The recruitment and organization of ideological extremists in prison systems and armed forces is a centuries-old problem, as is the difficulty that civil societies have had in understanding and confronting the matter. While in tsarist prisons, Stalin and Dzerzhinsky organized murderers and other hardened criminals who would lead the Bolsheviks and their Cheka secret police. Hitler credited his time in prison as an opportunity to reflect and write Mein Kampf. Terrorist inmates and others communicate and organize among themselves and with the outside world via the rather open nature of our correctional system, and are known to do so in secret with collaborative lawyers by abusing the attorney-client relationship.
Chaplains are a vital part of military and correctional life, and until recently they have been above reproach. For several years, however, some of us have been alarmed that the small but important Muslim chaplain corps in the military has been harmed by those with an agenda that is more political than spiritual. This raises legitimate – indeed pressing – national security concerns.
The nation now finds itself with suspicions about the integrity of certain Muslim chaplains and how one or more may have been able to penetrate one of the nation’s most secure terrorist detention facilities at Guantanamo, Cuba, breaking through the heavy compartmentation that was designed in part to keep the detainees from communicating with one another and with the outside. That particular case is pending in the legal system, but its gravity is magnified by an important fact: the group that vetted the suspect chaplain was founded by a Wahhabi-backed member of the Muslim Brotherhood with a long track record of supporting terrorist leaders from the Egyptian Islamic Jihad to Hezbollah. It shares an office with him and, reportedly, even the same tax identification number.
My testimony will discuss:
• The foreign entities and individuals who created the Muslim chaplain corps for the United States military;
• The parties responsible for nominating and vetting Muslim chaplains for the U.S. armed forces;
• The issue of state-sponsored penetration of the U.S. military and prisons;
• Challenges to our ability to understand the nature of the problem; and
• The larger context of which the chaplain program is part.
Initial research findings
Our country’s security, intelligence and counterintelligence services missed a lot before 9/11, and have been so deluged with information since then that it is often hard to make sense of it even two years later. Those inside government, and those of us outside, are early in the analytical process. My testimony is based entirely on the public record, and is intended to help connect the dots among what can be a maze of confusing names and organizations. Much of the research has been done with the staff of the Center for Security Policy.
In short, this is what my colleagues and I have found:
• Foreign states and movements have been financing the promotion of radical, political Islam, which we call Islamism, within America’s armed forces and prisons.
• That alien ideology, with heavy political overtones, preaches intolerance and hatred of American society, culture, government, and the principles enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.
• Adherents to that ideology directly and indirectly spawn, train, finance, supply and mobilize terrorists who would destroy our system of government and our way of life.
• They have created civil support networks for terrorists at home and abroad, providing material assistance, fundraising operations, logistics, propaganda, legal assistance in the event of arrest or imprisonment, and bringing political pressure to bear on policymakers grappling with counterterrorism issues.
• The Islamists exploited the nation’s prison chaplancies and the created the Muslim chaplain cadre in the armed forces as one of several avenues of infiltration, recruitment, training and operation.