After six Somali refugees were convicted of plotting to board planes and join ISIS in Syria, a U.S. federal judge in Minnesota decided to enroll one of them in an experimental terrorist rehabilitation program.
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Rather than going to prison, Abdullahi Mohamed Yusuf, 21, was sentenced in November to a 20-year supervised release. He was granted time served and sent to live in a halfway house. He receives counseling, reports to a probation officer and wears an ankle monitor but is otherwise free to come and go.
But less than six months from the time he was released, Yusuf has already hit a road block.
He was returned to federal custody last week for allegedly failing a polygraph test and watching a documentary about ISIS in Europe.
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According to a report by a U.S. probation officer, Yusuf failed a polygraph while under questioning, then admitted to watching CNN’s “ISIS: Behind the Mask,” a film about a Belgian ISIS soldier that was on TV April 18 at his halfway house, the Star-Tribune reported.
The terms of his 20-year supervised release include a provision that Yusuf not "possess, view, access, or otherwise use material that reflects extremist or terroristic views or as deemed to be inappropriate by the U.S. Probation Office."
It's all part of a "unique approach to supervising federal terrorism cases," the Star-Tribune reports. This approach was approved by federal Judge Michael Davis and the U.S. District Court's Probation and Pretrial Services department, which chose the Minnesota case to introduce the country’s first terrorism “disengagement and deradicalization” program.
In essence, they would try to "deradicalize" the young jihadist.
The program is based on evaluations and training from German researcher Daniel Koehler, who concluded that Yusuf had "a medium to low risk of future offending and a comparatively advanced stage of disengagement," according to court filings.
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Almost everyone in Minnesota law enforcement is not on board with the controversial program, sources tell WND. And groups that try to educate police on the religious underpinnings of jihad are typically closed out of the discussion.
Even citizens find it hard to get the ear of their local sheriff or police chief, says Debra Anderson, the ACT for America chapter leader for Minnesota.
"It's CVE at the highest level down to the local level and even though the grassroots activists are trying to train our law enforcement it's almost impossible to even get these guys to have a meeting with you," Anderson told WND. "I get doors shut in my face every day."
Philip Haney, who spent more than a dozen years screening for jihadists at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security before retiring in 2015, told WND that Minnesota is not the first to experiment with the idea that terrorists can be rehabilitated.
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He says it's been tried many times, in many places, including the Guantanamo Bay detainment camp.
The concept, that religiously motivated terrorists can be reformed, finds its roots in the "countering violent extremism" movement – an approach that began in Europe and was brought to the U.S. by the Obama administration.
"Rehabilitation is part of CVE. In fact, the idea that terrorists can be rehabilitated is woven into the overall CVE concept," said Haney, co-author of the book "See Something Say Nothing: A Homeland Security Officer Exposes the Government's Submission to Jihad."
"But the bottom line is these programs have been demonstrable failures," he said. "They started with Saudi Arabia rehabbing Gitmo prisoners, and it's actually achieved the opposite results."
According to data released in March, the intelligence community has confirmed a total of 121 former Gitmo detainees have re-entered the battlefield. Another 87 former detainees are suspected of rejoining the ranks of their brother terrorists. The total of 208 confirmed and suspected terrorists makes up 30 percent of all those released from Gitmo.
Sweden and Denmark have also engaged in a concerted effort to rehab their jihadists.
"They're trying it out in Denmark now, but there's no real quantifiable way of demonstrating the program is effective because they universally overlook the real source of what they call 'radicalization,' and no program will ever work if you overlook the source of what is causing this violent behavior," Haney said.
Such attempts completely ignore the original source of inspiration for Islamic violence – the Islamic texts, which include the Quran and hadiths – the reported words and deeds of the prophet Muhammad, Haney said.
Rehab in Denmark
Morten Storm, a former Danish al-Qaida member, told Newsweek he dismisses the experiment on its face.
"It’s completely ridiculous," he says. "It means disregarding the life and dignity of the people the jihadists have been terrorizing – simply because the jihadists happen to be Danish. And deradicalizing the jihadists doesn’t work, because they’re religiously motivated. Yes, some may enroll [in the program], but then they’ll go back to the front lines."
Danish leaders, like Obama's former U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harp, are striving to pin the causes of terrorism on something other than Islam. Harp famously said it was a lack of jobs in the Middle East that led young men to become terrorists.
But what about here in the U.S. or Europe, where jobs are plentiful and education is often free?
"One school of thought is that the jihadists feel excluded, versus the reality that assimilation into a non-Muslim society is counter to the teachings of Islam, so we're blaming the host nation for not being inclusive enough and enabling the [Muslim] migrants to be a part of our country when in reality they don't want to assimilate and be a part of it," Haney said.
Strong Cities Network
On Sept. 29, 2015, former Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the launch of the Strong Cities Network at United Nations headquarters in New York.
"At that point, CVE went global, it morphed into this Strong Cities Network, part of a much bigger agenda to enable, or refuse to acknowledge, the threat that we face from Islamic terrorism," Haney said. "The White House all but admitted it didn't work and yet they tripled the budget for CVE as part of this attempt to provide alternative narratives that transform how we think about terrorism. The focus of law enforcement went from 'Islamic terrorism' to 'violent extremism in all its forms.'"
The U.S. State Department even launched a Twitter campaign in February 2016 to try to deny the Islamic role in terrorism. It was a bust. The year 2016 was the most Islamically violent year in decades with terrorist attacks launched across Europe and the U.S., from Orlando to Paris, Normandy, Nice, Bavaria and Berlin.
