By Paul Bremmer
In 2008, the trial and conviction of five leaders of an Islamic charity for funding the terrorist group Hamas exposed the vast Muslim Brotherhood network in the U.S. and its stated aim, according to FBI evidence, to “destroy Western Civilization from within.”
Along with the convictions, the Department of Justice named 300 unindicted co-conspirators in the plot, which included many of the nation’s most prominent Muslim Brotherhood-related organizations. Among them were the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Islamic Society of North America and the North American Islamic Trust.
Nevertheless, just one year later, Department of Homeland Security officer Philip B. Haney was ordered to delete or modify hundreds of records of individuals tied to Muslim Brotherhood front groups in the United States. The records in the federal Treasury Enforcement Communications System (TECS) database contained valuable intelligence information, the “dots” that counter-terrorism officials seek to connect.
The evidence presented by the Justice Department in the Holy Land Foundation trial, Haney said, shows the federal government “knew” that the information he was ordered to delete or modify was true and relevant.
“In spite of the irrefutable evidence presented in federal court, when they ordered me to take that information out that related to the Muslim Brotherhood, they made a conscious decision right there that they were going to disregard facts-based law enforcement information,” Haney said in an an interview last week with “Stand for Truth Radio” with Susan Knowles.
Instead, said Haney, whose new book “See Something, Say Nothing” was officially released last week, the government has pursued a “policy of engagement and dialogue based on a civil rights and civil liberties approach to counter-terrorism.”
“They knew, and yet they still did it,” he said.
Courting the Muslim Brotherhood
Haney said the higher-ups told him he didn’t have the authority to enter terrorism-related information into the system in the first place, but he has another explanation.
“I believe, and I maintain strongly, that it’s because it had a direct connection to the Muslim Brotherhood organizations that the administration was courting as allies in their domestic and foreign policy,” Haney said.
“So they had to make a choice – whether to act on the derogatory information that was in the system and build on it, like putting bricks in a wall, or to not merely passively ignore it – which is what they did initially – but then to deliberately and intentionally remove it entirely,” he said.
“And that is what they chose to do.”
See a trailer for “See Something, Say Nothing”:
The concerns about the “civil rights and civil liberties” of individuals and groups that threaten the nation’s security arose again in 2012 when the State Department and the DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties effectively shut down a DHS initiative Haney helped launch to vet members of a worldwide Islamic movement for terrorist ties that resulted in 1,200 law enforcement actions.
Three years later, as Haney recounts in “See Something, Say Nothing,” two people linked to the movement, known as Tablighi Jamaat, killed 14 people at a holiday party in San Bernardino, California. Haney told Knowles that one of the killers, Syed Farook, fit the profile of the Tablighi Jamaat members he used to regularly interview as a customs officer and noted Farook regularly attended a mosque in the San Bernardino area affiliated with the movement.
If the Tablighi Jamaat Initiative had not been shut down, Haney believes, Farook may have been added to a terrorist database and possibly a no-fly list because of his association with the mosque. In addition, his fiancée, Tashfeen Malik, may have been denied a K-1 visa, barring her from entering the United States.
Ignored Boston clues
Haney believes the Boston Marathon bombing in April 2013 was avoidable as well.
Four years before the bombing, he entered into the TECS database information on a network of organizations and individuals whose central hub was the Islamic Society of Boston and its Cambridge, Massachusetts, mosque.
It was the mosque attended by the perpetrators of the bombing, the Tsarnaev brothers.
Any Customs and Border Protection officer at any port around the country could have accessed Haney’s data, but he said there were no queries of that particular file before the Boston Marathon bombing. What’s more, he said there were no queries of his data in the days and weeks after the bombing.
“You have to assume that the law enforcement officers and intelligence subject matter experts within my agency and other affiliated agencies were aware of those records,” Haney said.
But then the administration went further and brought the Islamic Society of Boston into its Countering Violent Extremism program as a “model community,” Haney noted.
If they had done even basic vetting, according to Haney, they would have discovered the ISB had many individuals and affiliated organizations with known ties to terrorists.
Haney hopes Americans heed the warnings he lays out in “See Something, Say Nothing.”
“I really do hope that everybody involved, on either side of the political fence, can find the wherewithal to help our country cover itself and get back on track, define our borders and start protecting ourselves,” he said.
He said it’s not so much a matter of closing the border as one of securing it. Even if there were a wall around the entire perimeter of the United States, he pointed out, it would not keep Americans safe if no one is watching the gates in the wall.
Haney believes the problem is he and his fellow national security gatekeepers are not being permitted to keep the country safe.
“We’re capable of doing our jobs and fulfilling our vow, but we’re handcuffed and we’re not allowed to do it because of present policy,” he said.