The Justice Department has enlisted a former Islamic State fighter in what they say is an effort to combat radicalization.
But the program, centered around Brooklyn native Mohimanul Alam Bhuiya, is fraught with considerable risks as so-called “deradicalization” efforts around the globe have failed spectacularly, and recent high-profile cases of former terrorists-turned-therapists experiments have not ended well.
An ISIS defector is helping Brooklyn prosecutors with a new effort aimed at early intervention with terror suspects: https://t.co/YTg0vAgX4n
— The Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) March 7, 2017
The Wall Street Journal reports:
Mo, a U.S. citizen whose full name is under seal, left New York City in the summer of 2014 to join Islamic State in Syria.
Mo, now 28 years old, quickly became disillusioned, he says now. Four months in, he sent an email to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. “Please help me get home,” he wrote, according to court documents. “I’m fed up with this evil.”
Authorities in November 2014 deported Mo back to Brooklyn, where he pleaded guilty to two terrorism charges. He told the FBI that he acted as a building guard for Islamic State and taught other recruits how to use computer software.
Since then, Mo’s work with the U.S. government has included an unusual form of cooperation: conducting an intervention with a 15-year-old boy from Brooklyn who was posting tweets that appeared to support violence and Islamic State, also known as ISIS. The intervention so far has successfully dissuaded the teenager from joining the terrorist group.
It turns out that the Justice Department program is intended to reduce the sentences of U.S. terror supporters:
Under the new initiative, Brooklyn federal prosecutors will also use more discretion before charging someone with providing “material support” to terrorists, a broad violation that carries a maximum of 20 years in prison. Prosecutors may try to arrest some individuals on a lesser charge without the terrorism stigma, such as wire fraud.
For suspects already in custody, prosecutors will give more consideration to a shorter prison sentence in exchange for a longer period of supervised release that includes counseling or treatment.
There’s certainly no reason to question the motives of federal prosecutors backing this program, but there is evidence that calls into question their judgment.
The plaintive story of the former Columbia University student came to light last June when he was interviewed by Richard Engel of NBC News.
— NBC Investigations (@NBCInvestigates) May 22, 2016
— NBC News (@NBCNews) May 23, 2016
Bhuiya spun a tale of regret and remorse for joining the world’s most dangerous terrorist group:
"It's obviously the worst decision I've ever made in my life," said an American ISIS defector of his ISIS membership https://t.co/hpNYH6Hn2y
— Richard Engel (@RichardEngel) May 19, 2016
"I am fed up with this evil": How an American went from Ivy League student to disillusioned ISIS fighter https://t.co/5kKq9TPvqr
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) June 30, 2016
Consequently, his story has been promoted by Western government agencies trying to stem the tide of rising Islamic radicalization.
— UK Against Daesh (@UKagainstDaesh) July 2, 2016
But it turns out that his motives were less than altruistic. In his email from Syria to the FBI he said he was looking for “total exoneration” from the legal consequences of his terrorist membership.
— Program On Extremism (@gwupoe) June 30, 2016
And he no doubt is participating in this Justice Department program hoping to avoid the potential 25-year federal prison sentence he faces when he’s sentenced later this year.
What is the likelihood that enlisting a “reformed” terrorist in a government-sponsored “deradicalization” program will see success?
The sad truth is that many, if not most, of the “deradicalization” programs sponsored by governments around the world have been largely ineffective, and in some cases, directly counter to their aims.
A number of Western countries have seen their programs fail.
