For more than fifty years, the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) has been one of the leading government-sponsored and -funded research institutions, conducting highly classified research for the military and intelligence community’s most secret projects. As its website notes, IDA currently operates three separate federally-funded research and development centers (FFRDC): one for the Secretary of Defense, another for the National Security Agency, and yet another for the Executive Office of the President.
Because of the nature of its work, for which it receives nearly $200 million annually in taxpayer support (the exact amount of its current funding is unknown since IDA’s last published IRS Form 990 available on the Internet is 2002), it is no surprise that IDA’s board of trustees, corporate officers and staff directory read like a “Who’s Who” of former federal agency heads and military leaders. IDA has previously characterized its exclusive relationship and direct participation in top-secret government programs as such:
The work often requires privileged access to sensitive information, including highly classified and industry proprietary data not normally available to non-government organizations.
Considering IDA’s influential position with the Department of Defense and the intelligence community, and the sensitive nature of the work it undertakes for the federal government, it is distressing that this federally-funded “think tank” has established a strategic partnership with four different Islamic organizations that have been identified by federal prosecutors as tied to the international terrorist network.
International Institute for Islamic Thought (IIIT)
Islamic Society of North America (ISNA)
Muslim American Society (MAS)
Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
International Council of Religion and Democracy (ICRD)
Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA)
Three of these groups — IIIT, ISNA and CAIR — were listed by the Department of Justice as unindicted co-conspirators last May in the Holy Land Foundation terror financing trial. Meanwhile, MAS was recently identified by federal prosecutors in a DOJ appeals court brief in another terrorism-related case as “the overt arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in America.” The brief also states that “CAIR conspired with other affiliates of the Muslim Brotherhood to support terrorists.”
In stark contrast to IDA’s extensive list of leaders and staff with records of exemplary military and government service, AMCE’s advisory council reads like a virtual “Who’s Who” of Islamic extremist leaders in America.
Adding to these concerns is the fact that the lead AMCE contact for the ICRD is a former high-ranking government official for Sudan, a state sponsor of terrorism. This individual even served as the Islamic regime’s official spokesman when Sudan was a haven for Osama bin Laden and played a leading role in networking together both Sunni and Shia terrorist organizations to attack the West.
This revelation of IDA’s ties to terror comes as multiple federal agencies have received congressional scrutiny and widespread public criticism for “outreach” programs involving these same organizations, especially those involving DOD, Homeland Security, and federal law enforcement.
For instance, this past August Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) and Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC) wrote a letter to then-Attorney General Roberto Gonzales protesting the decision of the FBI to cosponsor ISNA’s 2007 annual convention:
The Department of Justice’s sponsorship of the upcoming ISNA conference would legitimize a radical organization, which ill serves not only the U.S. public and government, but also the American Muslim community as a whole. We urge you to reconsider the decision to cosponsor the upcoming ISNA convention and reaffirm this government’s commitment to fighting radical Islam on all fronts.
They noted that the DOJ had canceled the Attorney General’s appearance at an event because of the presence of ISNA officials. This followed the Justice Department’s naming ISNA as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation trial. Rep. Peter King (R-NY), the ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, was quoted by the Washington Times as saying that any association with ISNA by the DOJ was “absolute insanity”:
It is absolute insanity for the federal government, especially the Department of Justice, to be giving any credibility at all to a group like the ISNA, which has such strong links to Islamic extremism.
It bears mentioning that the FBI wasn’t the only agency with a presence at the 2007 ISNA convention. The Department of Homeland Security had a recruiting booth right beside the recruiting booth for Hizb-ut-Tahrir, a group that has been listed as a terrorist organization by virtually every country in the Middle East and many in the West. Hudson Institute scholar Zeyno Baran (herself a Muslim) has called Hizb-ut-Tahrir a “conveyor belt for radicalism and terrorism” and “the vanguard of the radical Islamist ideology that encourages its followers to commit terrorist acts.”
Another outreach event heavily scrutinized involving the DOD occurred on April 25, 2007, when an ISNA delegation was received at the Pentagon by Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England. That same day a separate reception was held for MAS officials, including MAS president Esam Omeish. Omeish was forced to resign from the Virginia Commission on Immigration just days after being appointed by Gov. Tim Kaine and after the Investigative Project posted video of Omeish preaching jihad and praising suicide bombers.
