Reading Patrick Poole's splashy coverage of the FBI's VIP treatment of Kifah Mustapha -- a known Hamas operative and unindicted co-conspirator in the landmark Holy Land Foundation terror financing trial -- will make your head spin with the dizzying question:
How could the same officials charged with securing the nation against the very terrorism Mustapha's activities supported (as laid out in court documents filed by federal investigators) have possibly invited him into the top-secret National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) and the FBI's training center at Quantico during a six-week "Citizen's Academy" hosted by the FBI as "outreach" to the Muslim community?
"The plugs had to be pulled on our (watch) system" just to get Mustapha in the NCTC door, Poole, writing online at Big Peace, quoted a Department of Homeland Security official as saying. After all, "the NCTC has Kifah Mustapha on the highest watch list we have."
Unbelievable. So who pulled those plugs? Wouldn't it be great to get a bunch of national security pooh-bahs into one room to try to find out?
It would be -- and so it was. This week, a passel of senior national security officials assembled for a Washington conference on domestic intelligence sponsored by the Bipartisan Policy Center. First up was James Clapper, director of National Intelligence. During question-and-answer session, I asked him about FBI "outreach" to Mustapha.
"I think the FBI will be here later," Clapper boldly punted (laughter in the room). Meanwhile, he continued, there is "great merit in outreach, to engage as much as possible with the Muslim community." Subtext: It's no big.
When later asked about the government policy of eliminating the terminology of Islamic jihad from intelligence analysis and collection, Clapper affirmed it to "acknowledge sensitivities" -- a process begun under George W. Bush and recently extended by Homeland Security adviser John Brennan. "There's plenty of terminology out there (to convey) the meaning and the message that we need to."
The director of national intelligence's meaning and message of choice: "homegrown violent extremism."
Between panels, I spoke to panelist Sean Joyce of the FBI. What did the FBI executive assistant director for national security think about the Mustapha incident?
"We don't comment on individuals," he told me.
OK. How about commenting on a blanket policy regarding FBI tours for unindicted co-conspirators and terrorist group operatives?
"Again, we don't comment on individuals."