of their dereliction of duty to protect us,” Lopez warned.

FBI acknowledged the Islamist jihadist threat

The threat was already so serious by late 2005 that in early 2006 the FBI warned in a little known intelligence assessment, The Radicalization Process: From Conversion to Jihad, that “radicalized US converts to Islam and their potential to attack the homeland are growing concerns of the US Intelligence Community.”

“This assessment provides a working model of the radicalization process for a legal US person who is a convert to Islam, utilizing FBI case examples that illustrate the process … derived from open and closed FBI investigations” and “academic literature,” the profile stated.

The assessment warned that “homegrown Islamic extremists are a growing threat, and are identified as legal US persons whose primary social influence has been the cultural values and beliefs of the United States, who also have the intent to provide for or directly commit a terrorist attack inside the United States.”

Prepared specifically for counterterrorism investigators, analysts and law enforcement, the assessment is a detailed profile of the “indicators” of someone undergoing Islamist radicalization. The FBI said it specifically “developed [the assessment] in order to identify an individual going through the [jihadi] radicalization process.”

Since it was issued more than seven years ago, the underlying indicators of jihadi radicalization that it identified have been buttressed by what’s been learned from the string of Americans who’ve assumed the mantle of Muslim radicalization, or “sudden jihad syndrome.”

A top federal counterterrorism official told Homeland Security Today on background that when you “put [the indicators] in the context of an investigation of the suspicious actions or activity of a Muslim who also has suddenly become radical, the indicators are valid – we’ve seen them time and time again. This isn’t racial profiling when in the aggregate they paint a portrait of ideological radicalization.”

Nearly a year before Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan’s radicalization turned violent (he was sentenced to death in August 2013 for killing 13 people and wounding 32 others in a 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas in an act of jihad the administration says was an act of “workplace violence”), the FBI counterterrorism investigators in Washington, DC to whom the San Diego Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) referred their concerns about Hasan’s contact with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula recruiter, Los Cruces, New Mexico-born Anwar Al Awlaki “almost flippantly” dismissed the JTTF’s worries, an intelligence official familiar with the matter said.

Washington’s rejection of the seasoned JTTF’s fears about Hasan, especially his communications with Al Awlaki, immediately raised questions about how seriously the administration was taking the threat of homegrown Islamist radicalization that the Intelligence Community had been warning about, officials familiar with the matter told Homeland Security Today.

“It also raise[d] questions about whether the FBI’s [2006] assessment was even taken into consideration by Washington in its review of the JTTF’s concerns,” one of the officials added.

“The [FBI profile] and its particulars aside, the content of the messages between Hassan and Al Awalki would lead a reasonable person to conclude that Hassan was well on his way to radicalization, and the notion that this was seen as ‘research’ for his [psychiatric] practice is not an explanation I would not put forth as a defense in the court of public opinion,” declared David Cid, a 20 year veteran of the FBI where he was as a counterterrorism specialist frequently consulted by the CIA, and former executive director of the Oklahoma City-based Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism.

“Any, any, contact,” with Al Awlaki should have been taken very seriously — “it should have caused the [Washington FBI counterterrorists to whom the San Diego JTTF referred the Hasan case] to want to know everything they could about him — with their own radicalization profile in mind,” a veteran counterterror official emphatically agreed.

Nevertheless, in a statement, the FBI said Washington counterterrorism analysts had assessed that the content of Hasan’s communications with Al Awlaki were consistent with Hasan’s research as a psychiatrist at Walter Reed Medical Center – apparently completely ignoring all of the FBI’s learned warning signs of someone becoming radicalized by Islamist jihadi theological interpretations. There was no indication that he was involved in terrorist activities or terrorist planning, The Bureau maintained. Consequently, the analysts saw no need to further investigate Hasan, a decision officials said infuriated veteran members of the JTTF who had been involved in the early investigations of Al Awlaki, and who had tried to nab him before he permanently left the US in March 2002.

“Major Hasan came to the attention of the FBI …because of emails that he had written to a known terrorism suspect,” Attorney General Eric Holder admitted to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, “but the FBI did not pursue an investigation of him because they concluded that the emails were consistent with his research at Walter Reed."