Subsequent to those respective receptions, DOD Joint Staff analyst Maj. Stephen Coughlin, the Pentagon’s chief expert on Islamic law and military doctrine, penned an unclassified internal memo. “Analysis of the Muslim Brotherhood’s General Strategic Goals for North America Memorandum” discusses the trial exhibits presented by the DOJ in the Holy Land Foundation trial and the connections of the same groups involved in the AMCE partnership to the international Muslim Brotherhood network, including some designated as terrorist organizations by the US government. Maj. Coughlin concluded his assessment by criticizing the DOD’s outreach program to these specific Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated groups, characterizing them as “threat organizations” and issuing a warning about these “outreach” activities as legitimizing terror-tied organizations:
Outreach as an end in itself can cause those responsible for its success to so narrowly focus on the outreach relationship that they miss the surrounding events and lose perspective. This could undermine unity of effort in Homeland Security, lead to potential for embarrassment for the USG and legitimize threat organizations by providing them domestic sanctuary. In light of unfolding events, disregarding a Congressional request to suspend attendance at the ISNA conference may result in some uncommonly uncomfortable public testimony.
Which brings us back to AMCE and IDA’s connection to these organizations. AMCE’s website indicates that the April 2007 DOD receptions of ISNA and MAS officials at the Pentagon were arranged through AMCE’s auspices.
The prime mover for IDA’s involvement and the designated lead contact in AMCE is Dr. Caroline Ziemke, a military historian for IDA. Her role in opening doors for these extremist organizations has been instrumental. For example, in March 2007 Ziemke organized a conference on “Muslim-Government Partnerships.” Co-sponsored by IDA and IIIT, the conference was attended by senior members of the CIA, FBI, DOD, and Homeland Security.
As Joel Mowbray reported in April 2006, the State Department’s head of counterterrorism, Amb. Hank Crumpton, was criticized for appearing as the keynote speaker at an event organized by Ziemke and funded primarily by the DOD, at which IIIT was a co-sponsor. This event occurred just as federal prosecutors were negotiating a plea agreement with North American Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist leader Sami Al-Arian for conspiracy to assist a terrorist organization. Al-Arian’s World and Islam Studies Enterprise (WISE) terror front in Florida had IIIT as its primary financial sponsor (confirmed by exhibits presented at his trial), and one of IIIT’s directors and long-time president, Taha Jaber al-Alwani, was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the case. At least four Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist leaders were associated with WISE.
Al-Arian remains in prison, held in contempt after having refused three separate federal grand jury subpoenas seeking his testimony regarding his knowledge of terrorism financing activities in the US, including the role of IIIT. A federal appeals court last year rejected his claims to be exempt from testifying as a result of his plea agreement.
Coincidentally, Al-Arian was visited in prison just last week by officials from CAIR and MAS — two of IDA’s AMCE strategic partners — who expressed their support for Al-Arian’s ongoing campaign to obstruct justice in the investigation by federal prosecutors into terrorist financing.
Unfortunately, Al-Arian is not the only tie to terror for IIIT. Matthew Levitt, former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis for the Department of the Treasury, testified before the US Senate in August 2002 that IIIT employee Tarik Hamdi personally hand-delivered cell phone batteries to Osama bin Laden for what federal prosecutors described as “the phone bin Laden and others will use to carry out their war against the United States,” specifically the bombings of the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
But it isn’t just the four Islamic organizations partnered with IDA through AMCE with extensive ties to terrorism that are cause for concern. The other remaining organization, the International Council for Religion and Democracy (ICRD), trumpets its joint participation with IDA and IIIT in hosting the March 2006 and 2007 “Muslim-Government Partnerships” conferences, hailing that “the doors have been opening wider to Muslim input at the Departments of State, Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security” as a direct result.
But it is precisely who IDA and ICRD have been letting pass through those doors under the rubric of AMCE that is particularly troubling.