For instance, France, which has the largest Muslim population of any European country, recently saw their “deradicalization” program declared “a fiasco”:
France’s deradicalization centers are seen as a "total fiasco" https://t.co/k57JP9vCap
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) February 25, 2017
Among the many problems with the French program was that prisoners taking part began radicalizing others:
— Terror Events (@TerrorEvents) September 17, 2016
Graduates of Germany’s “deradicalization” program—established to reintegrate citizens who returned from Syria after fighting with terror groups there—were later discovered to be making ISIS propaganda videos:
— Daily Express (@Daily_Express) July 20, 2016
Even before the Syrian conflict began, others were warning of the ineffective German “deradicalization” programs hyped by the government and the media:
This German "de-radicalization" program is getting a lot of play, and IMO is unlikely to accomplish anything: http://bit.ly/dy5IUo
— Andrew Lebovich (@tweetsintheME) June 23, 2010
Interestingly, one controversial German “deradicalization” program is being imported into the U.S.:
— Amarnath Amarasingam (@AmarAmarasingam) January 24, 2017
Belgium has seen considerable problems with their programs, too:
— Emre Peker (@EPspin) April 7, 2016
Belgium: Alleged expert of deradicalization on trial after helping jihadist candidate to go out of prison https://t.co/Eg1AezQQfe
— ESISC (@EsiscTeam) October 13, 2016
The UK has also seen eye-popping failures as well:
And in Australia last year, one teen involved in their “deradicalization” programs was arrested for planning a terror attack:
— The Australian (@australian) April 25, 2016
— Nine News Australia (@9NewsAUS) April 25, 2016
The U.S. has nothing to brag about when it comes to “deradicalization” either.
The Minnesota Twin Cities have been fertile recruitment grounds for both the Islamic State and al-Shabaab, targeting mostly the large Somali population there.
In one recent terrorism trial, one of the key prosecution witnesses was Abdirizak Warsame, who had been recruited by the Islamic State and turned evidence against his friends. Warsame’s case was notable as he had been involved in a Minneapolis “deradicalization” program funded by the Department of Homeland Security.
Surrounded by positives, young Somali chose Islamic State: https://t.co/tTdUn4AqVS
— AP Politics (@AP_Politics) April 9, 2016
The group Warsame had been involved with, Ka Joog, received $850,000 in federal and state funding last year. But there was yet another twist to the story: as reported by the local media, Warsame is the nephew of the Ka Joog executive director.
— Patrick Poole (@pspoole) February 2, 2017
If the so-called “deradicalizers” in one of the most touted programs in the U.S. can’t prevent their own relatives from joining ISIS, how successful can these programs be?
Heartland Democracy is another group in the Twin Cities that has received federal grant money for “deradicalization.” In fact, Heartland Democracy had no experience in “deradicalization” at all, and the curriculum they developed was described as “more high school civics courses than religious deprogramming”:
— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) August 25, 2015
As I reported here at PJ Media at the time, Heartland Democracy’s first client (and Islamic State recruit) was sent back to prison after a search of his room at a halfway house revealed a hidden box cutter.
— PJ Media (@PJMedia_com) May 12, 2015
And in perhaps the most spectacular “deradicalization” failure in the Twin Cities, a youth worker who was presented to the media to vouch for a mosque where the Somali terror group al-Shabaab had recruited a number of attendees later committed a suicide bombing in Somalia and appeared in al-Shabaab recruiting videos.
Al-Shabaab video shows Minneapolis mosque 'deradicalization' youth worker turned suicide bomber Farah Beledi pic.twitter.com/JI2m6zhm0n
— Patrick Poole (@pspoole) January 2, 2016
Some of the most prominent Muslim countries have not fared better.
A recent report on Saudi “deradicalization” programs revealed that they had become jihadist recruiting centers:
EXCLUSIVE: Gitmo terrorist drops bombshell: Saudi rehab center really jihad retraining centerhttps://t.co/PvlMmM2uJt
— Paul Sperry (@paulsperry_) November 29, 2016
— Hasan A!Odale (@AlOdailH) November 30, 2016
At one time, Indonesia was held up as an example of successful “deradicalization” efforts. That, too, proved short-lived:
— The Jakarta Post (@jakpost) March 1, 2017
— The Jakarta Globe (@thejakartaglobe) September 15, 2016
If the world’s largest Muslim country (Indonesia) and most influential (Saudi Arabia) can’t put together programs that effectively deal with Islamic radicalization, what hope do Western countries really have?
This gives evidence that the Justice Department’s “deradicalization” efforts with former ISIS recruit Mohamanul Alam Bhuiya has been—at best—an uphill battle.
But in my next article, I’m going to look at two recent cases of “reformed” jihadists—whose stories were heavily promoted by the U.S. media—that quickly turned to ruin. They serve as a stark warning to the current Justice Department efforts.