Among the litany of Obama administration disasters, the rapid collapse of his “Countering Violent Extremism” (CVE) agenda is among the most consequential.
But groups in line to receive federal CVE grants announced just days before the end of the Obama era are now whining as the Trump administration seeks to put an end to the CVE scam.
Driven directly from the White House, the Obama administration’s CVE agenda was a replacement following a purge of counter-terrorism training across the federal government during 2011-2012 in response to a targeted series of reports by far-Left bloggers and reporters claiming widespread bias and “Islamophobia.”
Many of those claims were later debunked, but with the damage done the administration’s purge pressed ahead as it implemented CVE at the demand of Islamic groups, some of whom were directly involved in the formation of the administration’s CVE policies.
But as it became apparent that terror recruitment was escalating rapidly at nearly the same time that CVE was being imposed on agencies and departments across the board, the inability of CVE to actually countering any “extremists” was exposed. The same Islamic groups that urged the imposition of CVE then turned against the efforts when they realized that CVE was still primarily directed at the growing threat of Islamic recruitment, and not towards stigmatizing the administration’s perceived domestic political enemies.
By January 2015, Politico was already declaring that CVE was a complete flop:
No answer for homegrown terrorism? Obama’s plan to combat radicalization is a flop, critics say. http://t.co/Qz2YgiHgGM
— POLITICO (@politico) January 9, 2015
The CVE pilot programs in Minneapolis, Los Angeles, and Boston were already so unsuccessful that the media had to announce they were off to a “slow start” a year ago:
Effort in 3 US cities to combat extremism off to slow start https://t.co/4DMrdthiUn
— WTOP (@WTOP) March 24, 2016
The failures of the program were so pronounced that NPR conceded the point, claiming that even if the CVE programs were not effective they still somehow helped the communities.
Whether It Works Or Not, U.S. Anti-Radicalization Plan Can Benefit Communities https://t.co/Xn34FdLc4N
— NPR Popular (@nprpopular) April 3, 2016
As I noted in an assessment of Obama’s CVE policies here at PJ Media last year, and in a separate monograph, measuring Obama’s policies by his own stated White House goals, the CVE program was proven to be a complete failure in the very three areas it was intended to support: community engagement, training, and counter-propaganda.
It’s no surprise then that one of the first moves by the Trump administration will be to shut down the failed CVE program, as reported by Reuters:
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) February 2, 2017
That decision in turn set off a wave of complaints by groups that were hoping to receive federal CVE grants that were rushed out by the Obama administration in its last few days in office:
— CVE Community (@CVEcommunity) January 13, 2017
Those would-be federal grant recipients are now turning to the media to air their complaints:
— Adam Goldman (@adamgoldmanNYT) February 2, 2017
One of the first groups that took to the media was the Twin Cities-based Ka Joog (which in Somali means “stay away”). Ka Joog had already been one of the groups to receive $300,000 in federal money and another $250,000 appropriated by the state of Minnesota, and was in line to receive another $500,000 federal grant from Homeland Security.
— Star Tribune (@StarTribune) February 2, 2017
— AVE (@ave_org) January 19, 2017
Ka Joog has been one of the premier programs that CVE defenders have pointed to in calling for additional funding for the CVE program.
And yet in one of the group’s most visible failures, the nephew of the organization’s executive director was recruited by the Islamic State and eventually tried and convicted in federal court.
Another Twin Cities groups, Heartland Democracy, was scheduled to receive $165,000.
That group had been among the first to participate in a pet “deradicalization” project by the chief federal judge in Minnesota who tried many of the Islamic State recruiting cases.
But court documents exposed that Heartland Democracy had no experience in “jihadi rehab,” and its curriculum was described as “more high school civics course than religious deprogramming.”
— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) August 25, 2015
The Daily Beast reported on the regimen established for their first “deradicalization” client:
He and a Somali-American mentor began to work through an extensive reading list, which included Richard Wright’s Native Son, a novel about growing up poor and black in the 1930s, and an article by Native American author Sherman Alexie about how poetry freed him from the “reservation” of his mind.
McKinley would not say how often Yusuf met his mentor.
“We met with him regularly, I don’t know the number of times a week,” she said. When pressed on whether they met weekly, biweekly, or at a different pace, McKinley would not clarify. “We met with him regularly.”
Court documents also reference Yusuf meeting with religious leaders, but McKinley wasn’t sure about that.
“I don’t know if he’s met with any religious leaders,” she said in response to a question about meeting with imams. “I mean, he’s an adult, he can get any visitor he wants.”
That first client was sent back to jail after a search of his room at a halfway house found a box cutter.
