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State Department's Jihadist Exchange Program

State Department diplomats are taking full advantage of their new rules prohibiting the use of “jihad,” “jihadist,” and “mujahedeen” to describe Islamic extremists and terrorists, which they apparently have taken to mean that there are no jihadists in light of the exchange programs they have recently sponsored for the International Institute for Islamic Thought (IIIT) — an organization currently under active federal grand jury investigation for terrorist support activities. [HT: Global MB Daily Report]

The IIIT exchange programs have been conducted under the State Department’s International Visitor’s Program. According to reports published on IIIT’s website, the State Department sponsored a March 7 visit to IIIT by a group of Chinese scholars and, more recently, an April 17-18 session with a large delegation of Islamic scholars from the Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia.

The State Department has sponsored these IIIT activities at the very same time that a federal grand jury continues to look into IIIT’s multiple ties to terrorism as part of the Department of Justice’s ongoing Operation Green Quest investigation. A March 24 article in the New York Sun, “A Court Sheds New Light on Terror Probe,” identifies IIIT as the “group at the center of the probe.”

While the grand jury investigation of IIIT is being conducted in secrecy, undoubtedly the following connections between IIIT and the international terror network are being considered:

  • Matthew Levitt, former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis for the Department of the Treasury testified before the U.S. Senate in August 2002 that IIIT employee Tarik Hamdi personally hand-delivered cell phone batteries to Osama bin Laden for the phone that 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 U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
  • IIIT was the primary financial backer for Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Sami al-Arian’s terrorist front at the University of South Florida, the World and Islam Studies Enterprise (confirmed by exhibits offered during al-Arian’s trial). Following his guilty plea, al-Arian has refused three separate federal grand jury subpoenas seeking his testimony regarding his knowledge of terrorism financing activities in the U.S., including explaining the role of IIIT in the U.S.-based terrorist support network.
  • IIIT co-founder and longtime president Taha Jaber al-Alwani was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the al-Arian case.

It also should be noted that IIIT recently republished the English version of Hamas spiritual leader Yousef al-Qaradawi’s book, Approaching the Sunnah: Comprehension and Controversy. Qaradawi was placed on the U.S. government’s Terrorist Exclusion List in 1999 and is banned from entering the country.

At least one organization has had the good sense to disassociate itself from IIIT because of its multiple ties to terror — Temple University. IIIT wanted to donate $1.5 million to Temple to endow a chair of Islamic studies named after IIIT co-founder Ismail al-Faruqi. However, after extensive study of IIIT’s activities and responding to concerns raised by university trustees and donors, Temple declined to act on the endowment, prompting IIIT to withdraw the offer.

The State Department, however, has not shown such caution in its dealings with IIIT. In April 2006, the State Department’s head of counterterrorism Amb. Hank Crumpton was severely criticized for appearing as the keynote speaker at an event co-sponsored by IIIT.

And considering the public debacle over former State Department “goodwill ambassador” Abdurahman Alamoudi, currently serving a 23-year sentence on terrorism charges, one might think they wouldn’t be so eager to rush headlong into questionable associations.

Alamoudi, who took at least six State Department-funded missions to the Middle East on behalf of the U.S. government, has been described as “bin Laden’s man in America.” When he was arrested, Alamoudi’s PalmPilot contained the contact information for at least six different designated global terrorists. He had also partnered with Osama bin Laden’s nephew, Abdullah, in the Taibah International Aid Association.

A July 2005 Treasury Department press release described the arrest of the State Department’s “goodwill ambassador” as a severe blow to al-Qaeda’s international financing operation:

According to information available to the U.S. government, the September 2003 arrest of Alamoudi was a severe blow to al-Qaeda, as Alamoudi had a close relationship with al-Qaeda and had raised money for al-Qaeda in the United States. In a 2004 plea agreement, Alamoudi admitted to his role in an assassination plot targeting the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and is currently serving a 23-year sentence.

Apparently unwilling to show any degree of caution with respect to its financial support of IIIT programs and events, emboldened by their new policy preventing the identification of Islamic extremists and terror support organizations, and unashamed of their past designation of a major al-Qaeda operative as one of their “goodwill ambassadors”, the State Department can be added to the growing list of U.S. government agencies experiencing severe confusion over which side to take in America’s War against Islamic Terror.

Patrick Poole is a regular contributor to Pajamas Media, and an anti-terrorism consultant to law enforcement and the military.