Pro-Brotherhood DHS advisor creates lawfare blind spot

Ryan Mauro National Security Analyst, Clarion Project
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Under revised Department of Homeland Security guidelines, crafted with the input of senior adviser Mohamed Elibiary, counter-terrorism personnel will be left uneducated about a favorite non-violent tactic of the Islamists: lawfare.

Mohamed Elibiary is the subject of a new 37-page report by the Center for Security Policy and Institute on Religion and Democracy. Consisting mostly of an interview I conducted with Elibiary, this senior Department of Homeland Security adviser’s pro-Islamist sentiment is laid out for all to see. The Clarion Project has a list of 15 unsettling facts from the report, which include: personal connections to and praise of the Muslim Brotherhood; associations with the Assembly of Muslim Jurists, a “hardline Islamist group” that calls for the establishment of sharia law in America, marital rape, and jihad against Israel; admission to actively helping U.S. Muslim Brotherhood groups avoid prosecution; accusations that the West “routinely insults Muslim dignity.” Elibiary has also voiced support for Shukri Abu Baker, CEO of the now defunct Holy Land Foundation, who was convicted in the largest terrorism-financing trial in U.S. history.

As a member of the Homeland Security Advisory Committee, Elibiary is in a position to impact policy with his beliefs. He was promoted last month to Senior Fellow. He was a member of the DHS Working Group on Countering Violent Extremism (CVE), the subject of Elibiary’s focus.

Elibiary says he was instrumental in crafting the DHS policy on CVE.

“The area that has earned me the most amount of anti-Islamist media criticism has been my role assisting DHS and the broader administration craft a framework and later a strategy for Countering Violent Extremism (CVE). I helped write parts of the initial [CVE] document President Barack Hussein Obama was briefed on in the Oval Office,” Elibiary said in our interview.

In 2011, the DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties released a document titled, “Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Training Do’s and Don’ts.” Produced by the DHS and the National Counterterrorism Center, it contains a list of specific recommendations for federal, state and local government officials “organizing CVE, cultural awareness, counter-radicalization or counter-terrorism training.” In other words, the “Do’s and Don’ts” targets anyone involved in learning about militant Islam.

The guidelines aim to prevent instruction about non-violent Islamists and their tactics, right in line with the policies advocated by Elibiary in our interview.

One of the suggested regulations is to prohibit training about “lawfare,” the abuse of Western laws and judicial systems to achieve strategic military or political ends. Lawfare is particularly manifested in the United States in the form of frivolous lawsuits filed to intimidate members of the counter-terrorism community with the threat of bankruptcy and vilification for exercising their free speech rights to educate Americans on issues of national security and public concern, such as the imminent threat of Islamist terrorism.

The DHS guidelines instruct agencies to stay away from “training premised on theories with little or no evidence to support them. One theory the DHS wants discarded posits that “Muslim Americans are using democratic processes, like litigation and free speech, to subvert democracy and install Sharia law.”

Brooke Goldstein, director of The Lawfare Project, says, “There is a plethora of evidence indicating lawfare as the newest, most visible and increasingly emergent form of asymmetric warfare, which must be countered both tactically and strategically. It is undeniable that Muslim Brotherhood front groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations have filed lawsuits aimed at silencing and punishing anyone who expose their connections to designated terrorist organizations or say things that are ‘offensive’ to Islam. DHS guidelines that not only delegitimize this very real threat but also deny its existence leave American counterterrorism personnel open to attack by, amongst other things, failing to brief them on legitimate ways to protect themselves and undermining those in the counterterrorism and legal communities who are working to protect this country.”

Best-selling author and terrorism expert Richard Miniter told me in 2010 that self-censorship is becoming commonplace because of the “threat that is hung over every writer.”

The Lawfare Project has published a scholarly paper about the threat that includes multiple examples of lawfare suits filed by American Islamists against U.S. citizens. For example, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a U.S. Muslim Brotherhood entity, filed a defamation lawsuit against former Congressman Cass Ballinger for linking CAIR to Hezbollah in response to a reporter’s question. It was dismissed because the statement was “within the scope of his employment.”

