He passed scrutiny because the FBI and other agencies have no idea what they’re looking for. And that is because on October 19, 2011, Farhana Khera of Muslim Advocates delivered a letter to John Brennan, who was then the assistant to the president on National Security for Homeland Security and Counter Terrorism.
The letter was signed by the leaders of virtually all significant Islamic groups in the United States: 57 Muslim, Arab, and South Asian organizations, many with ties to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Muslim American Society (MAS), the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), Islamic Relief USA, and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC).
The letter denounced what it characterized as U.S. government agencies’ “use of biased, false and highly offensive training materials about Muslims and Islam.” It emphasized that this was an issue of the utmost importance:
The seriousness of this issue cannot be overstated, and we request that the White House immediately create an interagency task force to address this problem, with a fair and transparent mechanism for input from the Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities, including civil rights lawyers, religious leaders, and law enforcement experts.
The task force was needed because:
[W]hile recent news reports have highlighted the FBI’s use of biased experts and training materials, we have learned that this problem extends far beyond the FBI and has infected other government agencies, including the U.S. Attorney’s Anti-Terrorism Advisory Councils, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Army. Furthermore, by the FBI’s own admission, the use of bigoted and distorted materials in its trainings has not been an isolated occurrence. Since last year, reports have surfaced that the FBI, and other federal agencies, are using or supporting the use of biased trainers and materials in presentations to law enforcement officials.
Khera also complained about my work: that my books could be found in “the FBI’s library at the FBI training academy in Quantico, Virginia”; that a reading list accompanying a slide presentation by the FBI’s Law Enforcement Communications Unit recommended my book The Truth About Muhammad; that in July 2010 I “presented a two-hour seminar on ‘the belief system of Islamic jihadists’ to the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) in Tidewater, Virginia”; and that I also “presented a similar lecture to the U.S. Attorney’s Anti-Terrorism Advisory Council, which is co-hosted by the FBI’s Norfolk Field Office.”
These were supposed to be terrible materials because I was supposedly bigoted and hateful. However, many of the examples Khera adduced of “bigoted and distorted materials” involved statements that were simply accurate. The only distortion was Khera’s representation of them.
For instance, Khera stated:
A 2006 FBI intelligence report stating that individuals who convert to Islam are on the path to becoming “Homegrown Islamic Extremists,” if they exhibit any of the following behavior:“Wearing traditional Muslim attire”
“Growing facial hair”
“Frequent attendance at a mosque or a prayer group”
“Travel to a Muslim country”
“Increased activity in a pro-Muslim social group or political cause”
Well, the FBI intelligence report Khera purported to be describing didn’t actually say that. Rather, it included these behaviors among a list of fourteen indicators that could “identify an individual going through the radicalization process.” Other indicators included:
“Travel without obvious source of funds”“Suspicious purchases of bomb making paraphernalia or weapons”
“Large transfer of funds, from or to overseas”
“Formation of operational cells”
Khera had selectively quoted the list to give the impression that the FBI was teaching that devout observance of Islam led inevitably and in every case to “extremism.”
Despite the factual accuracy of the material about which they were complaining, the Muslim groups signing the letter demanded that the task force, among other actions:
“Purge all federal government training materials of biased materials.”“Implement a mandatory re-training program for FBI agents, U.S. Army officers, and all federal, state and local law enforcement who have been subjected to biased training.”
They wished to ensure that all law enforcement officials ever learn about Islam and jihad would be what the signatories wanted them to learn — and Brennan was amenable to that. He took Khera’s complaints as his marching orders.
In a November 3, 2011, letter to Khera that — significantly — was written on White House stationery, Brennan made no attempt to defend counter-terror materials and procedures. He instead accepted Khera’s criticisms without a murmur of protest and assured her of his readiness to comply:
Please allow me to share with you the specific steps we are taking to ensure that federal officials and state, local and tribal partners receive accurate, evidence-based information in these crucial areas.
Brennan assured Khera that all her demands would be met:
Your letter requests that “the White House immediately create an interagency task force to address this problem,” and we agree that this is necessary.
He then detailed other specific actions being undertaken, including “collecting all training materials that contain cultural or religious content, including information related to Islam or Muslims.” In reality, this material wouldn’t just be “collected”; it would be purged of anything that Farhana Khera and others like her found offensive. Honest, accurate discussion of how Islamic jihadists use Islamic teachings to justify violence would no longer be allowed.
The alacrity with which Brennan complied was unfortunate on many levels. Numerous books and presentations that gave a perfectly accurate view of Islam and jihad were purged. Brennan was complying with demands from quarters that could hardly be considered authentically moderate.
This entrenched policy of the U.S. government ensured that people such as Ahmad Khan Rahami simply cannot be identified as risks. The administration is bound, as a matter of policy, to ignore what in saner times would be taken as warning signs.
And so there will be many, many more jihad bombings like the one he perpetrated in New York City last Saturday.
“Flagged Two Times in 2014, Ahmad Rahami Passed Scrutiny,” by Marc Santora, Rukmini Callimachi and Adam Goldman, New York Times, September 21, 2016:
When Ahmad Khan Rahami returned in March 2014 from a nearly yearlong trip to Pakistan, he was flagged by customs officials, who pulled him out for a secondary screening. Still concerned about his travel, they notified the National Targeting Center, a federal agency that assesses potential threats, two law enforcement officials said.
It was one of thousands of such notifications every year, and a report on Mr. Rahami was passed along to the F.B.I. and other intelligence agencies.
Five months later, when Mr. Rahami’s father told the police after a domestic dispute that he was concerned about his son having terrorist sympathies, federal agents again examined his travel history. And again, despite Mr. Rahami’s now having been flagged twice for scrutiny, the concerns were not found to warrant a deeper inquiry, one of the law enforcement officials said. Ahmad Rahami was not interviewed by federal agents.
But now, the travel history of Mr. Rahami, who is accused of carrying out bombings in New York and New Jersey last weekend, has become a focus of investigators, a subject made all the more urgent by details contained in a notebook that suggests he drew inspiration largely from the Islamic State.
In particular, Mr. Rahami cites a founding member of the Islamic State who called on Muslims around the world to take up whatever arms they could find and spill the blood of nonbelievers.
The assessment of Mr. Rahami by the F.B.I. began in August 2014, and it once again reviewed the report by the National Targeting Center.
“By identifying high-risk passengers and cargo well before they would cross our land borders, sail into our ports or touch down on our tarmacs, the N.T.C. team is on duty to protect our people and economy 24/7,” the federal government’s description of the agency says.
It is unclear how much information the report contained about Mr. Rahami’s activities during the 11 months he was in Pakistan, starting in April 2013, and about any other trips he made while abroad.
Investigators are interested in learning more about both a three-week trip he made to Afghanistan and another trip he may have made to Ankara, Turkey, according to the law enforcement officials, who spoke about the continuing investigation under the condition of anonymity. The report by the targeting center did not mention any travel to Turkey, according to one of the officials.
Records the New York Police Department provided to customs officials indicate that Mr. Rahami traveled to Ankara for an unspecified length of time in January 2014, according to another law enforcement official and documents obtained by The New York Times.
That trip would have happened at a time when international authorities were concerned about the flow of foreign combatants to Syria to fight in the civil war there, but before the Islamic State became widely known as a source of global terrorism.
The Islamic State was just making its first expansion into Iraq then, taking the city of Falluja. Mostly, the group was seen as an Islamist rebel force in the Syrian conflict that had become focused on grabbing territory from fellow opposition groups — especially the Nusra front, which, like the Islamic State, had started as a branch of Al Qaeda but instead became an enemy….