Thursday, February 23, 2017
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Tuesday, February 21, 2017
Abdel Rahman, the Blind Sheikh, was responsible for much of the last quarter century of terrorism.
By Andrew C. McCarthy — February 18, 2017
Omar Abdel Rahman, the notorious “Blind Sheikh” who died on Friday night while serving his life sentence in federal prison, was never shy about being a terrorist. As he put it:
What kind of name is this? Why are we afraid of it? Why do we fear the word terrorist? If the terrorist is the person who defends his right, so we are terrorists. And if the terrorist is the one who struggles for the sake of God, then we are terrorists. We . . . have been ordered with terrorism because we must prepare what power we can to terrorize the enemy of Allah and your enemy. The Koran says “to strike terror.” Therefore, we don’t fear to be described with “terrorism.” . . . They may say, “He is a terrorist, he uses violence, he uses force.” Let them say that. We are ordered to prepare whatever we can of power to terrorize the enemies of Islam.
Before there was an al-Qaeda or an ISIS, there was the Blind Sheikh, known to his worldwide following as “the emir of jihad.” And he bears much of the responsibility — he would think of it as the credit — for what followed him. Indeed, bin Laden credited Sheikh Abdel Rahman with the fatwa (the sharia-law edict) that approved the 9/11 jihadist attacks in which nearly 3,000 Americans were murdered. Abdel Rahman had indeed issued such a fatwa:
Muslims everywhere to dismember their nation, tear them apart, ruin their economy, provoke their corporations, destroy their embassies, attack their interests, sink their ships, . . . shoot down their planes, [and] kill them on land, at sea, and in the air. Kill them wherever you find them.
Having been the lead prosecutor in the trial at which he was convicted, I find that barely a day goes by that I don’t ruefully think about this. For all the praise we received for a job well done — and I am immensely proud of the work we did — we only managed to imprison him. We did not stop him.
Abdel Rahman was the central character in a memoir I wrote about the case nearly a decade ago, Willful Blindness. The title has become something of catch phrase describing the wayward American approach to counterterrorism. I meant it as something more than that — a contrast: the steely determination that underlay Abdel Rahman’s clarity of purpose that the world be ruled by Islamic law, versus our own conscious avoidance of the sharia-supremacist ideology that drives the jihadist threat, and diffidence about whether our own liberty culture is worth defending.
He was raised in the tiny Nile Delta town of al-Gamalia, where he lost his sight to juvenile diabetes in 1942, at the age of four. The sickly boy was a prodigy, memorizing the Koran at an early age and developing into a renowned scholar of Islamic jurisprudence — the discipline in which he earned a doctorate, with distinction, at storied al-Azhar University, the seat of Sunni Islamic learning since the tenth century. Abdel Rahman was deeply influenced by Ibn Taymiyyah, the 14th-century docent who had come of age in a soul-searching time for Islamic fundamentalism: after invading Mongols routed the Abbasid Caliphate, laying Baghdad to waste. Taymiyyah championed a return to basics: a literalist interpretation of scripture and the notion that the original Islamic communities forged by the prophet Mohammed were the ideal to which all humanity must aspire.
Abdel Rahman was also affected by contemporary followers of Taymiyyah. Interestingly, one was the Shiite jihadist icon, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Notwithstanding their theological differences, Abdel Rahman perceived in Khomeini the possibilities of Islamic revolution and the exploitation of what he saw as American weakness — particularly by Hezbollah, Khomeini’s forward jihadist militia that, among other atrocities, killed 241 U.S. Marines in their Beirut barracks in 1983. “If Muslim battalions were to do five or six operations to the Americans in surprise attacks like the one that was done against them in Lebanon,” the Blind Sheikh urged, “the Americans would have exited [the Persian Gulf] and gathered their armies and gone back . . . to their country.” It was a recruitment speech he delivered hundreds of times.
