The only surprise to anyone that has been following the fortunes of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) concerning the revelation yesterday by John Gerstein of the New York Sun (“Islamic Group Named in HAMAS Funding Case”) that CAIR had been named by federal prosecutors as unindicted co-conspirators in a terrorism financing trial was that it took the federal government so long to finally act. Also named as co-conspirators in the pending trial in Texas are the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and the North American Islamic Trust. By the close of business yesterday, neither CAIR nor ISNA had published any response to the New York Sun article.
In recent years as the indictments and convictions of CAIR employees, former employees and close associates on terrorism-related charges began to pile up, CAIR has vehemently denied any organizational ties to criminal activity and has savaged its critics, saying that opponents were engaging in nothing more than “guilt by association”.
As I reported recently here at FrontPage (“CAIR by the Numbers”), CAIR’s membership and financial support have dropped dramatically based on data obtained from the organization’s IRS Form 990s. In 2005 (the most recent data publicly available), I estimated that CAIR membership had dropped to approximately 2,615 and their financial support cut by 23 percent from just the previous year. These new legal developments, however, may threaten the very existence of the group, as many supporters may grow fearful of being indirectly connected to terrorism and terrorist financing through their association with CAIR.
CAIR’s connections to HAMAS front groups in the US, including the Holy Land Foundation and the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), is certainly not breaking news, especially since CAIR was founded with $5,000 in seed money from the Holy Land Foundation and IAP was the very organization CAIR grew out of, as had been reported by Steve Emerson of the Investigative Project more than a decade ago. What is new is the federal government’s late-in-coming acknowledgement of these terrorist ties to CAIR and the recognition that these newly identified organizations are “entities who are and/or were members of the US Muslim Brotherhood”.
What remains to be seen in light of this breaking development is the response by members of Congress who count CAIR among their closest advisors, federal agencies that have invited CAIR to subject their employees to sensitivity training, academics that have offered CAIR their support and endorsement, the media establishment outlets that have vigorously defended CAIR, and federal law enforcement itself, who has regularly used CAIR as a bridge to interact with the American Muslim community.
Several members of Congress have openly embraced CAIR, in particular Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), a strident CAIR supporter who was elected in November 2006 thanks to generous contributions from top CAIR officials (see Robert Spencer’s “CAIR’s Congress” and my own “CAIR Betting on Democrats”). Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) came under fire last month for delivering a keynote speech for CAIR in April and also for hiring a CAIR staff member for his congressional office. And it was FrontPage’s own Joe Kaufman who earlier this year exposed an award by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) to CAIR-CA executive director Basim Elkarra (“Senators for Terror”), which prompted Sen. Boxer to withdraw the award (see Joel Mowbray’s “Boxer vs. CAIR”). Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), the current chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has also been identified for opening many doors for CAIR on Capitol Hill and hosting CAIR’s annual Ramadan celebration in the hallowed halls of Congress.
One is given to wonder if officials for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), a unit of the Department of Homeland Security, will be requiring its employees to submit to CAIR sensitivity training prior to the annual Hajj, as it did last December – a fact that was trumpeted on CAIR’s own website. CAIR also stated that a number of their officials had “met with TSA, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials on issues related to cultural sensitivity and national security”.
Prominent academics have associated themselves with CAIR, such as the recent appearance of John Mueller, the Woody Hayes Chair of National Security Studies at Ohio State and the author of the recent book, Overblown: How Politicians and the Terrorism Industry Inflate National Security Threats, and Why We Believe Them, at a CAIR-Ohio fundraising banquet in Cleveland just a few weeks ago (see my previous exposé on Mueller, “Ohio State Prof: What Terrorist Threat?”). Other academics who have blindly promoted CAIR’s propaganda in the past, including University of Michigan professor Juan Cole, who has been a regular conduit for publicizing CAIR’s public statements, might now be more reticent to associate themselves with the terror-linked group (though in Cole’s case, maybe not). Despite the unquestioned support CAIR receives from many academic quarters, however, some academics and policy researchers who have been the recipients of CAIR’s legal threats might be glad to see their criticisms of CAIR finally vindicated.
The media establishment has labored to carry CAIR’s water, seen most recently in a polish job by Neil MacFarquhar in the New York Times, who back in March wrote a glowing apology (“Scrutiny Increases for a Group Advocating for Muslims in the US”) for the organization, which ended up blaming CAIR critics for the rise in Muslim extremism at home and abroad: “Some activists and academics view the controversy surrounding the group as typical of why Washington fails so often in the Middle East, while extremism mushrooms.” That non sequitur prompted Steve Emerson to pen a lengthy response (“Unfit Print”), where he said, “just as people began to… ostracize CAIR accordingly, The New York Times arrived with a life raft.”
Hopefully, the FBI will also be reassessing its relationship to the terror-linked group as well. FBI officials have attended fundraising events for CAIR (“FBI Funded CAIR?”), and former FBI chief Robert Mueller was criticized for accepting a “humanitarian award” from the organization (“CAIR: How Close to Terrorism?”), which prompted him to return the award. And as Joe Kaufman reported back in 2003 (“CAIR vs. the FBI”), federal law enforcement’s alliances with CAIR has come back to bite them as CAIR’s agenda was found to be with the FBI’s. But even as recent as last month, CAIR officials were still offering “diversity and sensitivity training on Islam and Muslims” in the New Haven, CT office of the FBI. Perhaps federal prosecutors should be communicating more clearly to their FBI colleagues?
In the event that CAIR is finally abandoned by its friends in Congress, the media establishment, academia, and the federal government, due to the Department of Justice’s identification of CAIR’s terrorist ties (much as they have already been abandoned by their Muslim supporters in America), articles on CAIR in the very near future might be obituaries and autopsies of the organization. Here’s to that possibility! It has been long in coming.