“I will say that on the basis of what I know so far, it is disturbing to know that there was this interaction between Hasan and other people. That is, I find, disturbing,” Holder eventually conceded in the wake of the disclosure of Hasan’s communication with Al Awlaki and the evidence of his jihadist radicalization — which the Obama administration continues to insist was an act of "workplace violence," just as were other clearly Islamist jihadi attacks and killings in the US since then, like the beheading of a woman in Oklahoma City.

Counterterrorism officials Homeland Security Today interviewed on background assured that “many” of the warning signs of Hasan’s radicalization were missed. “There were all sorts of indicators of radicalization that’d been identified in the FBI’s radicalization guide” that would have been seen in Hasan’s actions had investigators just talked to Hasan’s superiors, colleagues and patients.

“It wouldn’t have taken analysts long at all to realize he fit the profile of a person undergoing radicalization had they done so,” one of the officials said, adding, “and the FBI generally is big on using profiles.”

"Lots of people saw signs of trouble, but nobody connected the dots," Clint Van Zandt, a former FBI profiler who worked for the Bureau for 25 years, told the Dallas Morning News. "Everybody was carrying around dots in their pockets — his co-workers, his medical school peers — everybody had a dot here and a dot there."

Counterterrorists familiar with the FBI’s Islamist radicalization profile said “indicators” of radicalization identified in the profile were “glaringly” evident, but that the “failure to recognize them in an intelligence assessment that was intended to be used in investigations” of persons like Hasan and radicalized individuals in the years since then, begs the question of whether the assessment was ever taken into consideration by the Washington analysts who ultimately dismissed the San Diego JTTF’s concerns … or used in subsequent investigations of suspected jihadists.

The analysts’ admittedly poorly considered analysis of Hasan’s emails with Al Awlaki and their consequent failure to probe the indicators of Hasan’s radicalization, despite the many “obvious” indicators he exhibited, further raised the question, officials said, whether the investigators understood, ever studied, or where even aware of the profile — which clearly emphasized that preliminary “information collected during investigations does not always reveal the full scope of an individual’s experience with radical Islam.”

Understanding when to dig deeper was addressed by then Homeland Security Undersecretary for Intelligence and Research Charles Allen in a March 28, 2008 internal memo obtained by Homeland Security Today.

“Good analysts are always alert to the possibility of what I call ‘abrupt discontinuity’ in order to warn of new threats,” Allen pointed out. “Analysts who operate only in a linear fashion are certain to fail to discern abrupt changes in the threat environment and thus fail to warn of impending threats that could damage US interests.”

Allen stated “we know the failure to discern ‘abrupt discontinuity’ has always been an Achilles’ heel of the Intelligence Community. [Redacted] This [redacted] phenomenon, which occurs both strategically and tactically, has cost our country dearly in the past. The failure of 9/11 was not a failure to ‘connect the dots,’ but fundamentally a failure to understand Al Qaeda’s capacities to strike intercontinentally, using a asymmetric means.”

It was also a failure to fully understand Islamist theology, authorities said.
Veteran counterterror officials told Homeland Security Today that “what you’re supposed to read between the lines” of all this is that you must dig deeper. “In the Hasan case, it really doesn’t appear that that should have been too hard to do in order to find parallels with the [radicalization indicators]” the FBI had outlined, one said.

The FBI profile cautioned that “during the pre-radicalization stage, an individual may not display overt signs of radicalization because conversion does not always lead to radicalization.”

Nevertheless, the FBI said it had been able to develop “a preliminary list of indicators the FBI has developed in order to identify an individual going through the radicalization process.”

And “[Hasan’s] emails [to Al Awlaki] should have been more than sufficient to justify a closer look at him; this was common sense stuff,” an official said with audible frustration.

It wasn’t until after Hasan’s jolting jihadist theologically-inspired attack that congressional investigators uncovered scores of the indicators of Islamist radicalization that had been identified by the FBI more than two years earlier, not the least of which were his emails to and from Al Awlaki. But according to officials familiar with the FBI’s investigation, FBI headquarters botched “moving” on Hasan by failing to recognize the “warning signs.”