And Minneapolis, with its large Somali refugee community admittedly struggling with ISIS and al-Shabab "recruitment problems," was one of three cities the Obama administration chose in 2014 for CVE pilot programs, along with Boston and Los Angeles.
Minneapolis and L.A. would go the extra step and join the global Strong Cities Network, or SCN.
Minneapolis was one of four initial U.S. cities to sign up for SCN, along with New York, Denver and Atlanta.
Jordanian Prince Zeid Raad Zeid al-Hussein, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, came to New York to help roll out the SCN in September 2015 at the U.N., standing beside Loretta Lynch and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Since then, six more U.S. cities have joined the global policing network – Aurora, Colorado; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Los Angeles; San Diego; Montgomery County, Maryland; and Louisville, Kentucky.
So the CVE and Strong Cities Network are inexorably linked, both tracing their U.S. points of origin into the heart of the Obama administration and its effort to take the heat off of Islam and place it onto "right wing" terrorists.
Draining the swamp?
All of this was done without consulting Congress, or with any apparent consideration of states' rights, or the Constitution itself, says Haney.
Part of the U.N.'s focus is to cultivate global governance through cities, bypassing nation-states. This was made evident in the New Urban Agenda adopted by the Obama administration and more than 100 other world leaders at the Habitat III Conference last year in Ecuador.
As for the Trump administration, it has shown little awareness of the power of these programs, nor has it signaled any sense of urgency in reversing them, Haney said.
"I don't think they really are aware of how much is really being done [through the U.N.], I think Trump is on a steep learning curve, and he's touching some of these issues and I give him credit for it," he said. "The question is whether he has the political courage to go forward, because if he's going to drain the swamp these are the kinds of programs that need to be drained. They put our sovereignty subject to an outside international body."
Most of the government attempts at deprogramming jihadists focus on poverty or some other "subjective" cause that deflects attention from the central issue, Haney said. They also ignore the broad sweep of history.
"Islam is not a subjective ideology, but they're using subjective terms to try to define a religion that is objectively very well defined … poverty, colonialism, lack of inclusiveness, it has all existed well before modern times," Haney said. "The ideology existed before the times we live in. We saw it in their crossing the Straights of Gibraltar in 711 A.D. [into Spain]. And we saw it in 732 A.D. exactly 100 years after Muhammad died, when they were invading France, only to be driven out by Charles Martel."
Another incursion was made in 1683 at the Gates of Vienna, only to be repelled by the Polish King John Sobieski.
The West has been in a 1,300-year, on-and-off war with Islam. It seems the war is back on, but few in the West are aware.
Anderson said the Obama policy of playing nice with terrorists has had a severe impact on her state, which is home to so many Somali Muslims.
"They have fundamentally transformed counter-terrorism from a law-enforcement-based approach, which treated them as criminals with all the rights of normal defendants and that in itself was the subject of great debate, but Obama took it a step further and transformed the U.S. system from a law-based approach to a civil-rights and civil-liberties approach. So they've basically paralyzed our law-enforcement system," Anderson said.
Gov. Dayton tells detractors: 'find another state'
Meanwhile, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, speaking openly at a community forum in St. Cloud in October 2015, told residents that anyone who cannot accept living alongside Somali immigrants "should find another state." Less than a year later, in September 2016, a Somali refugee went on a stabbing spree at the Crossroads Mall in St. Cloud, injuring 10 people.
"We have a governor who doesn't listen to us and our mayor in Minneapolis, Betsy Hodges, signed us up for Strong Cities Network, so we have it bad here," Anderson said. "We're just a sinking state."
"On the one hand the grassroots is getting it, we've circumvented the hostile media, and we've traveled around and what I'm learning is the surrounding states are recognizing Minnesota is ground-zero for jihadi training," Anderson said.
Dar al-Farooq in Bloomington is one mosque that draws suspicion. It operates under the guidance of imam Walid Idrus al-Maneesey, who is also a member of the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America, the organization responsible for issuing fatwas in North America.
The mosque supports the Islamic University of Minnesota, which turned out its first graduating class recently with intense training in Shariah law, the Quran and Islamic jurisprudence. At least six Somali terrorism suspects have been known to attend al-Maneesey's mosque.
And now the Minneapolis police are tolerating an Islamic Shariah cop who patrols the Cedar Riverside neighborhoods looking for violations of Islamic dress and food laws, as well as social interaction deemed inappropriate between the sexes. He has recruited 10 others to work under him and police have not arrested any of them.
Another example of Minneapolis police backing off of Somali Muslim criminal activity occurred last June in the Linden Hills community on Lake Calhoun. For three straight days a gang of Somali thugs terrorized the neighborhood, riding vehicles over lawns, shouting threats of rape and pretending to shoot people on the beach. One neighbor's dog was beaten. Not a single arrest was made and the police chronically showed up "too late" to catch the thugs when they were called by residents.
"They are more interested in protecting their civil rights and civil liberties than protecting the local population," Anderson said.
"What the average citizen does not know is they no longer have reliable law enforcement," she added. "They don't know that. Linden Hills is a perfect example of that.
"So this is a country gradually surrendering to Islamic sharia law. We are, already, incrementally surrendering. Former Obama-appointed U.S. attorney for Minnesota, Andrew Luger, several times made public statements that showed his bias toward Muslims and against non-Muslims in Minnesota. After the Somali arrests, and after the Brussels, Belgium, terrorist attack he said 'we're here to protect you, our Muslim friends, from Islamophobia.'"