Tuesday, June 6, 2017
Nowadays we've coined a phrase for it: "Fake News." Its purpose is to mislead. When directed at an individual its purpose is to slander. If you have ever been the victim of it, I can empathize with you.
Recently, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and another activist organization put out several press releases trying to end my work as a guest instructor for the United States military. I have spoken at the Army's Counter Terrorism Symposium and the Air Force's Special Operation School. CAIR called me names, accused me of prejudice and conduct unbecoming of, and detrimental to the goals of the United States military. Its exact words were, "...Mr. Dunleavy does not fit the U.S. military's standards..."
It demanded that I be removed from any position involving training of U.S. servicemen and women. It followed up the accusations with another press release 45 days later stating that, as a result of their public pressure on the USAF command, the Special Operations School Commandant was ordered to conduct a review of my class. "We welcome this review and hope it results in our military personnel receiving training based on balanced and accurate information, not on personal or political agendas," said CAIR-Florida Communications Director Wilfredo Ruiz.
If Mr. Ruiz spoke the truth, then he and the entire CAIR organization owe me an apology.
I have been informed that the review of my class material by a group of military officers, which included two commissioned officers who serve as Muslim chaplains in the United States Air Force, is complete. Their findings; Nothing in my course curriculum was found to be denigrating to Islam or Muslims.
I'm not holding my breath waiting for CAIR's apology.
I teach a class on Prison Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism. It is based on my investigative experiences in the criminal justice system as an undercover agent infiltrating organized crime and other criminal enterprises. Part of my career involved working with the both the New York Police Department's Intelligence Division and the FBI. I don't teach theory. It is a practicum and it helps military and law enforcement personnel understand how a person can become radicalized.
Training is a necessary component in the war on terrorism. That doesn't just involve combat tactics but also understanding the enemy – how they operate and draw others to their fight. Islamic radicalization is a very real threat. It operates in society at large and in a particularly vulnerable segment of society, the prison environment.
We call prisons "correctional systems" because we hope in some way to rehabilitate offenders. Jihadists call them training grounds and universities. They have produced terrorists. The most recent examples are Khalid Massood, who killed four people, including a police officer, in London's Westminster area. Anis Amri killed 12 people in Berlin. Both were former inmates radicalized while incarcerated.
If we ignore the facts or attempt to silence those who speak about the subject, we become like the terrorists, refusing to hear anything that might challenge our own dogma.
Wars are fought in many places other than the battlefield. Wars are also fought in the arena of public opinion.
Honest debate is healthy, slanderous accusations are not.
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Friday, June 2, 2017
What actually was known? Cheurfi had a predisposition for violence, animosity toward authority – he had tried to kill police officers twice before – and a sense of alienation. They also knew that he had spent a significant period of his life in a place that some authorities called a radicalizing cauldron, the French prison system. Inside those prisons, a small group of Islamic terrorists was effectively radicalizing other inmates who came in as petty criminals with no religious leanings, said Pascal Mailhos, past director of France's domestic intelligence agency.
Mailhos' warning proved prophetic as French prisons spawned terrorists like Mohammed Merah, who in 2012 murdered police officers and Jewish school children in Toulouse, and Amedy Coulibaly, who killed a police trainee before storming the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket and killing four hostages. Charlie Hebdo attacker Said Kouachi, like Karim Cheurfi, came out of the joint radicalized and ready to kill law enforcement, military personnel and innocent civilians in the name of Allah.
This problem is not unique to France. Former inmates who turned to the violent path of jihad plotted or carried out terrorist attacks in the United States, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany and the United Kingdom.
For some, particularly for those who have spent time in prison, the radicalization process from conversion to violence is more accelerated. "Some individuals, particularly those who convert in prison, may be attracted directly to jihadi violence...for this group, jihad represents a convenient outlet for (their) aggressive behavior," the Central Intelligence Agency said in a report, "Homegrown Jihad – Pathway to Terrorism."
When you combine the ingredients of violent aggressive behavior, animosity toward authority, incarceration, and radical Islamic ideology, you will almost certainly produce a deadly toxin. French prosecutor Francois Molins insisted that Cheurfi showed no signs of radicalization prior to the attack. Missing the signs could be the result of bad eyesight or, a lack of training. "We don't have anyone trained for anti-radicalization," said David Dulondel, the head of the union representing officers at France's Fleury-Merogis maximum security prison. "We can't say whether someone is in the process of radicalizing or not."
Despite an acknowledged problem with insufficient training, groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) seek to censor any mention of Islamic radicalization from American law enforcement and military training.
In 2004, the FBI's official definition of radicalization was "the process of attracting and possibly converting inmates to radical Islam." They since have been pressured to change the term to "violent extremism."
Removing warning labels from canisters containing caustic material does not render the substance inside harmless. It only increases the risk of a deadly incident. Toxic waste spills are often the result of carelessness.
Prison radicalization should not be treated this way. We must put the tools in place to monitor and control this threat. Others have done it. Following last month's Westminster Bridge attack by Khalid Masood, British authorities announced the formation of a task force that will combine intelligence, law enforcement, corrections and probation personnel to look at literature, clergy, and other influences available in prisons. The task force will also closely monitor recently released inmates for changes in behavior or association with known radical mosques or people. France, which has suffered its share of jihadi violence carried out by ex-inmates, had to admit that its program to address prison radicalization had been an utter failure. Yet it has not made any significant changes.
Here in the United States, it is imperative that the Justice Department and the FBI revise the Correctional Intelligence Initiative Program to include the proper vetting of clergy and a post release component to track people who were radicalized or previously incarcerated for terrorist crimes. The initiative started in 2003 with a mission to "detect, deter, and disrupt efforts by terrorist and extremist groups to radicalize or recruit within all federal, state, territorial, tribal and local prison populations."
Failure to effectively address the ongoing threat is not an acceptable option. At some point there will be a price to pay.
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