The FBI did not respond to questions about how widely the assessment was disseminated within the Bureau or whether it has, or is, being used in domestic jihadist probes or for identifying potentially dangerous, radicalized Muslims brought to their attention. But officials familiar with the matter said on background there were “high level” bureaucratic concerns that the assessment wasn’t “politically correct,” as one said.

“That’s a good question,” said former CIA WMD counterterrorism chief Charles Faddis, who agreed with officials who said Hasan’s radicalized mindset — which comported with the FBI’s profile of a person undergoing radicalization — was lucidly evident in the tone and tenor of his behavior and writings to Al Awlaki.
“So what happened?” Faddis asked. “We are at war. We knew a US Army officer was talking to the enemy. Did we really need to over analyze the situation?” he said after studying the FBI’s profile. “What would we have done in 1943 if a US Army officer was found exchanging correspondence with a Nazi official in Germany? … whatever happened to common sense.”

Bowing to political correctness?

Perhaps it was only a coincidence, but the West Coast JTTF asked Washington counterterror analysts for help in assessing the potential threat Hasan posed amidst highly publicized protests in 2007 of the New York City Police Department Intelligence Division’s (NYPD-ID) very similar profile of indicators of Muslim radicalization, Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat.

The timing was so coincidental that not just a few officials said they suspected someone at the Department of Justice decided to downplay further use of the profile because of concerns that it also might offend Muslims if it became public.

“The administration let go of the lexicon [to describe jihadists as ‘Islamist extremists,’ etc.] and replaced it with a lexicon that was designed by apologists, hence the national capacity for identification and detection of the ideological threat is now nonexistent,” said Lebanon born and raised Walid Phares, an advisor to the House of Representatives Caucus on Counter Terrorism, co-secretary general of the Trans Atlantic Legislative Group on Counter Terrorism and former adjunct professor at the National Defense University School for National Security Executive Education.

Phares told Homeland Security Today, “I had clearly recommended as an advising member of the Future Terrorism Task Force of the Department of Homeland Security in 2006 and 2007 that not identifying the ideology would lead to a higher national security risk.”

The NYPD-ID’s radicalization profile, unlike the FBI’s profile, was made public and quickly became the brunt of criticism that it was anti-Muslim. It was decried as racial profiling.

Authored by then NYPD-ID Director Mitchell Silber and another NYPD-ID analyst, it identified specific indicators of the phases through which homegrown jihadists progress on their way to radicalization.

The New York City University (NYCU) School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice quickly lambasted the profile of Muslim radicalization as being full of “faulty conclusions [that] will lead to racial and religious profiling. It “makes sweeping generalizations about the process of violent radicalization and its coupling with Islam.”

The Brennan Center’s critique further asserted that “… the report … blatantly ignores the fact that the majority of religious activity mentioned in the report as indicators of radicalization does not pose a threat to national security. Though the report claims to disavow racial profiling, the policy suggestions it makes clearly promote this practice. For example, it lists the following as suspicious behavior: wearing traditional Islam clothing, growing a beard, praying five times a day, and participating in community and political activism. The NYPD report shows an alarming negligence in its methodology and conclusion that is counterproductive to counterterrorism policy and civil liberties.”

More recently, the Brennan Center said its 2011 report, Rethinking Radicalization, showed “there is no empirical basis for identifying pre-terrorist behavior, making it likely that programs like these will use religious observance as a proxy. Moreover, as Freedom of Information Law documents obtained by the center show, in the past law enforcement-led outreach efforts have been used as an excuse to spy on people who are not suspected of any wrongdoing.

“While everyone can agree that preventing terrorism is a priority, the government should embrace truth and transparency to build relations with Muslim communities rather than pushing unproven psychobabble,” wrote Faiza Patel, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, in The Washington Post.

The Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition (MACLC), which was formed in the wake of the furor over the NYPD report, also blasted the analysis and issued its own critique: CounterERRORism Policy: MACLC’s Critique of the NYPD’s Report on Homegrown Radicalism.

