Reports tying worshipers at U.S. mosques in Massachusetts and Minnesota to the ISIS terror network in Syria have opened up old wounds among Muslims in America and prompted new questions about how well the FBI monitors mosques with radical leanings.
The Islamic Society of Boston, the same mosque attended by the two Tsarnaev brothers accused of carrying out the Boston Marathon bombings on April 15, 2013, has now been tied to ISIS.
One of the members the brothers may have come in contact with was Ahmad Abousamra, a 32-year-old man who once frequented the Boston mosque and now serves as the chief propagandist for ISIS. The gruesome videos of ISIS militants beheading American journalists Steven Sotloff and James Foley apparently were the handiwork of Abousamra.
“The Islamic Society of Boston has been, historically, one of the most radical mosques in the United States,” said Steve Emerson, who has authored six books on Islamic extremism and serves as executive director of The Investigative Project on Terrorism. “I’ve been investigating them for more than 20 years while CNN has been defending them for 20 years.”
Emerson said the FBI finds it difficult to penetrate the mosques and find recruiters.
“They’re very slick in the way they operate. Their Facebook pages are clean. They are very careful in how they communicate electronically, and they’re pretty wise in terms of appearing suspicious to potential informants,” he said. “So you really have got to either infiltrate a recruiting plot, if you can, or you have to find evidence of it electronically, or you need an informant to come forward and say, ‘They’re recruiting in our mosque.'”
Emerson said the Boston mosque was linked as early as the late 1990s to groups connected to the Muslim Brotherhood, “but nothing was done and it turned out that you have at least seven or eight people convicted of terrorism charges while dozens of others from this mosque have been investigated.”
The infamous Aafia Siddiqui, known as “Lady al-Qaida,” attended the Boston mosque before she was convicted of plotting terrorism, as did Imam Yusuf al-Qaradawi, one of the spiritual guides of global Muslim Brotherhood doctrines.
But the FBI was “thoroughly derelict” in investigating the Tsarnaev brothers, Emerson said. After Russia tipped off the bureau about the brothers’ radical leanings, he said the FBI reached out to mosque leaders to build a dialogue but failed to monitor mosque teachings.
WND reported last week on how the FBI has scrubbed its internal training manuals of all references to radical Islam after it was pressured to do so in 2011 by 56 Muslim-American organizations, including several with known ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. Now, in late August, 70 Islamic-American groups have again written a letter to the White House demanding that all law enforcement at the federal, state and local levels audit and purge their materials of anything deemed to be biased against Muslims.
“Anyone in the intelligence agencies, with the restrictions of not being able to look at radical Islam and not even being able to use that term ‘radical Islam,’ it’s only going to stop us from pre-empting attacks,” Emerson said.
The strange case of Amir Meshal
The situation is equally dire at the Al Farooq Youth and Family Center in Bloomington, Minnesota. At least 12 Muslims from Minnesota have left the country to fight for ISIS in Syria, the FBI acknowledges, while 20 to 30 have joined al-Shabab, a terrorist group based in Somalia, since 2007.
The government believes some of the 12 ISIS fighters may have been recruited, either in person or online, by 31-year-old Amir Meshal, a native of New Jersey. The FBI has been well acquainted with him since 2007, when he was detained for about four months in Kenya but never charged. He allegedly admitted he attended an al-Qaida training camp, learned about various weapons and served as a translator but was not arrested. Instead, the FBI dumped Meshal back in New Jersey, after which the ACLU, in cooperation with the Council on Islamic American Relations, or CAIR, sued the U.S. government for violating Meshal’s civil rights.
KMSP-TV in Minneapolis reported Meshal claims in the lawsuit to have been recruited by the FBI as an informant, and he could have been working as a double agent for both the FBI and for ISIS. In exchange for providing information, he may have been taken off the government’s no-fly list, the TV station reported.
Meshal reportedly showed up this summer at the Al Farooq mosque in Bloomington. Sometime in late June or early July, an 18-year-old boy was stopped by authorities trying to depart the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on a flight to Turkey. The boy fingered Meshal as his recruiter.
In June, the parents of another teenage boy reported to the mosque’s leadership that Meshal was preaching a radical jihadist philosophy to their son. That’s when then the mosque called police and banned Meshal from returning.
The FBI now says it doesn’t know where Meshal might be hiding.
Pamela Geller, author of “Stop the Islamization of America: A Practical Guide to the Resistance,” says no one should be surprised by the recent news coming out of Minnesota and Massachusetts.
“What’s really telling is the headlines of the mainstream media always advancing this mythic narrative of Islamophobia,” she said.
She pointed out Meshal was detained in 2007 for his ties to al-Qaida, “after young Muslims went missing and it became news that the Twin Cities are seething with jihadists, part of the ‘terror pipeline’ as it’s now colloquially called.”
So, she emphasized, the mosque didn’t ban him until after the boy’s parents complained.
“Why was he allowed to preach jihad to the people in this mosque?”
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported a federal grand jury has been investigating the mosque’s ties to the terror pipeline all summer long and the local Muslim community has not been cooperative in providing useful information.
Muslim leaders in the area have acknowledged in local media that the Muslim community has “struggled to build bridges” with law-enforcement authorities.
“The grand jury proceedings, according to federal agents, have been stymied. The agents are ‘struggling to build bridges,’ that old device used by the Muslim communities, but by the same token they’re refusing to cooperate,” Geller said. “I’m not saying that. It’s being reported in the news. So if the FBI is building bridges, why is there no reciprocity?
“They go out to the mosques to build outreach when they ought to be going to monitor them. Really, outreach is a device to distract and dis-inform law enforcement.”
Emerson also sees inconsistencies in the handling of Meshal.
“This is a very strange case that goes back seven years. It’s very unclear,” Emerson said. “He was held, he admitted to receiving training, he was released, put on the watch list and then the ACLU filed a lawsuit on his behalf. Obviously they (the FBI) tried to flip him.”
Geller has been writing about the terror pipeline for years on her blog, Atlas Shrugs.
“Now all of a sudden young Muslim men are dying in Syria, but this is not a recent development,” she said.
She noted Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., held hearings on the recruitment dilemma in 2011 and was derided by Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., a Muslim convert, and by Muslim Brotherhood groups like CAIR.
Warnings from 2011 hearings ignored
“They sneered at the parents. There was a huge smear campaign that made it very difficult for Muslim parents to speak out,” Geller said. “That was in 2011, so you see this has been going on a while.”
Under President Obama’s Justice Department, the FBI has been largely stripped of its ability to regularly monitor a mosque for signs of extremism that could lead to recruitment of young Muslims, said Emerson.
CAIR and ACLU work together to file lawsuits on behalf of American Muslims placed on the watch list, and many have been able to fly back into the U.S., he said.
“Under the Obama administration, they forced the TSA to actually have controlled entry, where they actually accompany the terror suspects on a plane and then watch them in the U.S. That’s only done because the (Eric) Holder Justice Department has overturned national security decisions by the TSA, and some on the watch list have made it back here because of that decision,” Emerson said. “They have a racket going, and the Justice Department has really politicized the whole national security process.”
Emerson said the Obama administration has restricted more prosecutors from following up prosecutions of known suspected terrorists.
“But there’s definitely a disconnect,” he said, “between the external war on ISIS and the internal restrictions on the FBI to investigate ISIS, whether it’s violence overseas or the Homeland Security internal mandates to allow or deny people into the U.S.”