A spokeswoman for Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper has clarified his comments Thursday that the Muslim Brotherhood is "a very heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence."
"In Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood makes efforts to work through a political system that has been, under Mubarak's rule, one that is largely secular in its orientation," said spokeswoman Jamie Smith. Clapper "is well aware that the Muslim Brotherhood is not a secular organization."
Be it ignorance of a key player in an evolving foreign policy crisis or a poor choice of words, Clapper's clarification isn't quieting his critics. Among Friday's headlines are "Kirk to Clapper on Muslim Brotherhood: WTF?" from Foreign Policy's website and "Clapper's crass Bro'hood bungle" in the New York Post.
Even with the clarification, "the damage has been done," the Heritage Foundation's Peter Brookes writes in the Post. "The DNI's testimony makes it appear that the US government either doesn't know the facts on the ground in Egypt or has mistakenly concluded that we shouldn't be concerned about the Brotherhood being large and in charge of that strategic Mideastern country. Either case is troubling."
Foreign Policy's article focuses on the response from Illinois Republican Sen. Mark Kirk, who issued a statement noting the assessment doesn't even match the Brotherhood's own recent statements. "As the world watches these historic events unfolding in Egypt, the United States should support an orderly transition to democracy that prevents the radical Muslim Brotherhood from grabbing power," Kirk writes.
A leading Muslim foe of groups like the Brotherhood said Clapper's assessment "presents a significant concern that our primary Intelligence officer has a complete lack of understanding of an organization that presents the greatest threat to the security of the United States."
M. Zuhdi Jasser, founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, said Clapper "is either grossly naïve or covering up for an ideology that is in an ideological war with the United States and western society."