The MACLC critique said the NYPD analysis “presents a distorted and misleading depiction of Islam and its adherents … call[ing] into question the loyalties and motivations of law-abiding and mainstream Muslims in a deeply offensive way and paints them as potential threats to national security without substantiated evidence. Furthermore, it erroneously associates religious precepts with violence and terror, irrespective of First Amendment and equal protection rights. As such, MACLC has found that the NYPD report neither protects American Muslims from undeserved scrutiny and profiling nor strengthens domestic security discourse.”

Phares, however, said “the attack against the [NYPD] report is precisely because the latter defines the threat as jihadism. For example, the New York City University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice stated the report ‘is full of faulty conclusions [that] will lead to racial and religious profiling,’ and that it ‘makes sweeping generalizations about the process of violent radicalization and its coupling with Islam,’ is the same narrative used by the jihadist propaganda.”

Author of, Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies Against the West, and, The War of Ideas: Jihadism against Democracy, Phares said “obviously, the NYCU center is wrong because it doesn’t establish a distinction between Islam as a religion and jihadism as an ideology. Certainly the NYPD report has many aspects that needs to be reviewed and corrected, but the Brennan Center has committed significant academic mistakes. I suggest the university check the nature of the expertise upon which it made these statements. If a law school cannot make a difference between a religion and an ideology, it is facing a serious research problem.”

Continuing, Phares said “the center argues that just because the NYPD reports tries to establish parameters where extreme religiosity is one of the factors that usually accompany the Salafist behavior, and not the central factor, the report is thus generalizing. I think the Brennan analysts have shown that they lack the understanding of how jihadists operate. The NYPD … critics are simply repeating what pro-jihadists commentators are repeating on Al Jazeera daily: that the United States is going after a religion. That’s what happens if you do not distinguish between theology and ideology.”

In a series for Canada’s National Post in which he argued that a better understanding of the radicalization process is needed, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, vice-president of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and author of, My Year Inside Radical Islam, stated attempts to “engage in serious study of the radicalization process have met with chilly receptions … the NYPD study in particular generated enormous controversy,” even though it’s very similar to the FBI’s profile of radicalization that was issued the year before. “While [the NYPD] study is by no means above criticism, many critiques [have] suggested that any exploration of this difficult area should be off-limits.”

“The same kind of arguments surfaced in the wake of the Ft. Hood shootings. If commentators really believe it is inappropriate to explore how terrorists have radicalized, that is their prerogative. But let’s be honest about the kind of profiling that is relevant here,” Gartenstein-Ross noted. “From my perch, it seems that understanding how terrorists are made can be used as a tool to protect rights rather than violate them — to avoid the kind of generalized suspicion that the opponents of profiling rightly fear.”

But the NYPD profile isn’t without a modicum of justified criticism. Cid said “some language changes would have taken most of the sting out of criticism. For example, the report states ‘Muslims in the United States are more resistant, but not immune to the radical message.’”

“All Muslims?” Cid asked. “This could have been worded more artfully. For example, ‘there are some Muslims in the United States who, though likely more resistant to a radical message, may be influenced to begin down the path of radicalization’ or something akin to this, which does not leave one with the impression that the NYPD believes all Muslims are susceptible to this message. Clearly they are not.”

Still, Cid stressed, the assessment “is an honest attempt to develop a constellation of warnings and indicators to gauge intention, the most difficult dimension of a threat assessment to measure, and yet the most important.”

Cid said the development of such a profile “is difficult because our internal life may not manifest externally, and important because the means to carry out an act of violence is no more complex than picking up a gun.”

“Obviously the FBI and many other agencies need to be fully aware of the sensitivities as they proceed in their work, but the best way to solve the issue of community sensibility is to identify the jihadi doctrine, goals, behavior and indoctrination process so precisely that the matter is removed from religious issues and kept in the realm of radical ideologies only,” Phares said.

“For example, many kept pounding in the media that Hasan was a ‘pious Muslim.’ Why that insistence? So what? There are many Muslims who are pious and aren’t jihadi Salafists,” Phares continued.