Abdel Rahman also revered Sayyid Qutb, his fellow Egyptian and a Muslim Brotherhood hero long imprisoned and eventually executed by the hated Nasser regime. From the premise of Taymiyyah’s teaching, and building on the foundation laid by Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Bannah, Qutb taught that Islam is “a declaration that sovereignty belongs to God alone”; that the “freedom” God offers is submission to His law, sharia; and that supplanting man’s dominion with Allah’s could never be achieved by “preaching” alone — it would require jihad “to wipe out tyranny” and impose this Orwellian conception of “freedom” on mankind.
Echoing Ibn Taymiyyah, Qutb’s jihad targeted not only declared non-believers but also those rulers who professed to be Muslim but did not adhere to sharia. Qutb also infused his teaching with visceral anti-Semitism, portraying the Jew as the instantiation of all that is anti-Islamic and treacherous. Abdel Rahman drank deeply from this noxious well.
The Blind Sheikh completed his master’s degree in Cairo in 1967, in the aftermath of Qutb’s execution and what Muslims still see as the humiliation of the Six-Day War. By the time he earned his doctorate in 1971, he already had a following of young budding jihadists. By 1973, the firebrand “cleric” (he is better thought of as a sharia jurist) was the emir of a jihadist organization, Gama’at al-Islamia (the Islamic Group). Essentially, it was a spinoff of the Brotherhood, comprised of young Muslims who had been lured into the Brotherhood’s sharia-supremacist ideology but were impatient with the Brotherhood’s methodical pace, which — in their view – too often failed to live up to the militant violence of its rhetoric, and too often played a double game of collusion with the secular regime Muslims were obliged to overthrow.
Abdel Rahman became most notorious for issuing the fatwa relied upon by the jihadists who murdered Egyptian president Anwar al-Sadat at a military parade in 1981 — for the unforgivable offense of making peace with Israel. The Blind Sheikh was acquitted at his Egyptian trial when he defended himself with a stirring recitation of Islamic-law principles, exceedingly effective before a hypocritical authoritarian regime that nominally claims fidelity to sharia but does not actually enforce it. As he argued to the court, Allah’s commands hold that society must be governed by sharia; if it is not, it becomes the individual duty of every Muslim to perform jihad against the regime until it either is overthrown or enforces God’s law. This self-evident truth, he elaborated, required no scholarly fatwa. Thus, Sadat’s slayers were performing a sacred duty, and it was pointless to quibble over whether it had been authorized by him or by any man; it was dictated by the Koran.
It was the same defense the Blind Sheikh would later attempt to posit at his American trial. Suffice it to say that it did not have the same traction with a jury of New Yorkers sitting in a courthouse six blocks from the World Trade Center.
Though acquitted in Egypt, Abdel Rahman delighted in claiming credit for Sadat’s murder. Years later, safely out of Egypt and stoking new recruits, he would reflect that, of the “many jihad operations” carried out by his Islamic Group, the “most famous” one was “killing . . . the atheist, the oppressor and the profligate, . . . Anwar Al-Sadat.” But what about the result, someone asked. Hadn’t getting rid of Sadat only given Muslims Mubarak, who was worse?
Abdel Rahman would hear none of it. God “ordered us to eliminate” Sadat, he insisted, “even if this had to be done by killing him[,]” and even though Mubarak proved to be worse. Mubarak — “the third traitor, backstabber who became the loyal dog to America, . . . and was at the forefront of the treachery caravan to give to Israel and then America everything” — would, the Blind Sheikh assured, be dealt with in “another operation.”
While Abdel Rahman never managed to have Hosni Mubarak killed, he spent many years trying — and we ultimately convicted him on a count of conspiracy to murder the then-president of Egypt (one plan included trying to assassinate him near the U.N. in the early 1990s). Abdel Rahman could not fail to be pleased by Mubarak’s overthrow and replacement, in 2011, by a Muslim Brotherhood government whose platform included demanding that the United States transfer their beloved Blind Sheikh back home — a hope that was dashed when the Brotherhood government was ousted.
