I asked for an example of how these outreach programs jeopardized investigations:
Well the best example was the investigation into the missing Somali kids in Minneapolis two years ago.
When Al-Shabaab started gaining support in the Somali community after the Ethiopian invasion in late 2006 and early 2007, all of the government agencies started doing outreach to the Somali imams. But when these kids went missing in Minneapolis, did we get a call from these imams we were reaching out to?
No, they were telling the families to shut up and not to talk to the FBI.
[Author’s note: Subsequent to my interview, Abdirizak Bihi, the uncle of one of the missing kids who was later killed fighting with Al-Shabaab in Somalia, testified before the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee hearing on radicalization in the Islamic community making these same claims: religious leaders and CAIR were intimidating the families of the missing Somali men to prevent them from talking to law enforcement.]
It wasn’t long into the investigation before we started hearing that the ones primarily responsible for recruiting and raising the funds for these kids to go fight with Al-Shabaab were the same imams we had been doing outreach to all along. But everyone was saying “we must do outreach,” like they had all been hypnotized, so the outreach continued.
Now at the same time, the FBI was working to get information from these imams about what might have happened with these kids when somebody somewhere decides to put them on the no-fly list. [Author’s note: It was widely reported that Sheik Abdirahman Ahmed of Masjid Abubakar As-Saddique -- the largest mosque in Minnesota -- and the mosque’s youth director Abdulahi Farah were placed on and later removed from the no-fly list.] So they get stopped trying to leave the country, which tips them off that they’re part of the investigation. And the imams quickly lawyer up. Its months before we actually get their attorneys to agree to let them to talk to us. And we got nothing from them when we did.
Once we started to get a handle on how big this really was, it ended up being becoming the largest CT [counterterrorism] investigation since 9/11. And a couple of months in we finally convene a grand jury to look into this thing. So do we call these imams in? Hell no.
Subpoenas go out to a bunch of mid- and low-level people, but not the big fish. And when the low-level people get their subpoenas, who do they call? The imams who are our prime suspects, oh, and who also are supposed to be our outreach partners. And like magic, the low-level folks all suddenly get CAIR attorneys representing them. The result is that the indictments that have been handed down are virtually all minor players. Instead of going after the guys running the operation, we indict a couple of guys and a Somali woman who raised a couple of thousand of dollars for Al-Shabaab.
Don’t get me wrong, I think they should all go to jail, but do we really believe we’re winning the war on terror when this Somali woman gets indicted and the imams who recruited these kids and sent them to fight and die are allowed to walk free?
I asked: the outreach to the imams finally stopped, didn’t it?
Are you kidding me? They’re still working with these guys!
[Authors note: In fact, one Somali press outlet reported that Homeland Security, the FBI, and several other federal, state, and local agencies held an unpublicized outreach session at the Abubakar As-Saddique mosque earlier this month. According to that report, Sheikh Ahmed and other mosque leaders did not attend for fear of backlash from the Somali community.]
But here’s how we get twisted around our own outreach programs. About two months after all these kids disappear, the Al-Shabaab imams from all over the country get together at a meeting in Ohio, including the Minneapolis imams we’re looking at. Do we wiretap the meeting? Of course not.
Instead, a representative for the imams convinces some dimwit attorney from Homeland Security Civil Rights division to come talk at their meeting about outreach. And so they let this guy talk for about ten minutes, then he’s quickly ushered out of the building so they can get down to business. This gives them perfect cover. “Well we can’t be having a terrorist meeting because we had Homeland Security here!”
And can you guess what happened to the imam’s lackey who arranged for Homeland Security to be at that meeting? He’s now one of [Homeland Security Secretary] Napolitano’s senior advisors and running all of their Somali outreach! They gave this guy a security clearance! I’m not f***ing kidding you!