Michael Chertoff

Citing recent internal memos, Department of Homeland Security employees complain their boss Michael Chertoff is hamstringing counter-terror operations with pro-Islamic political correctness.

They say headquarters has cautioned officials not to describe Islamic terrorism as Islamic and to respect Islam as a “religion of peace.”

“It’s constantly drilled into us that Islam is not the enemy, and that the terrorists are merely a minority of ‘extremists’ distorting Islam,” said one official who wished to go unnamed.

DHS Secretary Chertoff set the tone in a staffwide memo last year, when he described as “extremists” the two dozen Muslim terrorists who plotted to blow up 10 airliners over the Atlantic. Unlike British authorities, Chertoff did not mention the religious motivation of the terrorists. Nowhere in the one-page memo were the terms “Muslim” or “Islamic” used.

WND has obtained a copy of the internal alert from Chertoff, which was distributed to staff at 7:57 a.m. Aug. 10 – within hours, it says, of the arrests of “a significant number of extremists engaged in a substantial plot to destroy multiple aircraft flying from the United Kingdom to the United States.”

“It’s ridiculous. ‘Extremists’ could mean anyone. Who are we talking about here? Neo-Nazi extremists? Environmental extremists?” another DHS official said. “It’s so politically correct. If the head of Homeland Security can’t say it, who can?”

He noted that as a Jew, Chertoff is especially sensitive to charges of bigotry leveled by Muslim-rights groups.

In a press conference on the sky-terror plot, President Bush called the British terrorists and their ilk “Islamic fascists” but quickly backed off the remark after the Council on American-Islamic Relations and other Muslim groups complained.

Longtime Bush confidante Karen Hughes warned the blunt phrase was hurting her efforts at the State Department to improve the U.S. image in the Muslim world. The president has not used the term again, opting instead for the generic “extremists.”

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also has toned down her war rhetoric.

Last month she referred to the terrorist group Hamas as a “resistance movement,” even though the group has been on her department’s official terror blacklist for a dozen years.

A former senior CIA analyst says America is losing the war on Islamic terror because of such political correctness.

“We are losing in Iraq and Afghanistan because the political leaders in both parties – and their politically correct acolytes in the media, the academy and the general officer corps – refuse to square with the American people about the enemy’s motivation,” said Michael F. Scheuer, who headed the CIA’s bin Laden unit.

He says the enemy is motivated by faith in Islam and is carrying out a jihad, or holy war, against the West.

Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes says it’s strategically important for the U.S. and its war allies to accurately identify the enemy.

“You cannot diagnose and treat a disease without first identifying and naming it,” he said. “So, a strategist cannot defeat an enemy without first identifying it and naming it.”

Still, in a report issued last month, the Homeland Security’s Advisory Council recommended DHS continue to soften its language when referring to the enemy.

“The Department should work with subject matter experts to ensure that the lexicon used within public statements is clear, precise and does not play into the hands of the extremists,” the advisory report said.

The report, released by the DHS Advisory Council’s Task Force on Future Terrorism, also recommended implementing more “Muslim outreach programs.”

“Broader avenues of dialogue with the Muslim community should be identified and pursued by the department to foster mutual respect and understanding, and ultimately trust,” the report urged.

Chertoff said he welcomed the reports findings.

Headquarters has already engaged in such outreach programs. For example, it recently dispatched a senior DHS official to personally take CAIR officials on a VIP tour of the department’s anti-terror-screening operations at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, the nation’s busiest airport.

CAIR, a Washington-based group that’s been tied to terrorists and terror groups, had complained Muslim travelers were being unfairly delayed by Customs and Border Protection agents at inspection stations.

“CAIR had a special inside tour of airport security,” an outraged American Airlines official at O’Hare told WND. “I work here. There’s no way any of us would qualify for that tour.”

CAIR has been invited by DHS headquarters to train Customs and Border Protection agents manning inspections booths at international airports to be more sensitive to Muslims and Muslim customs.

During the recent Hajj pilgrimage, DHS ordered customs officials to respect the rituals of Muslim travelers returning from Mecca, including public praying in the airport.

DHS stresses to field agents that the majority of Muslims don’t believe in violence and to avoid profiling them as terrorists. CBP agents are told in daily musters that “violence is against the teachings of the Quran,” according to official briefing documents obtained by WND that train inspectors in proper techniques for interviewing potential foreign terrorists entering the U.S.

“Key points: Not all violent true believers are Muslim. Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols are considered to be violent true believers,” emphasizes a January 2004 briefing document marked “For Official Use Only.”

“The majority of Muslims are not terrorists,” it adds, “and believe violence is against the teachings of the Quran.”

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