By the time he settled in the United States in late 1990, Abdel Rahman was a globally recognized . . . menace. He was deeply involved in recruiting and fundraising for the “Arab-Afghan” contingent that joined the anti-Soviet jihad (and to this day regards its service to Allah as responsible for the demise of the Soviet empire). His network of associates included Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the Afghan warlord and former prime minister to whom much of the funding of the Arab fighters was channeled; Sudanese leader Hassan al-Turabi; and such founding figures of al-Qaeda as Ayman al-Zawahiri (Abdel Rahman’s Egyptian contemporary and sometime rival, who is now the international terror network’s leader) and Abdullah Azzam, the charismatic Palestinian who, like Abdel Rahman, graduated with a doctorate from al-Azhar and taught for a time in Saudi Arabia — where both Azzam and Abdel Rahman profoundly influenced a young student named Osama bin Laden.
Even before he settled in the New York metropolitan area (thanks to a tragicomedy of errors by American immigration authorities, who failed to notice he was on terrorism watch lists), the Blind Sheikh had an ardent following. His acolytes included Sayyid Nosair, Mohamed Salameh, Mahmud Abuhalima, and Nidal Ayyad — to name just a few. They used mosques and Islamic community centers as hubs for recruitment, fundraising, and paramilitary training — including shooting sessions in Calverton, Long Island, and drills involving explosives and close combat in remote areas of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania. They would report on their activities in overseas phone calls to Abdel Rahman, which were recorded and used to draw young Muslims to the cause.
In 1990, Nosair murdered Rabbi Meir Kahane, the controversial founder of the Jewish Defense League, at a hotel in midtown Manhattan. On February 26, 1993, Salameh, Abuhalima, and Ayyad, along with Ramzi Yousef, carried out the bombing of the World Trade Center — a plot long in the making, much of which was planned during visits to Nosair at Attica state prison in New York.
By then, for well over a year, Abdel Rahman had been urging jihad against the United States from within the United States. America, he declared, was “the head of the snake,” the world’s leading enemy of Islam. A notebook kept by Nosair and recovered after the Kahane murder contained such teachings as this:
Before announcing the establishing of the state of Abraham in our holy land . . . to break and to destroy the morale of the enemies of Allah. (And this is by means of destroying) (exploding) the structure of their civilized pillars. Such as the touristic infrastructure which they are proud of and their high world buildings which they are proud of and their statues which they endear and the buildings in which gather their heads (their leaders).
In the run-up to the bombing, Abdel Rahman was in constant touch with the plotters. Just a few weeks before the explosion that killed six adults (including a pregnant woman) and caused billions of dollars in damage, he spoke at a jihadist conference, thundering that “God has obliged us to perform jihad,” and thus that “the battalions of Islam and its divisions must be in a state of continuous readiness to hit their enemies with strength and power.” Reminding the crowd that “the enemies at the foremost of the work against Islam are America and its allies,” he continued with one of his favorite themes:
If those who have the right [to have something] are terrorists then we are terrorists. And we welcome being terrorists. And we do not deny this charge to ourselves. And the Koran makes it among the means to perform jihad for the sake of Allah, which is to terrorize the enemies of God and our enemies too. . . . Then we must be terrorists and we must terrorize the enemies of Islam and frighten them and disturb them and shake the earth under their feet.
In the summer of 1993, we arrested the Blind Sheikh and eleven of his followers as they conspired to carry out an even more ambitious plot against New York City landmarks: simultaneous bombing of the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels and the U.N. complex. Other potential targets under consideration were American military installations — which Abdel Rahman quite explicitly ordered attacks against — and the FBI’s headquarters in lower Manhattan. In October 1995, after a nine-month trial, they were convicted of conspiring to levy a terrorist war against the United States, including the WTC bombing, as well as the additional bombing plots and plans for various political assassinations. The presiding judge, Michael B. Mukasey — a peerless jurist who later served as U.S. attorney general in the Bush administration — sentenced the Blind Sheikh to life imprisonment.
As I said, we imprisoned him, but we failed to put an end to his reign of terror. Besides the fatwa that paved the way for 9/11, Abdel Rahman issued guidance to his Egyptian terrorist organization to end a truce with the Mubarak government. Lynne Stewart, the radical lawyer who had represented him at the trial, was eventually convicted of material support to terrorism for transmitting his directives from jail.