“The focus should not be made that terrorists are ‘pious Muslims.’ This is wrong tactically and academically. The focus must be on the affiliation with jihadism, period,” Phares said. “If a practicing Muslim prays five times a day and invokes Allah a hundred times a day, there is no problem at all with it. But if an individual presents lectures on jihad and calls for it, legitimizes it, and exchange emails with jihadi ideologues, yes this is an indicator of jihadi activities. But it is just that, an objective indicator that you haven’t invented but it is there being played in front of your eyes and ears.”

“The government unfortunately has taken the ability of its agencies to detect the most important, that is the ideology, leaving bureaucrats and law enforcers to a vast nebulous of theological practices,” Phares said. “The jihadists are winning when we divert the issue from jihadism into Islam. And that’s where we are right now.”

“It’s not about religion – it’s about terrorist ideology; an ideology committed to the killing of Americans, destruction of our country and subordination of our constitution,” Lopez said.

“There’s no consideration due either ideology or those who hold and act on such ideology,” Lopez explained. “Quite to the contrary, it’s the constitutional professional duty of our national intelligence and security leaders to protect us from ‘all enemies foreign and domestic,’ and if this ideology is the enemy, then it’s prosecutable if they fail to deal with it as they ought to.”

“Until our national security leadership acknowledges and focuses on the true nature and identity of this enemy coming at us (Islamic jihad and all who follow its call), we will continue to lag behind the curve — and without doubt there will be preventable disasters and deaths as a consequence of their dereliction of duty to protect us,” she concluded.

“As far as the FBI critics, they should be asked what other parameters they offer?” Phares added. “In some instances, the activist NGOs are calling for including their activists as the only accredited instructors on Islam. So, in the end, the US government counterterrorism agencies would be instructed by apologists for jihadism as to how to behave with the community. That is unseen and unheard of.”

Analysis

Meanwhile, the Obama administration continues with its wrong-headed belief that the problem is simply an ever-present form of “violent extremism” – not a problem with Islamic theology or even Islamic-rooted ideology.

“No religion is responsible for terrorism — people are responsible for violence and terrorism,” Obama said at his Countering Violent Extremism summit which included Muslim community leaders. Al Qaeda, ISIS, etc., “are not religious leaders. They’re terrorists,” Obama insisted, also surprisingly adding, “The future must not belong to those who slander the Prophet of Islam," a slap in the face of satirists of Prophet Muhammad who’ve been killed by Islamist jihadists for expressing their right of freedom of speech to satirize the prophet.

Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii — a twice-deployed 33-year-old Army veteran — has vociferously called out Obama for his refusal to identify Islamist jihadi groups like the Islamic State for what they are.

“Every soldier knows this simple fact: If you don’t know your enemy, you will not be able to defeat him,” Gabbard told FoxNews.com. “Our leaders must clearly identify the enemy as Islamist extremists, understand the ideology that is motivating them and attracting new recruits, and focus on defeating that enemy both militarily and ideologically.”

Gabbard said Obama’s refusal to associate ISIS and other Islamist jihadi groups with the Muslim religion is "mind-boggling,” even though these Islamist jihadi groups clearly state they are enforcing a strict interpretation of Islam. "[Obama] is completely missing the point of this radical Islamic ideology that’s fueling these people,” she said.

Stephen Coughlin, a decorated intelligence officer and a prominent specialist on Islamic law who wrote, Catastrophic Failure: Blindfolding America in the Face of Jihad, supported Gabbard, saying she “is correct as a matter of history, she is correct as a matter of current events, and she is correct of published Islamic law.”

“Terror is the means and the end state sought, as ‘The Quranic Concept of War’ tells us, to targetnon-compliant populations and destroy through psychological terror our faith in ourselves and our civilizational principles,” Lopez explained. “But the ultimate objective is subjugation of the whole world to Islamic law (Shariah). We must remember that what we fight is not just some vague ‘violent extremism’ — no — we fight to live free of shariah … it is supremely important that [we] focus on the broader issue: global Islamic jihad.”

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