The failure of two invited Obama administration officials to show up for a Senate hearing on how the government's unwillingness to name the enemy allegedly has hamstrung national security was only the beginning of Ted Cruz's disappointment with Democrats on Tuesday afternoon.
As he brought the hearing of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee he chairs to a close after three hours – titled "Willful Blindness: Consequences of Agency Efforts To Deemphasize Radical Islam in Combating Terrorism" – he also marveled that his colleagues across the aisle raised no concern about the testimony of former Department of Homeland Security officer Philip Haney.
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Haney testified that the administration "purged" more than 800 of his records related to the Muslim Brotherhood network in the U.S. because they somehow were an offense to Muslims.
"Apparently, the Orwellian censorship of law enforcement materials and intelligence materials is not a concern to my colleagues," Cruz said.
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"And at a time when we're facing a global war on terror, I would hope that my colleagues on the Democratic side of the aisle will express real concern about a censorship and editing of law enforcement materials."
Emphasizing his point about the administration's propensity to scrub mention of Islam, Cruz pointed to the recent 9-1-1 transcript in which Orlando killer Omar Mateen's declaration of allegiance to ISIS was redacted. The senator used a chart to illustrate the fact that the 9/11 report used the word "jihad" 126 times while there are zero occurrences of the word in more recent administration documents related to terrorism.
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In his first opportunity to ask questions, Cruz told Haney his testimony before the committee is "exceptionally important."
"I commend both members of the media and the American public to examine your testimony closely, because you have described a systematic policy, indeed of scrubbing, sanitizing, erasing references to radical Islam," Cruz told the recently retired DHS officer.
What Haney witnessed in more than a dozen years as a founding member of the DHS is recounted in his new bestselling book, “See Something, Say Nothing: A Homeland Security Officer Exposes the Government’s Submission to Jihad.”
In addition, Haney said, a highly successful case he helped develop as a member of one of the National Targeting Center's advanced units was shut down by Hillary Clinton's State Department and the DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties out of concern for the "rights" of foreign Muslims. And after Haney retired honorably last year, he discovered that had his case continued, it might have prevented both the Orlando and the San Bernardino attacks.
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Along with the quashing of the case in June 2012, the administration subsequently ordered the deletion of an additional 67 records concerning a related network.
The opening of the hearing was interrupted by three female protesters in pink with signs declaring "Caution! Radical Congressional Islamophobia" and "Islam (not-equal symbol) terrorism."
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Along with Haney, witnesses called by the Republicans on the committee were Zuhdi Jasser, founder and president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy; Chris Gaubatz, national security consultant for the non-profit Understanding the Threat; and Andrew McCarthy, a former chief assistant United States attorney who is known now as an author and contributor to National Review.
The Democrats called Farhana Y. Khera, president and executive director of Muslim Advocates; J. Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center; and Michael German, fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice and a former FBI special agent.
Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California and Chuck Schumer of New York were among the Democrat no-shows on the Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Oversight, Agency Action, Federal Rights and Federal Courts. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island also was not there.
In attendance were ranking member Chris Coons of Delaware, Richard Durbin of Illinois, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.
Republicans in attendance, along with Cruz, were Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Jeff Sessions of Alabama and Mike Lee of Utah.
Republican members Charles Grassley of Iowa and David Vitter of Louisiana observed the hearing for a time and left without asking questions.
Orrin Hatch of Utah and Jeff Flake of Arizona did not attend.
The missing witnesses were John P. Carlin, assistant attorney general for the National Security Division of the Department of Justice, and Michael Steinbach, executive assistant director for the National Security Branch of the FBI.
Ranking member Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., insisted the two administration officials didn't show up because the hearing was scheduled on such short notice and they had other things to do. But Cruz retorted that they had been notified two weeks ahead of time and that the administration had declined the invitation.
'The great purge'
Khera of Muslim Advocates was on the other side of the "purge" addressed by Cruz and Haney, as the author of a 2011 letter to the acting inspector general of the Justice Department.