As I recounted in 2012, when the Egyptian press was reporting that the Obama administration was considering transferring Abdel Rahman back to Egypt:
In 1997, Gama’at al-Islamia threatened to “target . . . all of those Americans who participated in subjecting [Abdel Rahman’s] life to danger” — “every American official, starting with the American president [down] to the despicable jailer.” The organization promised to do “everything in its power” to obtain his release. Six months later, Gama’at jihadists set upon 58 foreign tourists and several police officers at an archeological site in Luxor, Egypt, brutally shooting and slicing them to death. The terrorists left behind leaflets — including in the mutilated torso of one victim — demanding that the Blind Sheikh be freed.
Gama’at subsequently issued a statement warning that its forcible struggle against the Egyptian regime would proceed unless Mubarak met its three demands: the implementation of sharia, the cessation of diplomatic relations with Israel, and “the return of our Sheikh and emir to his land.” In March 2000, terrorists associated with the Abu Sayyaf group kidnapped a number of tourists in the Philippines and threatened to behead them if Abdel Rahman and two other convicted terrorists were not freed. Authorities later recovered two decapitated bodies (four other hostages were never accounted for).
On September 21, 2000, only three weeks before al-Qaeda’s bombing of the U.S.S. Cole [killing 17 members of the U.S. Navy], al-Jazeera televised a “Convention to Support the Honorable Omar Abdel Rahman.” Front and center were Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri (then bin Laden’s deputy, now his successor as emir of al-Qaeda). They warned that unless Sheikh Abdel Rahman was freed, jihadist attacks against the United States would be stepped up. At the same event, Mohammed Abdel Rahman, an al-Qaeda operative who is one of the sheikh’s sons, exhorted the crowd to “avenge your Sheikh” and “go to the spilling of blood.”
Omar Abdel Rahman was physically incapable of doing anything that would be useful to a terrorist organization: He couldn’t build a bomb, hijack a plane, or carry out an assassination. The only thing he could do for a terrorist organization was lead it. His life is a testament to the centrality of sharia-supremacist ideology to modern jihadism and to the broader Islamist movement in which it thrives. His death reminds us why we must fight everything he represented.
— Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior policy fellow at the National Review Institute and a contributing editor of National Review.
Thursday, February 16, 2017
Wednesday, February 15, 2017
Sources: Former Obama officials, loyalists planted series of stories to discredit Flynn, bolster Iran deal
February 14, 2017
National security adviser Michael Flynn resigns
The abrupt resignation Monday evening of White House national security adviser Michael Flynn is the culmination of a secret, months-long campaign by former Obama administration confidantes to handicap President Donald Trump's national security apparatus and preserve the nuclear deal with Iran, according to multiple sources in and out of the White House who described to the Washington Free Beacon a behind-the-scenes effort by these officials to plant a series of damaging stories about Flynn in the national media.
The effort, said to include former Obama administration adviser Ben Rhodes—the architect of a separate White House effort to create what he described as a pro-Iran echo chamber—included a small task force of Obama loyalists who deluged media outlets with stories aimed at eroding Flynn's credibility, multiple sources revealed.
The operation primarily focused on discrediting Flynn, an opponent of the Iran nuclear deal, in order to handicap the Trump administration's efforts to disclose secret details of the nuclear deal with Iran that had been long hidden by the Obama administration.
Insiders familiar with the anti-Flynn campaign told the Free Beacon that these Obama loyalists plotted in the months before Trump's inauguration to establish a set of roadblocks before Trump's national security team, which includes several prominent opponents of diplomacy with Iran. The Free Beacon first reported on this effort in January.
Sources who spoke to the Free Beacon requested anonymity in order to speak freely about the situation and avoid interfering with the White House's official narrative about Flynn, which centers on his failure to adequately inform the president about a series of phone calls with Russian officials.
Flynn took credit for his missteps regarding these phone calls in a brief statement released late Monday evening. Trump administration officials subsequently stated that Flynn's efforts to mislead the president and vice president about his contacts with Russia could not be tolerated.
