What Senators Didn't Hear About Somali-American Jihadists
Since 1991, Somalia has been an ungoverned, lawless state. In recent weeks, things have gotten worse as the al-Qaeda-allied group al-Shabaab ("The Youth") tightens its grip on the country. Earlier this week the cabinet of "president" Sheikh Sherif Ahmed endorsed a plan to institute Sharia law in areas it controls. In a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday, Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Michael Maples testified that analysts expect that al-Shabaab will officially merge with al-Qaeda in the very near future.
Events in Somalia are not so distant. Since this past summer, as many as 40 Somali-American men have left the U.S. to join up with al-Shabaab and train in their terrorist camps in Somalia. And one of those men, Shirwa Ahmed, a graduate of the University of Minnesota, launched a suicide attack in northern Somalia on October 28 that killed at least 30 civilians -- the first recorded case of an American suicide bomber.
And earlier this week it was reported that a federal grand jury has been impaneled to investigate the escalating issue of Somali-American jihadists and Somali terrorist groups operating in the Minneapolis area, which adds to the list of ongoing investigations in Columbus, OH; Washington, DC; San Diego, CA; Boston, MA; Atlanta, GA; Seattle, WA; and Portland, ME. The problem has concerned investigators to the point that high schools in some of these areas have been briefed by law enforcement to watch out for signs of radicalization among their Somali male students.
But you wouldn't have gotten even the slightest sense of urgency or alarm if you had listened to the testimony of two government officials testifying on the matter before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee on Wednesday, chaired by Senator Joe Lieberman. Instead, what you would have heard about from the testimony of FBI Associate Executive Assistant Director J. Philip Mudd and National Counterterrorism Center Deputy Director Andrew M. Liepman is government inter-agency initiatives and outreach programs to selected Somali community leaders -- in some cases the very individuals responsible for the radicalization and recruiting to al-Shabaab's cause.
The primary narrative spun by these two top homeland security officials and the other three panelists is of poor Somalis deprived of any opportunities and victimized by racist America, who have no alternative but to turn to gangs and jihadists to vent their rage at American foreign policy.
These officials also sanitized their reports of any politically incorrect facts. For instance, in his published testimony Mudd assured the committee that there is no widespread support for violence and terrorism within the American Muslim community, citing a 2007 Pew poll in support. What Mudd forgot to mention was that same Pew poll, the most comprehensive survey ever of the American Muslim community, found that an astounding 26 percent of 18-to-30-year-old Muslim males -- the very group being targeted by jihadist recruiters -- supported suicide attacks.
The true causes of the Somali jihadists, however, are much more obvious than these officials cared to let on to the Senate committee.
In December 2007, months before the Somali men began disappearing from Minneapolis, I reported exclusively here at Pajamas Media about a jihadist fundraiser in the Twin Cities area attended by hundreds of local Somalis. The event featured top jihadist organizer Zakaria Mahmoud Haji-Abdi, the deputy chairman of the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS) and now second in command to Somali "president" Sheikh Sherif Ahmed.
In that instance, homeland security officials failed to prevent Abdi from entering the country and conducting a series of fundraisers here in the U.S., where he encouraged recruitment to the jihad and financial support from the Somali community for their cause. As the story of the missing Somali men began to unfold late last year, I reported that some of those same homeland security officials have now admitted privately that the fundraiser the year before had been the "tipping point" for radicalization in the Minneapolis area. That notwithstanding, another ARS official was recently allowed to enter into the U.S. to conduct even more jihadist fundraisers. (Stay tuned to Pajamas Media for more on that report.)
And it is no big secret what the common denominator is to all of the missing men -- all attended the Abubakar as-Siddique Mosque in south Minneapolis, led by extremist imam Sheikh Abdirahman Ahmed, the largest mosque in the area. Seeing as this link between the mosque and the missing men has been the focus of recent articles in the Los Angeles Times and Newsweek, it is hard to believe that this has escaped homeland security's notice, especially since the mosque's imam and youth director have been placed on the agency's "no-fly" list and were prevented from leaving the country back in November.
Some of the families of the missing men have been much more forthright in placing blame -- publicly accusing the mosque and its leaders for the disappearance of their kin. And yet there was not a single mention of the mosque or the imam's connection in either Mudd's or Liepman's published testimony. Even more shocking is the revelation from a Fox News article on Tuesday that FBI officials had yet to meet with mosque officials (a meeting was scheduled for this Thursday).
For several years, many leaders in the Somali community have complained about radical elements in their community who actively support terrorism. Included in this group is Abdirahman Warsame, who runs the Terror Free Somalia Foundation and tracks these issues on the group's website. Last year Mr. Warsame published an article detailing how the taxpayer-financed Voice of America Somali Service was dominated by supporters of al-Shabaab and the Islamic Courts Union.
They have also complained that many of the leaders the U.S. government relies upon for direction and advice are in some cases the same individuals responsible for radicalization. One group that the Department of Homeland Security has turned to in this crisis is the North American Council of Somali Imams, which includes as one of its top leaders none other than Abubakar as-Siddique imam Abdirahman Ahmed.
Another regular complaint made is that government programs and offices supposed to serve the Somali community get involved in clan and inter-tribal politics. Many of these programs, most of which receive public funds, are run by the dominant Hawiye clan, and services intended to help Somalis integrate are frequently denied or deliberately obstructed to those of other clans.
Even more troubling was an April 2007 report by Nashville NBC affiliate WSMV, which discovered that a Somali center operating on federal grant money still received $500,000 despite the fact that the center's director was under investigation for obstructing a terror investigation. (See also my Pajamas Media exposé on the Ohio charter schools targeting Somali children operated by terrorist front group CAIR, which are among the worst performing schools in the state.)
Thus, perhaps the reason why none of these issues was raised by FBI Assistant Director Mudd and NCTC Deputy Director Liepman during Wednesday's Senate hearing is that any answers they could have provided the senators would only expose their agencies to even more difficult questions about what they are doing and who they are doing it with. So it was best for them and their agencies not to get into too many specifics.
Anyone following this issue closely in recent months knows the potential danger Somali jihadists carrying American passports pose to our national security, but you wouldn't get that impression listening to Wednesday's hearing. If Senator Lieberman and his Homeland Security Committee colleagues want to avoid a potential homegrown 9/11, they're going to have to circumvent the official channels and the politically correct agency propaganda to get an accurate assessment of how serious the threat is and how rapidly it is growing.