The rhetorical attacks on incoming National Security Council Executive Secretary Fred Fleitz (the author’s former colleague) have been shrill and ineffective. Conservatives have rallied to Fleitz’ defense, bolstered in part by Fleitz’s long history of work as a Central Intelligence Agency analyst, State Department official, and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence staffer, along with his solid reputation working on Iran and nonproliferation-related issues.
According to Trump administration insiders, the White House blames Obama allies and Iran deal advocates for ginning up the non-controversy, and there’s no indication of a willingness to surrender the scalp of a long-time national security professional whose views align with the president’s.
Having met resistance in their initial effort to keep John Bolton allies out of the NSC, the Left’s smear merchants may be shifting to defense, trying to undermine expected policy objectives of a Bolton-led NSC. That’s the main takeaway from a recent column by The Atlantic’s Peter Beinart.
Beinart naturally repeats slurs against Fleitz that the discredited Southern Poverty Law Center has published. He goes on to warn that a likely policy objective for the National Security Council is designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. Beinart blames Fleitz’s former employer, The Center for Security Policy, for promoting this policy.
Yet in truth, Fleitz’s new boss, National Security Advisor John Bolton, has long been on the record supporting a designation for entire Muslim Brotherhood or key branches, a position that terrifies the Brotherhood and many of its defenders on the Left. So in addition to trying to dirty up Fleitz, Beinart undertakes to whitewash the record and nature of the Muslim Brotherhood and its U.S.-based front organizations by obfuscating the evidence that Brotherhood critics cite in their case for designation.
It’s a Conspiracy Theory Substantiated by the FBI?
Beinart labels as a conspiracy theory the notion that notable organizations including the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), and the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT) are Muslim Brotherhood groups. He provides no evidence for this position.
Evidence to the contrary was supplied not by Fleitz, Bolton, or the Center for Security Policy, but by the FBI and the Department of Justice during the successful terrorism finance prosecution of what was at the time the country’s largest Islamic charity, the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF).
The federal judge who oversaw the trial, Judge Jorge Solis, noted in a memorandum opinion order that the U.S. government “produced ample evidence to establish the associations of CAIR, ISNA, and NAIT with HLF, The Islamic Association of Palestine, and with Hamas.” The judge went on to cite trial testimony and government exhibits to make the case in detail that the Muslim Brotherhood operated in the United States and created organizations, including CAIR, ISNA, and NAIT, for the purpose of supporting terrorism.
Beinart has argued—as he does in an article he links to in his current screed—that this evidence is insufficient because it comes from a trial now more than a decade old. Beinart quoted an “expert on Islamic extremism” who called the links between these organizations and the Muslim Brotherhood “ancient history.” That must have come as a surprise to the leaders of these organizations, many of whom remain the very same people who founded them and led them during the government’s investigation.
Meet the New Ringleaders, Same as the Old Ringleaders
Examples includes CAIR founder Nihad Awad, who has been the organization’s leader since it was created in 1994. Awad participated in a Muslim Brotherhood meeting in Philadelphia in 1993 where the FBI recorded explicit calls to support Hamas. ISNA’s board of directors (which underwent a recent shake-up) still includes ISNA Vice President for Canada Pervaz Nasim, who has been with the organization since the beginning, and Iqbal Unus, who helped found ISNA and was an early secretary general of the organization.
Included on the Board of Trustees of NAIT is Gadoor Saidi, whose name appears in a phone directory of U.S. Muslim Brotherhood leaders submitted as evidence by the federal government during the Holy Land Foundation trial. Saidi is listed as a member of the group’s Shura Council and a member of its Executive Office. Also a long time NAIT board member, and listed in the same 1992 phone directory, is Bassam Osman, also a U.S. Muslim Brotherhood Shura Council member.
There is plenty of room for a substantive discussion on the policy merits of designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. It is reasonable to discuss how it might be legally accomplished, or how best to address Islamists who act as pressure groups and supporters of terrorist groups. Yet the Left is largely uninterested in substantive discussion.
Instead, when defending the Muslim Brotherhood and similar Islamist groups the Left attempts, much as they did in the MS-13 “animals” debacle, to portray critics of a particular, dangerous group as criticizing and condemning all members of a protected class. The attack on Fleitz is yet another example of the Left’s inverted moral confusion, where it is seen as the height of virtue to defend the indefensible, even if it means smearing a good man.
To the extent the Trump administration is going to be successful in furthering its policies, it will be by ignoring the screeching of the outraged Left, and moving forward with the policies it was elected to accomplish. In national security and counterterrorism matters, Fleitz is positioned to help them do exactly that.