However, multiple sources closely involved in the situation pointed to a larger, more secretive campaign aimed at discrediting Flynn and undermining the Trump White House.
"It's undeniable that the campaign to discredit Flynn was well underway before Inauguration Day, with a very troublesome and politicized series of leaks designed to undermine him," said one veteran national security adviser with close ties to the White House team. "This pattern reminds me of the lead up to the Iran deal, and probably features the same cast of characters."
The Free Beacon first reported in January that, until its final days in office, the Obama administration hosted several pro-Iran voices who were critical in helping to mislead the American public about the terms of the nuclear agreement. This included a former Iranian government official and the head of the National Iranian American Council, or NIAC, which has been accused of serving as Iran's mouthpiece in Washington, D.C.
Since then, top members of the Obama administration's national security team have launched a communications infrastructure after they left the White House, and have told reporters they are using that infrastructure to undermine Trump's foreign policy.
"It's actually Ben Rhodes, NIAC, and the Iranian mullahs who are celebrating today," said one veteran foreign policy insider who is close to Flynn and the White House. "They know that the number one target is Iran … [and] they all knew their little sacred agreement with Iran was going to go off the books. So they got rid of Flynn before any of the [secret] agreements even surfaced."
Flynn had been preparing to publicize many of the details about the nuclear deal that had been intentionally hidden by the Obama administration as part of its effort to garner support for the deal, these sources said.
Flynn is now "gone before anybody can see what happened" with these secret agreements, said the second insider close to Flynn and the White House.
Sources in and out of the White House are concerned that the campaign against Flynn will be extended to other prominent figures in the Trump administration.
One senior White House official told the Free Beacon that leaks targeting the former official were "not the result of a series of random events."
"The drumbeat of leaks of sensitive material related to General Flynn has been building since he was named to his position," said the official, who is a member of the White House's National Security Council. "Last night was not the result of a series of random events. The president has lost a valuable adviser and we need to make sure this sort of thing does not happen again."
Other sources expressed concern that public trust in the intelligence community would be eroded by the actions of employees with anti-Trump agendas.
"The larger issue that should trouble the American people is the far-reaching power of unknown, unelected apparatchiks in the Intelligence Community deciding for themselves both who serves in government and what is an acceptable policy they will allow the elected representatives of the people to pursue," said the national security adviser quoted above.
"Put aside the issue of Flynn himself; that nameless, faceless bureaucrats were able to take out a president's national security adviser based on a campaign of innuendo without evidence should worry every American," the source explained.
Eli Lake, a Bloomberg View columnist and veteran national security reporter well sourced in the White House, told the Free Beacon that Flynn earned a reputation in the Obama administration as one of its top detractors.
"Michael Flynn was one of the Obama administration's fiercest critics after he was forced out of the Defense Intelligence Agency," said Lake, who described "the political assassination of Michael Flynn" in his column published early Tuesday.
"[Flynn] was a withering critic of Obama's biggest foreign policy initiative, the Iran deal," Lake said. "He also publicly accused the administration of keeping classified documents found in the Osama bin Laden raid that showed Iran's close relationship with al Qaeda. He was a thorn in their side."
Lake noted in his column that he does not buy fully the White House's official spin on Flynn's resignation.
"For a White House that has such a casual and opportunistic relationship with the truth, it's strange that Flynn's ‘lie' to Pence would get him fired," Lake wrote. "It doesn't add up."
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer stated in his daily briefing that "the evolving and eroding level of trust as a result of this situation and a series of other questionable incidents is what led the president to ask General Flynn for his resignation."
A third source who serves as a congressional adviser and was involved in the 2015 fight over the Iran deal told the Free Beacon that the Obama administration feared that Flynn would expose the secret agreements with Iran.
"The Obama administration knew that Flynn was going to release the secret documents around the Iran deal, which would blow up their myth that it was a good deal that rolled back Iran," the source said. "So in December the Obama NSC started going to work with their favorite reporters, selectively leaking damaging and incomplete information about Flynn."
