Whistleblower: State Dept. shut down pivotal terror probe
Terrorism | Former analyst says his work might have prevented San Bernardino, Orlando
by Ciera Horton
Posted 6/29/16, 02:02 pm
WASHINGTON—A former official with the Department of Homeland Security claimed in a Senate hearing on Tuesday that the San Bernardino and Orlando shootings could have been prevented if he had been allowed to continue his investigation. The State Department halted his investigations due to concerns about anti-Muslim rhetoric.
Philip Haney’s work linked a mosque where the San Bernardino shooters worshipped to a terrorist network that also included Orlando attacker Omar Mateen’s mosque. In 2012, Hillary Clinton’s State Department halted his investigation, saying it infringed upon the rights of Muslims. Federal officials ordered Haney to edit or remove over 800 documents that linked individuals or organizations to the Muslim Brotherhood terrorist network.
Haney claims that, had his case continued, both San Bernardino and Orlando could potentially have been prevented. Haney testified Tuesday at a hearing led by former presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.
Attendees were tense at the Judiciary Committee hearing discussing the rhetoric of fighting Islamic extremism and how the federal government deliberately omitted references to Islam in counterterrorism efforts. Cruz asserted that wiping away references to Islam was misleading. Muslims in attendance argued that references to Islam in counterterrorism perpetuate ISIS propaganda and discrimination against Muslims.
“Should it really be the top concern of counterterrorism if it really offends anyone?” Cruz said. “In 2014, the president stated that ISIL … was not Islam. The Islamic State is somehow not Islam.”
The Obama administration came under fire when the FBI released Mateen’s 911 phone transcripts from the night of the Orlando shooting. Though federal officials claimed the transcript was unedited, the script had changed mention of “Allah” to “God” and omitted any mentions of the Islamic State.
Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., countered Cruz’s assessment: “We are not at war with the religion of Islam. … No religion condones the massacring of thousands of innocent people.”
The panel of witnesses included testimony from Muslim Advocates, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and a former FBI agent. The Department of Justice had been scheduled to testify but later declined to attend.
M. Zuhdi Jasser, a Muslim with the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, said refusing to identify the realities of militant Islam is dangerous. “It infantilizes Muslims while lying to the American people,” Jasser said. “To say that the house of Islam has no problems is just as problematic as declaring that Islam and Muslims are the problem.”
Witness Farina Khera with Muslim Advocates challenged the rhetoric of “jihad” or Islamic extremism, saying it was anti-Muslim. In her written statements, Khera said the FBI has a “culture of suspicion” directed against American Muslims. She also argued the federal government used biased training materials and conducted discriminatory surveillance through racial profiling.
When Cruz asked if radical Islam even existed, Khera could not give a straight answer. Instead, she said: “It’s no different than the KKK or those who attack abortion clinics.”
President Barack Obama has called both the San Bernardino shooters and Mateen “lone-wolf” attackers and refused to acknowledge their connection to radical Islamic jihadism. Haney countered this at the hearing, saying, “There’s no such thing as a lone-wolf terrorist. They don’t function in a vacuum. … To look at these acts as separate from the community is a flaw.”
Ciera Horton is a WORLD intern.