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News Analysis

The ACLU’s Islamist Connections

Wed, December 26, 2012

by: 
Ryan Mauro

On September 26, Investor’s Business Daily made an acute observation: The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has fiercely fought against essential U.S. counter-terrorism programs and actions but was curiously silent when the White House pressured YouTube to take down the film  Innocence of Muslims, a provocative presentation of Mohammed's life,  in order to appease Muslim rioters. The background of one top ACLU official, Jameel Jaffer, may explain the inconsistency.

Jameel Jaffer heads the ACLU’s Center for Democracy and was the director of the Center’s National Security Project from 2007 to 2010. He is best known for suing to get information about CIA interrogation practices and the drone campaign to kill terrorists overseas, which he staunchly opposes.

In March 2009, Jaffer was the keynote speaker at a fundraiser for the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which the federal government designated an unindicted co-conspirator in the terrorism-financing trial of the Holy Land Foundation. The government said CAIR is an entity of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood’s secret Palestine Committee that was set up to support Hamas. The event raised $130,000 for CAIR.

CAIR-MI is led by Dawud Walid, who has a history of inflammatory rhetoric. Also speaking at the fundraiser was Kifah Mustapha, another unindicted co-conspirator that the U.S. government says is part of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestine Committee. He also was a vocalist in a band that performed pro-Hamas songs. He is an imam at the Mosque Foundation, which has strong Brotherhood affiliations.

Perhaps Jaffer’s affection for these groups is because of their stances against Israel. In a letter to the New York Times on October 11, 2000 about the violence following Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount, he wrote that “Israel’s soldiers have killed scores of Arab civilians, most for throwing stones, and some for merely being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

The message of the ACLU’s Center’s National Security Project mirrors that of the Islamist groups with Muslim Brotherhood origins. Its website says it fights against counter-terrorism programs that “amount to racial profiling on a federal scale,” “suspicionless searches and arbitrary detentions of Arabs” of Muslims, the “many horrific abuses inflicted on detainees in U.S. custody” and terrorism-financing laws that “unfairly target” Muslim organizations.

It claims that the U.S. government has gone to “extraordinary lengths to squelch dissent” and has “returned to the bad old days of unchecked spying on ordinary Americans.” It also takes aim at the government’s denial of visas to foreign scholars on ideological grounds.

In other words, the U.S. government has abandoned rule of law and is systematically persecuting Muslims, a theme consistently pushed by CAIR and its Brotherhood-originated partners. These accusations rally people to their side when their allies are accused, investigated or prosecuted. When the ACLU refers to the “unfairly target[ed]” Muslim groups, these are the ones being referred to.

In June 2008, the ACLU sued on behalf of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT). Both were founded by the Muslim Brotherhood and designated as unindicted co-conspirators in the terrorism-financing trial of the Holy Land Foundation. FBI investigators identified them as Muslim Brotherhood fronts as far back as 1987 and a U.S. Muslim Brotherhood internal document lists them among “our organizations and the organizations of our friends.”

The ACLU said that the public naming of them as unindicted co-conspirators amounted to “publicly branding these groups as criminals.” Hina Shamsi, now the director of the ACLU National Security Project, said that it caused their “good name to be dragged through the mud.” Jaffer was one of the attorneys on the case. The judge agreed that the designations should not have been publicized, but that the labels were warranted. There is “ample evidence to establish the associations” of ISNA, NAIT and CAIR with Hamas, he said.

In June 2009, the ACLU published a report claiming that U.S. terrorism-financing laws violate the religious freedom of Muslims. The ACLU said the U.S. government is engaged in “widespread intimidation of Muslim donors and the arbitrary blacklisting of charitable organizations.” According to page 14, the report is based on “115 interviews with Muslim community leaders and American Muslims directly affected by the U.S. government’s policies regarding Muslim charities and Muslim charitable donors.” It was critical of the shutting down of seven charities, including the Holy Land Foundation.

The Investigative Project on Terrorism’s rebuttal corrects the misleading characterizations in the report. Muslims who innocently donated to the charities do not need to worry. Prosecutors would have to prove in the court of law that they consciously donated to an entity involved in terrorism. Notably, not a single donor to the Holy Land Foundation was prosecuted. The five who were jailed were leaders of it.

In January 2010, Jaffer and the ACLU scored a major victory when the State Department reversed its policy of denying a visa to Islamist scholar Tariq Ramadan, the grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood. His father, Said, was also a major Brotherhood leader in Europe. In April 2010, Ramadan said that the Iraqi and Palestinian resistance is “legitimate” but you cannot target innocents and civilians, meaning attacks on U.S. and Israeli soldiers are justified.

At least part of the reason for the ban on Ramadan was because Ramadan donated to two groups later blacklisted as Hamas fronts. His publishing house was reportedly located in the same building as one of the charity’s fundraising office. The U.S. government said he “reasonably should have known” they were Hamas fronts, but his donations were made before the charities were sanctioned. Jaffer picked him up from the airport and drove him to meetings, including one with CAIR officials.

In October 2011, the ACLU sent a letter to the FBI protesting a 2006 document about indications of Islamic radicalization. It was signed by CAIR, CAIR-NY, ISNA and two other Brotherhood-originated groups, the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) and Muslim American Society. The letter accused the FBI of encouraging its personnel to view the practice of Islam as a threat.

The Investigative Project on Terrorism’s response showed that the ACLU’s letter was “notably skewed.” The FBI’s list of radicalization indications is meant to outline a process. The 14 indicators -- only half of which were mentioned in the letter -- are meant to be considered altogether. Further, the FBI report repeatedly states that becoming a Muslim does not automatically mean someone is radicalized.  

When five members of Congress warned that groups and individuals with Muslim Brotherhood ties had relationships with parts of the U.S. government, the ACLU was one of the signators to a letter given to them, blasting  them for “ question[ing] the loyalty of faithful Americans based on nothing more than their religious affiliations and what is at best tenuous evidence of their associations.”

The ACLU specifically came to the defense of ISNA and MPAC, saying they “have long-standing histories of positive and committed work to strengthen the United States of America” and the “’guilt-by-association’ accusations … betray our foundational religious freedoms.”

That brings us to today. The ACLU didn’t utter a word when the White House tried to get the film Innocence of Muslims removed from YouTube. When the Daily Caller forced the ACLU’s hand by contacting them for comment, the ACLU only said it was “concerned.” The tame reaction to this blatant censorship is a far cry from its hysteria over counter-terrorism policies and legitimate concerns that affect its Islamist friends.

To be fair, ACLU-MN did sue over the public funding of the Islamist-tied Tarek Ibn Ziyad Academy in Minnesota in January 2009. This may be because the ACLU, like any large organization, divides responsibilities. However, there is no indication that the ACLU Center for Democracy or its National Security Project was involved in this matter.

The American Islamist network that originated with the Muslim Brotherhood has essentially incorporated the ACLU into its public relations machine -- it always helps when you have a friend in a high place.

Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org's National Security Analyst and a fellow with the Clarion Fund. He is the founder of WorldThreats.com and is frequently interviewed on Fox News.