Congress Fiddles While the World Burns
February 23, 2015
The Obama administration may be on the same side as the Muslim Brotherhood, but at least we know where they stand. Congress, by contrast, sounds tough and does nothing.
Consider the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), who has issued a “seven-point plan” to defeat Islamist terrorism that includes countering Islamist ideology. He gave a speech at the American Enterprise Institute called, “An American Strategy for Victory in the War Against Islamist Terror.” Unfortunately, he had the opportunity to go on the offensive more than two years ago when he rebuffed requests to hold hearings into Al Jazeera’s expansion into the United States.
Once known as the mouthpiece for al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, Al Jazeera has earned the label “Jihad TV.”
There used to be a time when the U.S. was on-guard against foreign influence and propaganda. During World War II, we had a congressional panel known as the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC), which exposed the Communists, the Nazis and their agents operating on American soil. A particular focus of HUAC was foreign propaganda activities.
Just two years ago, when the Chinese bought AMC movie theaters, they went for approval to a federal panel known as CFIUS, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. The Chinese Dalian Wanda Group Co., known as Wanda, announced after the review that it had received all necessary regulatory approvals in the U.S. and China for the planned acquisition of AMC.
Wanda is described as China's largest investor in cultural and entertainment activities. AMC operated 346 theaters with 5,034 screens, primarily in the United States and Canada.
One can argue that AMC should have been barred from such a purchase. The legitimate fear is that China is using its entertainment operations in the U.S. to propagandize the American people. Selwyn Duke, in an article on China’s increasing power and influence in Hollywood, has a list of films in which characters or plot lines have been changed to accommodate the Chinese regime and its censors.
By contrast, Al Jazeera completely bypassed the CFIUS process. McCaul’s committee should have held hearings into evidence that Al Jazeera is not a legitimate news operation but rather a conduit for propaganda from terrorist groups. McCaul had received a letter—signed by media critics, journalists, academics, and national security and Middle East experts—requesting hearings on Al Jazeera’s purchase of Al Gore’s Current TV. In a display of arrogance, he didn’t even bother to respond.
The issue is not Al Jazeera’s small audience. It’s the nature of that audience and the ability of the channel to reach terrorist-minded Muslims with anti-American messages.
Foreign channels do not have the right to provoke terrorism on American soil. If they are legitimate news operations, they may have the right to broadcast in the U.S. But they are also required under the law to register as foreign agents and label their broadcasts as foreign propaganda. Al Jazeera has not been forced to comply with the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). The law was originally passed to counter Nazi propaganda activities, but applies to all foreign entities that attempt to manipulate an American audience.
Now that awareness is growing about how terrorists are being inspired and recruited, McCaul is sounding concerned. He should be. He was AWOL in 2012 when Al Jazeera was dramatically expanding its operations in the U.S.
There are two dangers with Al Jazeera. One is the transmission of pro-terrorist propaganda. The other is that the channel could be serving as cover for agents of foreign terrorist groups to operate as “news” personnel while gathering intelligence and recruiting agents.
In his remarks explaining his new strategy, McCaul noted the case of “a would-be attacker who wanted to target the U.S. Capitol here in Washington D.C.” He added, “The barbarians, I believe, are at the gate…and it is time for this nation to confront them.”
We don’t know if the ISIS sympathizer, Christopher Cornell, was a fan of Al Jazeera. That’s something which should be examined. But it is interesting to look at Al Jazeera’s coverage of this case. The channel ran an “analysis” piece by Ehab Zahriyeh suggesting that the culprit wasn’t a jihadist, but instead had “social and emotional issues” and was a victim of entrapment by the FBI. By contrast, in the North Carolina case, where a truly deranged individual killed three Muslims over a parking space, Zahriyeh reported that the attack was evidence of “Islamophobia.”
Al Jazeera’s Zahriyeh had also reported that Houston’s Quba Islamic Institute “was set ablaze,” in another apparent “Islamophobic” act. It turned out the culprit was a homeless person with an extensive criminal history for charges like drug possession and prostitution. It appears that he started the fire to stay warm and it got out of control. Zahriyeh featured the comments of Ibrahim Hooper, communications director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim Brotherhood front. CAIR can always be counted on to find evidence of “Islamophobia,” even when none exists.
So this is how Al Jazeera “reports” the news. It is designed to inflame, provoke and mislead.
It turns out that Zahriyeh worked previously at Press TV, an English-language Iranian government propaganda channel. He was at Columbia University in New York City to cover the opening of the Center for Palestine Studies, an outfit characterized by “hostility toward Israel.”
McCaul had a chance to investigate Al Jazeera more than two years ago and he balked. As we documented at the time, Al Jazeera and its sponsor, the government of Qatar, hired several lobbying firms to stop any probe of Al Gore’s deal with the Muslim Brotherhood channel.
Hence, McCaul’s new proposal to take the fight to the enemy by countering “domestic radicalization” and undermining “the insidious ideology at the core of Islamist terrorism” has to be taken with a grain of salt. No plans have been announced to probe Al Jazeera.
We have consistently argued that allowing Al Jazeera to operate in the United States, during a global war against Islamic terrorism, is akin to fighting the Nazis while allowing their spokesperson, Axis Sally, to run a broadcasting operation in the U.S. In this war, by contrast, McCaul and others treat Al Jazeera as a legitimate news organization deserving of First Amendment protections. They refuse to investigate its links to the Muslim Brotherhood and various terrorist groups.
Yet McCaul wants people to think he’s going to get the bottom of the global jihad problem. In his headline-grabbing speech, McCaul said, “Overseas terrorist groups aren’t yesterday’s extremists, moving messages between couriers and caves. They are tailoring their hateful ideology toward Western audiences on social media, recruiting homegrown fanatics, and fueling a ‘jihadi cool’ subculture. Already, their propaganda is leading to an uptick in homegrown terrorism. For example, there have been more than 90 homegrown terror plots or attacks in the United States since 9/11—and nearly three-fourths of them have taken place in the past five years. Many of the suspects were radicalized at least in part by online Islamist propaganda, including the Boston Marathon bombers.”
McCaul doesn’t mention Al Jazeera. Yet, the channel is available on DIRECTV, Comcast / XFINITY, Time Warner Cable, DISH, AT&T U-Verse, Verizon FiOS, and Bright House Networks.
McCaul declares that “…we must defend the Homeland against domestic radicalization,” adding, “We are entering an era of ‘do-it-yourself’ jihad, and terrorists are finding it easier to encourage individual attacks rather than sneak operatives into our country. But we are alarmingly unprepared to address the threat of homegrown terrorism.”
On the latter point, he’s correct. But he’s been part of the problem. He’s talking about himself and his committee.