Her letter urged an "immediate investigation" into the FBI's "use of grossly inaccurate, inflammatory, and highly offensive counterterrorism training materials about Muslims and Islam used to train its agents and other law enforcement."
Among the "woefully misinformed statements about Islam and bigoted stereotypes about Muslims" in FBI training was the assertion that there "may not be a 'radical' threat as much as it is simply a normal assertion of the orthodox theology … [t]he strategic themes animating these Islamic values are not fringe; they are main stream.”
Khera previously served as counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where she worked for six years for Sen. Russell D. Feingold, D-Wis. According to a bio posted by the Islamic Society of North America, ISNA, while working with the Senate, she "focused substantially on the USA PATRIOT Act, racial and religious profiling, and other civil liberties issues raised by the government’s anti-terrorism policies since September 11th."
Khera is listed as a featured speaker on the website of ISNA, which was one of the groups, along with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, identified by the Justice Department as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation trial, the largest terrorist-financing case in U.S. history.
In her prepared testimony Tuesday, she said the "use of bigoted trainers and materials in the recent past is not only highly offensive, disparaging the faith of millions of Americans, but leads to biased policing that targets individuals and communities based on religion, rather than based upon evidence of wrongdoing."
Cruz, referring to his chart showing the scrubbing of Islamic words from the government's lexicon, asked Khera if it was her organization's position that the 126 references to "jihad" in the 9/11 commission report were "offensive" or "bigoted."
After not receiving an answer the first time, he posed the question again.
Khera stuttered before collecting her thoughts, saying "our concern is not just terminology, but it's about what these materials are communicating."
Cruz tried again: "So my understanding is you don’t think it's bigoted to use jihad? I just want to understand your organization's position, whether or not it is bigoted to use the word jihad.
"So, this is when I think it's problematic," Khera said, "I think it's problematic when we have public officials – whether it's members of Congress, members of the administration, who are going out and describing the problem as a problem of jihad or a problem of radical Islamic terrorism.
"That's a problem, because it's actually playing in to the propaganda aim of ISIS," she said. "And it makes us less safe, because ISIS wants this to be a war against Islam, and by using religiously loaded terminology like jihad, we're playing into their mindset."
She said further that "it's not only that, it's just grossly inaccurate."
"I think we need to call the threat what it is. It's ISIS, it's al-Qaida," she said. "And it's no different than the KKK or those who attack abortion clinics.
"We wouldn’t go and say, 'There's a problem with radical Christianity or radical Christian terrorism. We call the threat what it is. It's the KKK. It's those who are attacking women's health clinics."
Cruz noted that he had asked Khera twice whether or not her organization thought the 9/11 report was bigoted and said he would try to ask the question a different way.
Khera interrupted, saying she must have misunderstood the question. She said her problem is not necessarily with the use of the term jihad but with the way in which officials in general were talking about the threat.
"Well, if it wasn't a concern, then why would it be purged from 126 down to zero, zero, zero, zero?" Cruz asked, referring to four documents issued under Obama.
"I cannot explain," she said. "I cannot speak for the administration, these government agencies that did that, and what their thinking was in the development of those documents."
Cruz interjected, pointing out the purging of the language was done "in response to a request from your organization in writing, calling for a 'purge.'"
Khera said that what she and her organization asked for was a purging of "bigoted training materials."
In his prepared statement, Jasser, who described himself as a "devout Muslim who loves my faith, and loves my nation," rejected the view that using terms such as "radical Islam" plays into the hands of ISIS and al-Qaida.
"Wholesale denial of the truth by many in our government and political establishment has actually emboldened extremists on both sides of this debate: both radical Islamists and anti-Muslim fascists," he said.
Jasser said that it's from his perspective as a Muslim that he concludes the "deemphasis of 'radical Islam' is the greatest obstacle to both national harmony and national security."
Jasser called for, among other things, a lifting of the ban on using Islamic terms and an investigation of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and other U.S.-based groups that promote a supremacist interpretation of Islam that seeks to impose Islamic law in the U.S and worldwide.