One individual passing through the doors into the federal government corridors of power is Abubaker Al-Shingieti, ICRD’s Vice President of Islamic Programs, who is their lead representative to the AMCE effort as well as one of the five members of AMCE’s steering committee. Al-Shingieti’s brief bio on the ICRD website casually mentions that he held several senior positions with the Sudanese government during the 1990s, including Director of Political Affairs for President Bashir.
That bio, however, fails to mention that Al-Shingieti served as the official spokesman for the Sudanese regime (a 1994 New York Times article identifies him as such), during the period that Osama bin Laden was not only living in Sudan, but also one of the government’s top advisors. From there, bin Laden’s “Arab Afghans” helped Somali warlord Mohammad Farrah Aidid train his forces to fight American peacekeeping troops and instructed them in how to use RPGs to bring down the American Blackhawk helicopters. This led to the infamous “Blackhawk Down” incident in October 1993, during which 19 American soldiers were killed.
It was also during Al-Shingieti’s tenure as a ranking official in the Sudanese government that Hassan al-Turabi, the country’s Attorney General and leading Muslim Brotherhood ideologue, was conducting his regular Khartoum conferences of terrorist leaders from across the Middle East, including bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and officials from HAMAS, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Algerian GIA and the Iranian IRGC and Al-Quds Forces. At these conferences. bin Laden served as Turabi’s closest advisor. During the June 1993 conference, a plan was devised to attack New York on July 4th — a plan that was narrowly averted by the FBI. According to former congressional terrorism expert Yossef Bodansky, bin Laden continued to return for Turabi’s Khartoum terror conferences as late as August 1997, even after being expelled from the country in 1996 over a disagreement with Bashir over the use of his “Arab Afghans” in the Islamist regime’s genocidal civil war with the Christian militias in the south. Al-Shingeiti was active in the highest circles of power in Sudan throughout this entire period.
And while Al-Shingeiti’s IRCD bio notes his services with the Sudanese government, it fails to mention that he is also the US and European regional director for IIIT.
Considering his role in the terrorist sponsoring Sudanese government in the 1990s, it isn’t just his association with IDA (one of our nation’s top military and intelligence research institutions) which ought to raise the alarm of congressional overseers. The fact that he has been allowed into the US at all is also disconcerting.
A description of AMCE’s history and goals was provided in a panel discussion on the partnership at the September 2007 ISNA convention, at which four of the five AMCE steering committee members participated. That panel description (Session 11D, pp. 16-17 in the link) states that the AMCE association is the result of the initiative taken by IDA, IIIT and ICRD, indicating that IDA is far from a passive participant in this strategic partnership, but has taken a leading role in forging AMCE.
And as evidenced by the March 2006 and 2007 “Muslim-Government Partnerships” conferences co-sponsored by IDA, it has whole-heartedly embraced its leadership in the AMCE strategic partnership.
While there are many serious questions about that partnership that remain unanswered, IDA’s participation in AMCE fully demonstrates what many critics of the federal government’s Islamic outreach programs have observed. In most cases, the outreach is directed not to moderate Muslims, but to the extremist fringe of the Muslim community. As I reported more than a year ago, the Islamic organizations involved with AMCE have seen their membership decline steeply in recent years. Thus, as these organizations have been getting smaller, their public presence has grown exponentially thanks to the unwitting efforts of these government outreach efforts. By embracing these extremist groups — who have virtually no standing with the American Muslim community and no basis whatsoever to claim any representation of it but are flush with foreign funding that buys them considerable influence with the political and media elite inside the Beltway — the federal government has crowded out the very moderates that it ought to be promoting.
But IDA’s involvement adds an entirely new wrinkle to this dilemma. While some members of Congress have taken seriously their oversight role and spoken out against the open association of federal agencies with these extremist organizations, IDA (a private organization) brings together the worst of both worlds: public funding combined with significantly less congressional and public scrutiny.
What congressional oversight is exercised in this case — in light of the revelation of IDA’s role in the AMCE strategic partnership, in view of the sensitive nature of its work with the military and intelligence communities, and considering the cover of credibility that IDA affords their terror-tied partner organizations — remains to be seen.
Patrick Poole is a regular contributor to Pajamas Media, and an anti-terrorism consultant to law enforcement and the military.