"After Trump was inaugurated some of those people stayed in and some began working from the outside, and they cooperated to keep undermining Trump," the source said, detailing a series of leaks from within the White House in the past weeks targeting Flynn. "Last night's resignation was their first major win, but unless the Trump people get serious about cleaning house, it won't be the last."
By Paul Sperry
February 11, 2017
Melania Trump, Donald Trump, Barack Obama and Michelle Obama stand on the steps of the Capitol. (Rob Carr/ Reuters)
When former President Barack Obama said he was “heartened” by anti-Trump protests, he was sending a message of approval to his troops. Troops? Yes, Obama has an army of agitators — numbering more than 30,000 — who will fight his Republican successor at every turn of his historic presidency. And Obama will command them from a bunker less than two miles from the White House.
In what’s shaping up to be a highly unusual post-presidency, Obama isn’t just staying behind in Washington. He’s working behind the scenes to set up what will effectively be a shadow government to not only protect his threatened legacy, but to sabotage the incoming administration and its popular “America First” agenda.
He’s doing it through a network of leftist nonprofits led by Organizing for Action. Normally you’d expect an organization set up to support a politician and his agenda to close up shop after that candidate leaves office, but not Obama’s OFA. Rather, it’s gearing up for battle, with a growing war chest and more than 250 offices across the country.
Since Donald Trump’s election, this little-known but well-funded protesting arm has beefed up staff and ramped up recruitment of young liberal activists, declaring on its website, “We’re not backing down.” Determined to salvage Obama’s legacy, it’s drawing battle lines on immigration, ObamaCare, race relations and climate change.
Obama is intimately involved in OFA operations and even tweets from the group’s account. In fact, he gave marching orders to OFA foot soldiers following Trump’s upset victory.
“It is fine for everybody to feel stressed, sad, discouraged,” he said in a conference call from the White House. “But get over it.” He demanded they “move forward to protect what we’ve accomplished.”
“Now is the time for some organizing,” he said. “So don’t mope.”
Far from sulking, OFA activists helped organize anti-Trump marches across US cities, some of which turned into riots. After Trump issued a temporary ban on immigration from seven terror-prone Muslim nations, the demonstrators jammed airports, chanting: “No ban, no wall, sanctuary for all!”
Run by old Obama aides and campaign workers, federal tax records show “nonpartisan” OFA marshals 32,525 volunteers nationwide. Registered as a 501(c)(4), it doesn’t have to disclose its donors, but they’ve been generous. OFA has raised more than $40 million in contributions and grants since evolving from Obama’s campaign organization Obama for America in 2013.
OFA, in IRS filings, says it trains young activists to develop “organizing skills.” Armed with Obama’s 2012 campaign database, OFA plans to get out the vote for Democratic candidates it’s grooming to win back Congress and erect a wall of resistance to Trump at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.
It will be aided in that effort by the Obama Foundation, run by Obama’s former political director, and the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, launched last month by Obama pal Eric Holder to end what he and Obama call GOP “gerrymandering” of congressional districts.
Obama will be overseeing it all from a shadow White House located within two miles of Trump. It features a mansion, which he’s fortifying with construction of a tall brick perimeter, and a nearby taxpayer-funded office with his own chief of staff and press secretary. Michelle Obama will also open an office there, along with the Obama Foundation.
Critical to the fight is rebuilding the ravaged Democratic Party. Obama hopes to install his former civil rights chief Tom Perez at the helm of the Democratic National Committee.
Perez is running for the vacant DNC chairmanship, vowing, “It’s time to organize and fight . . . We must stand up to protect President Obama’s accomplishments,” while also promising, “We’re going to build the strongest grassroots organizing force this country has ever seen.”
The 55-year-old Obama is not content to go quietly into the night like other ex-presidents.
“You’re going to see me early next year,” he told his OFA troops after the election, “and we’re going to be in a position where we can start cooking up all kinds of great stuff.”
Added the ex-president: “Point is, I’m still fired up and ready to go.”
Paul Sperry is the author of “The Great American Bank Robbery,” which details the link between race-based housing policies and the mortgage crisis.