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News Analysis

National Intel Misled Congress About Brotherhood Contacts

National Intelligence Director James Clapper testifying before Congress called the Muslim Brotherhood “a very heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence.

National Intelligence Director James Clapper testifying before Congress called the Muslim Brotherhood “a very heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence."

by: 
Ryan Mauro

Newly declassified documents obtained by the Clarion Project show that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) misled members of Congress in 2012 about its involvement with Muslim Brotherhood-linked entities.

On July 11, 2012, ODNI told Rep. Bachmann that it had not engaged in outreach to Muslim Brotherhood entities such as the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). Clarion’s files show that, contrary to ODNI’s claims, Director James Clapper met an ISNA leader just one month earlier.

Further, the documents show that there were even a number of internal communications within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence expressing concerns about the Brotherhood links of these entities.

The story of the deception began when the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified to Congress on February 10, 2011 saying that the Muslim Brotherhood is “a very heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence and has described Al-Qaeda as a perversion of Islam.”

In the same hearing, Clapper was asked by Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL) about the administration’s relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood. He answered, “There have been outreaches to the Muslim community in general, but I guess we’re not aware of any direct outreach to these particular organizations. That is, if you’re speaking domestically.”

FBI Director Mueller then chimed in, saying there is “no relationship with the Brotherhood. Period.” The CIA Director Leon Panetta then agreed, dismissively laughing in the process.

Clapper’s office later issued a clarification, backtracking on his inaccurate statement that the Brotherhood is “secular.”

Just four months later, on June 12, 2012, a 90-minute “Roundtable Discussion” took place at National Intelligence’s headquarters in McLean, Virginia. At the meeting, Clapper met in person with a representative of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). Also present were National Counter-Terrorism Center Director Matthew Olson and Alexander Joel, ODNI Civil Liberties Protection Officer.

In 2007, the Justice Department listed ISNA as a U.S. Muslim Brotherhood entity and designated them as an unindicted co-conspirator in the largest terrorism-financing trial of the history of the U.S. In that trial, the Holy Land Foundation, a Muslim Brotherhood front, was found guilty of funding Hamas.

Yet in 2012, the president of ISNA, Imam Mohamed Magid, was invited to meet with the Director of National Intelligence. Unable to attend, he sent a substitute in his place.

The email that went out inviting ISNA’s president (among others) stated that he was chosen because, “We believe you have important insights to share with the Intelligence Community (IC) about how the IC pursues its mandate of providing the most insightful intelligence possible, while simultaneously safeguarding civil liberties and privacy.”

Magid’s replacement was ISNA’s Director of Community Outreach, Mohamed Elsanousi.

Elsanousi's apparent supervisor is former ISNA-Secretary General, Sayyid Syeed, the National Director of ISNA’s Office of Interfaith and Community Alliances. In the Grand Deception, a documentary about the Muslim Brotherhood in America, Syeed appears in footage taken in 2006 declaring, “Our job is to change the Constitution of America.”

Shortly after meeting Clapper, Elsanousi accompanied Magid to a conference in Mauritania hosted by a top leader of a major Muslim Brotherhood organization named the International Union of Muslim Scholars.

The day after the meeting, on June 13, 2012, five members of Congress asked the Director of National Intelligence’s Intelligence Community Inspector-General, I. Charles McCullough III, to begin a formal investigation or evaluation of the Director of National Intelligence’s work with groups linked to the Brotherhood, specifically mentioning the Islamic Society of North America and its leader, Magid.

One month later, on July 11, 2012, the Inspector-General denied the congresspersons’ request, citing Clapper’s earlier statement that there was no relationship with domestic organizations linked to the Muslim Brotherhood. He said, “These statements remain accurate.” 

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s denial of any government engagement with U.S. Muslim Brotherhood entities is even more shocking considering the history of internal emails sent around the ODNI.

Declassified emails obtained by the Clarion Project show that staff inside the ODNI expressed concern about ISNA, even suggesting interagency intelligence-gathering on the organization. The author(s) of the internal emails also wanted intelligence gathering on the Council on American-Islamic Relations, another group labeled by the Justice Department as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation trial. Like ISNA, the Justice Department listed CAIR as a U.S. Muslim Brotherhood entity.

The heavily redacted ODNI emails, written sometime between January 2009 and August 2012, read: 

“I’m also interested if our team could work with the FBI and DHS on any Muslim Brotherhood collection and analysis opportunities such as looking at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) ongoing relationships with MB int’l leadership and enterprises.”

Another internal email says: 

“The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has a similarly checkered background, spotlighted by prominent deportations and indictments of CAIR members for support to Hamas and other extremist organizations.”

On June 10, 2010 an email was written by someone within the ODNI’s National Counter-Terrorism Center referencing internal discussions about engagement with Muslim Brotherhood-linked groups. It reads, “We have a large MB [Muslim Brotherhood] presence on the West Coast, and there has been some discussion here about engagement—both state and federal—with folks who are also MB members.” The author then gives examples, but they are censored from viewing.

 

Further, by the time ISNA was invited to a “discussion” with Clapper at the National Intelligence headquarters, ISNA’s history was a Muslim Brotherhood entity was well known to everyone.

Two years after the Holy Land trial, in 2009, Federal Judge Jorge A.Solis upheld the designation of ISNA as an unindicted co-conspirator, citing “ample” evidence linking it to the Brotherhood network assisting Hamas. He specifically said that the Holy Land Foundation “operated from within ISNA” and checks destined for Hamas reached the Foundation through an ISNA bank account.

Declassified FBI memos and internal Muslim Brotherhood documents identify ISNA as a Brotherhood entity. A 1991 U.S. Brotherhood explanatory memorandum lists ISNA as the first of 29 of “our organizations and the organizations of our friends.” ISNA-Canada lost its status as a charity last year because of evidence linking it to Pakistani terrorists and major accounting discrepancies.

You can read Clarion’s documented report on ISNA here.

The members of Congress – and the American people – have a right to know the truth: The Office of the Director of National Intelligence does have a relationship with domestic organizations linked to the Muslim Brotherhood – and, it is a truth that needs a formal evaluation and investigation.

 

Ryan Mauro is the ClarionProject.org’s National Security Analyst, a fellow with the Clarion Project and is frequently interviewed on top-tier TV stations as an expert on counterterrorism and Islamic extremism.