Special counsel Robert Mueller’s career is rife with examples of prioritizing politically correct sensitivities over the unfiltered, and sometimes difficult, truth of the matter. And this issue came to the forefront at the beginning of President Obama’s second term in office, when Mueller decided to purge hundreds of counter-terrorism training materials that arguably rendered America less safe in the face of a growing domestic Islamic extremist problem.
While serving as FBI director, Mueller (the current head of the special counsel investigation of the 2016 election) presided over an effort to silence counter-terrorism experts from discussing the threat posed by radical Islamic ideologies. His decision to choose this approach could call into question his judgement while presiding over an incredibly politically toxic debate surrounding the 2016 election.
Instead of providing the tools his agents needed to fight the ideological war against the continuing rise of radical Islam in America, Mueller handicapped his agents because he seemingly prioritized making sure that nobody was offended over keeping America safe.
Radical groups exposed Mueller’s weakness as an opportunity to deliver a critical blow to the United States’ counterterrorism apparatus following a series of leaks sent to far-left journalist Spencer Ackerman, who claimed that the FBI was teaching about radical Islamic terrorism in an “anti-Islam” manner.
In his “exposé” for Wired magazine, Ackerman argued that counter-terror trainers were promoting “Islamophobia.” One of Ackerman’s key sources for his reporting was Mohamed Elibiary, an Obama administration political appointee who is “known for his almost daily advocacy for the Muslim Brotherhood,” according to the Clarion Project.
Following Ackerman’s report, a coalition of Islamist groups wrote a letter to then-Director Mueller, demanding that he purge training materials that they deemed offensive to Muslims.
“The undersigned civil and human rights groups write to express our deep concern regarding recently-publicized FBI training materials that manifest anti-Muslim bias and factual inaccuracies,” read the letter co-signed by some groups that are tied to the global Muslim Brotherhood.
But “no fewer than six known Muslim Brotherhood-associated organizations” leveraged the far-Left campaign to empower their position with Mueller, according to terrorism expert Stephen Coughlin’s “Catastrophic Failure: Blindfolding America in the Face of Jihad.”
At an October 2011 congressional hearing, Mueller appeared to push for a training regimen that would conform to politically correct norms.
Instead of defending his organization’s work, Mueller decided to meet privately with members of the radical groups that expressed offense. Some of these groups were identified as unindicted co-conspirators in the Holy Land Foundation trial, which was the biggest terror-financing case in American history.
Mueller attempted to keep the meeting secret, and details of his embrace of radical Islamic groups were only made possible after Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit for the records. In a sign of troubling times ahead, leaders of the fringe groups expressed gratitude to Director Mueller for taking their concerns seriously.
In one such statement, Nihad Awad, the Hamas-supporting director of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), thanked Mueller “for his pledge to perform a ‘top to bottom’ review of FBI counterterrorism training.”
The Mueller FBI released a statement on the matter in 2011, revealing that it was “conducting a comprehensive review of all training and reference materials that relate in any way to religion or culture.” Moreover, the FBI would “consult with outside experts on the development and use of training materials.”
Following the Mueller meeting with radical Islamic groups and the continuing pressure campaign from leftist groups like the ACLU, the “purge” began in February 2012. Then, the FBI decided to eliminate training materials according to four criteria: “factual errors”; “poor taste”; “stereotypes”; or anything that “lacked precision.”
The six-month review process eliminated almost 900 pages and 392 presentations of FBI training materials. In doing so, Mueller rendered his FBI helpless in properly training its agents about the threats posed by radical Islamic doctrines.
The FOIA lawsuit by Judicial Watch brought to light some information related to the purge of training materials.
The FBI said that one such article was purged because it “inaccurately argues that the Muslim Brotherhood is a terrorist organization.” Another document was scrubbed to “remove references to mosques specifically as a radicalization incubator.” A third piece of material was censored because the shielded “outside expert” took issue with the author grouping “Islamic militancy” with “terrorism.”
Dr. Sebastian Gorka, who recently served in the White House as a national security expert to President Trump, was at the time contracted to train FBI agents. As soon as the purge was implemented, Gorka recalls that the Department of Justice “created a body of anonymous reviewers,” whose identities remained unknown to this day.
“If this faceless body deemed anything to be anti-Islamic, xenophobic, or inflammatory, the individual instructor was told, ‘You must remove that material. You must remove that slide, or you will never be allowed to lecture,’” he said.
Gorka tells CR that his training materials only “quoted primary jihadi texts,” and that he offered to debate the contested items with the anonymous body tasked with censoring his work. However, Gorka says he was told that there was no right of repeal and that he wasn’t allowed to know who the anonymous reviewers were.
“Not even the FBI unit that hired me was allowed to know who these faceless individuals were,” Gorka said.
The Mueller FBI not only shielded the identities of these “outside experts,” it decided to classify the purged documents, making it extremely difficult even for prominent members of Congress to grasp what had happened.
At the time, former Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., was a member of the House Intelligence Committee. She was only able to view the classified documents in person and was not allowed to speak publicly about what she saw.
“This is truly censorship by our government, the government purging itself of documents,” Bachmann said after reviewing the files in June 2012. “We are not only seeing documents purged. We are seeing trainers purged and we are seeing the FBI library purged.”
Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, also reviewed the purged documents and said he was “shocked at the material that has been removed.” He chalked up the purge to “political correctness,” arguing that the PC mentality usurped the “interest of truth and properly educated justice officials.”
“We are blinding our law enforcement officers from the ability to see who the enemy actually is,” he added.
Mueller’s PC attitude and apparent blindness to the jihadi ideology showed not only in his purge of counter-terrorism materials, but also in the FBI’s law enforcement operations during his tenure as FBI director, which stretched from 2001 to 2013.
The Mueller FBI repeatedly ignored warnings about Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The deceased jihadi attended the Islamic Society of Boston, a known terrorist recruitment mosque.
Mueller said his agents had invested in “outreach” efforts there, but admitted he was entirely unaware that the mosque was started by a prominent terrorist financier. Mueller refused to allow his agents to receive an education on the possibility that radical mosques could serve as incubators to terrorism, something that Arab-Muslim allies such as the UAE, Jordan, Bahrain, and other countries regularly discuss in deterring extremism.
Kyle Shideler is the director of the Threat Information Office at the Center for Security Policy. For years, he has researched the influence of fringe domestic Islamist groups. Shideler tells CR that the Mueller FBI “expressed a willingness to include Islamist groups – even those under active U.S. investigation – in discussions about how best to deal with Islamic terrorism.”
“This resulted in these groups having what amounted to an unacceptable veto over what could or could not be said by law enforcement, and what could or could not be trained,” he said. “The negative impact this has had on our homeland security, measured in both taxpayer dollars as well as American lives, has been almost incalculable.”
Instead of maximizing the FBI’s efficiency as the nation’s premier domestic law enforcement agency, time and time again, Mueller preferred to take the sensitive, inoffensive route in order to gain acceptance inside the mainstream media and Obama administration.
Given his botched tenure at the FBI, it seems only fair to speculate what political forces will impact Robert Mueller’s decisions this time around in his current duties to investigate the 2016 election.