This week, a three-day conference hosted by the CIA on "homegrown radicalization" was supposed to have taken place at CIA headquarters. It did not. The conference was abruptly canceled -- or, softening the blow, "postponed." Question: Did pressure from what we might (and should) call a certain "homegrown radical" group -- the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) -- make this happen?
Here is what we know.
On Monday, July 18, CAIR issued a press release headlined: "CAIR Asks CIA to Drop Islamophobic Trainer." It revealed that CAIR national executive director Nihad Awad wrote a letter to now-former CIA director Leon Panetta to that effect. The rest of the release is more opaque. In referencing an NPR report that slammed one counterterrorism trainer by name, former FBI agent John Guandolo, for "allegedly smearing" an "Ohio Muslim" in a presentation, CAIR noted that an entirely different trainer, unnamed, was "scheduled to hold a similar session in August for the CIA." (Full disclosure: Guandolo and I are among 19 co-authors of "Shariah: the Threat to America.") The August CIA "session" appears to be the driver of both the CAIR release and letter asking the CIA, as the headline put it, to "Drop Islamophobic Trainer."
On Friday, July 22, an email from the CIA informed hundreds of confirmed attendees that the whole August "radicalization" conference was off (much to the consternation of those who had already purchased non-refundable airline tickets). "The sponsors -- in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security -- have decided to delay the conference so it can include insights from, among other sources, the new National Strategy for Counterterrorism, in an updated agenda," the email said. The goal "is to ensure that conference participants receive material that is as current and comprehensive as possible."
Pretty lame, even for the CIA. But there is more to groan about. "Updated agenda" is Washington-speak for gutted agenda. With the new White House counterterrorism strategy as a source of insights du jour, the holes in the original conference lineup will be filled to the brim with the see-no-jihad mush that the strategy dishes up.
It gets worse. I am hearing from multiple sources that pressure brought by CAIR, as publicly announced by CAIR, played a crucial role in the CIA decision to pull the plug on its conference. This means, to repeat, that a "homegrown radical" group appears to be influencing what is known in the strategy world as the "information battle space" at the CIA.