CAIR also filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission about the Clarion Fund, one of its opponents. CAIR tried to argue that the organization was lobbying for Senator McCain in the presidential election by raising awareness about the Islamist threat. That complaint, too, was dismissed.

In 2007, CAIR associates sued counter-terrorism expert Joe Kaufman for writing about an entirely different organization. Not a single plaintiff was even mentioned in his article, and the case was ultimately decided in Kaufman’s favor due to plaintiffs’ lack of standing and failure to meet the requisite elements of their defamation claims.

In another lawfare case, the Muslim Brotherhood-linked Islamic Society of Boston sued 17 media figures for reporting on its Saudi funding. The lawsuit was dropped as soon as the defendants gained access to the mosque’s financial records through the process of discovery.

Islamists outside of the U.S. also use lawfare to try to silence American opponents.

In August 2010, President Obama signed into law the SPEECH Act (Securing the Protection of our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage Act), which was unanimously passed by Congress. The legislation’s purpose is to prevent Americans from having their free speech oppressed via foreign lawsuits.

The late Saudi billionaire Khalid bin Mahfouz’s use of lawfare sparked the legislation. He sued 45 publishers or journalists for writing about his financing of Islamist terrorists and extremists. Every single one settled, except for Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld, author of the meticulously researched book, Funding Evil.

Though Dr. Ehrenfeld is an American living in the U.S., she was victimized because of the United Kingdom’s libel laws. The so-called Human Rights Committee of the U.N., a body that is far from a pro-American bastion, acknowledged in 2008:

“…application of the law of libel has served to discourage critical media reporting on matters of serious public interest, adversely affecting the ability of scholars and journalists to publish their work, including through the phenomenon known as ‘libel tourism.’”

According to the American Public Policy Alliance, state legislation against “libel tourism” has passed in New York, California, Illinois, Florida, Utah, Louisiana and Tennessee.

The legal persecution of these individuals represents but a mere fraction of lawfare cases filed in the United States.

The DHS training guidelines not only discourage instruction about Islamist use of lawfare — they discourage instruction about non-violent Islamists, including the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood, entirely.

Other “unsubstantiated” theories, according to the DHS document, are that “[m]any mainstream Muslim organizations have terrorist ties” and “[m]ainstream Muslim organizations are fronts for Islamic political organizations whose true desire is to establish Sharia law in America.” These claims are based on internal U.S. Muslim Brotherhood documents submitted into court as evidence, the conclusions of federal prosecutors, a 2009 Texas District Court ruling, and the documented statements of American Islamists, all of which indeed substantiate the aforementioned theories.

Among the supposedly innocent “mainstream Muslim organizations” those sources identify as a U.S. Muslim Brotherhood entity are CAIR, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), the Muslim Students’ Association (MSA), the Muslim Youth of North America (MYNA), the Muslim Businessmen Association (MBA), the National American Islamic Trust (NAIT), and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). Additionally, there has been an active publicity effort to whitewash the Muslim Brotherhood, despite the movement’s reputation for engaging in political violence and its spawning of terrorist groups, such as Hamas and Egyptian Islamic Jihad. The Brotherhood’s credo proclaims, “Allah is our objective; the Quran is our law, the Prophet is our leader; Jihad is our way; and dying in the way of Allah is the highest of our aspirations.”

Shockingly, ISNA president, Imam Mohamed Magid, was on the same CVE working group committee as Elibiary. Therefore, the DHS literally had a U.S. Muslim Brotherhood entity (ISNA) and a Brotherhood apologist (Elibiary) crafting its policy to protect the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood. How is this acceptable government practice?

And that’s just the beginning of it. The CVE working group had several other allies of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood.

Thanks to the influence of Brotherhood acolytes in the administration like Elibiary, countless counter-terrorism professionals will be left ignorant of lawfare and the Islamists that wage it.

Ryan Mauro is the National Security Analyst for ClarionProject.org and a Fellow of The Lawfare Project.