'Operating in plain sight'
Haney said in his prepared testimony that the "threat of Islamic terrorism does not just come from a network of armed organizations such as Hamas and ISIS, who are operating 'over there' in the Middle East."
"In fact, branches of the same global network have been established here in America, and they are operating in plain sight – at least to those of us who have been charged with the duty of protecting our country from threats, both foreign and domestic."
Cohen of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a group that has created a list of "hate groups" that includes many Christian organizations, essentially agreed with the administration's description of its task as Countering Violent Extremism, insisting other threats – such as the ranchers who protested the government's management of grazing land – should be given attention as well.
"After the shock and horror of the 9/11 attacks, a dedicated, comprehensive and forceful response to the threat associated with radical forms of Islam, both here and abroad, was an absolute necessity," he said. "No one could possibly argue otherwise. The question we have raised at various points is whether threats from other forms of terrorism have been given the attention they require."
'Destroying Western Civilization from within'
Gaubatz, as told in the 2009 WND Books exposé “Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld That’s Conspiring to Islamize America,” posed as a Muslim convert while serving as an intern for CAIR's national office in Washington, D.C.
He was able to obtain some 12,000 pages of CAIR internal documents and made recordings of officials and employees that confirmed the group's hidden objective as a promoter of the Muslim Brotherhood and its aim of replacing the U.S. Constitution with Islamic law.
CAIR retaliated with a lawsuit against Gaubatz and his father, David Gaubatz, the co-author of Muslim Mafia, that is still unresolved.
In his prepared testimony, Gaubatz said that when his group, Understanding the Threat, offers training to federal, state and local law enforcement, Muslim Brotherhood groups "work to intimidate the hosts of the training venues into canceling the training by threatening them with cries of 'Islamophobia' or 'racism.'"
He pointed out that a document the FBI entered into evidence in the Holy Land Foundation trial declares the role of the Muslim Brotherhood in North America.
It said the Muslim Brotherhood "must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying Western civilization from within and 'sabotaging' its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.”
Michael German, the former FBI agent, said he disagrees "with the notion that the Obama administration’s reluctance to identify 'radical Islam' as the focus of our counter-terrorism effort is part of the problem."
He contended the term "lacks objective meaning and only serves to stoke public fear, xenophobia, and anti-Muslim bigotry."
"I agree with President Obama that the use of this rhetoric offends American values of equality, religious liberty and free expression, and undermines the national unity and international cooperation necessary to effectively counter terrorist violence at home and abroad."
German said his stance is "not political correctness, it is factual correctness."
“Radical Islam,” he said, "is no more accurate or appropriate a descriptor of the source of terrorist violence committed by Muslims than the label 'radical Christianity' would be to describe the violence perpetrated by Ku Klux Klan, the Army of God, or the Lord’s Resistance Army."
"No one scoured Christian theological texts for the fatal defects that could explain the bloodletting between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland in the 1970s, or the war crimes Christian Serbs inflicted on their Bosnian Muslim neighbors in the 1990s," he argued.
Finding 'true Islam' a 'fool's errand'
McCarthy, known for leading the prosecution that led to the conviction of the "blind sheik" in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, Omar Abdel-Rahman, said much time has been was wasted in the last decade trying to determine what is "true Islam."
"The centrality of ideology tells us why terrorists obeyed the blind sheik," he said. "It tells us why terrorists act – something that we must grasp if we have any hope of defending ourselves and defeating them."
McCarthy lamented that "instead of focusing on this ideology, we have wasted much of the last two decades on a fool’s errand: attempting to define a 'true Islam' in the futile hope of discrediting terrorists as purveyors of a false Islam."
"The stubborn fact is that there may not be a 'true Islam,'" he said.
McCarthy noted that "innumerable factions of Muslims have been debating one another, often violently fighting amongst each other, for 14 centuries.
"They have not settled the question, 'What is the true Islam?' The United States is not going to settle it, either."
Note: Media wishing to interview the authors of "See Something, Say Nothing" can contact them here.
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