The Obama administration’s CVE programs have a lengthy history of failure:
- As I reported here at PJ Media just a few days ago, an Associated Press investigation into the Pentagon’s $500 million WebOps program to counter Islamic State propaganda found widespread incompetence and corruption. According to whistleblowers, civilian Arabic specialists with no understanding of Islam tried to defeat complex religious justifications for terrorism, resulting in the program becoming a laughingstock in jihadist circles.
- In December 2014, the New York Times reported that the then-head of Special Operations Command, Major Gen. Michael Nagata, convened a series of conference calls with outside experts attempting to understand why the message of the Islamic State had grown so dangerous. But after the Obama administration’s counter-terror training purge, Gen. Nagata was forced to admit that “we do not understand the movement, and until we do, we are not going to defeat it….We have not defeated the idea. We do not even understand the idea.”
- In September 2011, Obama signed an executive order creating the State Department’s Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC). One of their early failures was a graphic video produced called “Welcome to ISIS Land,” targeting would-be Islamic State recruits. The center’s director was quickly replaced. Then a Twitter campaign, “Think Again Turn Away,” was largely panned by terror experts who claimed the effort was largely ineffective and was actually legitimizing the terrorist narrative. A panel of outside experts convened by the State Department agreed, finding that the CSCC was so counterproductive to its mission that they questioned whether the U.S. government should be involved in counter-propaganda at all. The center was promptly closed.
- One of the first CVE guidelines produced by the Department of Homeland Security in 2011 was to instruct federal agencies to avoid using “trainers who are self-professed ‘Muslim Reformers,'” and yet documents uncovered regarding meetings with DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano show the agency soliciting advice from known extremist groups and controversial Islamic leaders. Some of these extremist leaders even held official positions advising DHS. Last June, when the DHS Countering Violent Extremism Subcommittee released its recommendations urging $100 million in new CVE funding, it urged banning the use of “jihad” or “sharia” in training — two very common terms used by terrorist recruiters. One of the subcommittee members, a Syrian immigrant, had previously said that the 9/11 terror attacks had “changed the world for good.” And in December, DHS teamed up with the State Department to bring in the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an organization that the Justice Department had argued in federal court had supported terrorism, to teach a CVE course for French officials. Even though the State Department programs have been universally panned, it was reported last August that they had tripled the budget.
- In implementing the Obama administration’s CVE agenda, the FBI had conducted a wide-scale purge of its terrorism training curriculum at the request of Islamic groups claiming it was biased. In a move questioned by members of Congress, the FBI classified the identities of the outside experts brought in to censor the material. A subsequent review of the censored terror-training material discovered suspect and inconsistent standards in purging the curriculum. More recently, a FBI website and video game (“Don’t Be a Puppet”) intended to target youth vulnerable to terrorist recruitment was launched, and then suspended after just a day in response to complaints of Islamic groups, terror experts, and even teachers unions that the effort was biased, ineffective, and encouraged students to inform on each other. Some of the criticism came from the FBI’s own Muslim outreach partners that were brought in to advise the bureau on its CVE policies.
So it’s no great mystery why the incoming Trump administration began discussions about scaling back and ending Obama’s CVE program.
Others contend that the CVE grants were political payoffs to groups to enlist their aid in scuttling counter-terror programs and to silence any possible criticism of the Obama national security and foreign policy agenda.
The chairman of one group that was scheduled to receive a $400,000 CVE grant, Life After Hate, has publicly launched attacks on the incoming Trump administration and even called for the violent removal of President Trump one day after his inauguration.
Meanwhile in Minneapolis, as Ka Joog declines the $500,000 in announced DHS CVE grants the group has quickly transitioned from attempting to deradicalizing area Somali youth to publicly declaring that President Trump is engaged in “an official war against Islam” — parroting a standard terrorist narrative.
But as mentioned previously, the nephew of the executive director who had participated in Ka Joog programs was still recruited to join the Islamic State.
In another instance, an Islamic State recruit from Alexandria, Virginia, later captured by Kurdish troops and currently facing federal charges, lived less than 50 yards from one of the Obama administration’s top go-to CVE experts.
If these so-called CVE “experts” can’t prevent their closest relatives or neighbors from joining terrorist groups, why should the Trump administration continue to entrust them with our national security?
Despite all the media hand-wringing, it seems that questioning the effectiveness of Obama’s CVE program is entirely in order given its constant track record of failure.
Yet in light of the current media climate, the new administration should expect that it will come under fire for whatever they eventually replace the failed CVE agenda with. And the Islamic State and other terrorist groups continue to recruit and encourage supporters to conduct attacks inside the homeland.
Ending the CVE scam would be a good first step in reversing the corrosive policies established by the Obama administration that have hampered and sometimes punished our law enforcement and national security professionals for doing their job.