A report released by the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), titled "Data on Post-9/11 Terrorism in the United States," concludes that the existence of non-Muslim domestic terrorists demands a reevaluation of U.S. counter-terrorism efforts. Unsurprisingly, the report is light on facts, heavy on rhetoric, and ambivalent about the irony of MPAC's call for greater cooperation between the American Muslim community and U.S. law enforcement.
Among the report's conclusions:
- There were 51 total plots by domestic non-Muslim perpetrators against the United States, and 29 total plots by domestic and international Muslim perpetrators since 9/11.
- Since President Obama's election on November 4, 2008 there have been 25 terror plots by non-Muslim domestic extremists and 9 plots by Muslim domestic and international extremists.
Although we give MPAC the benefit of the doubt that its statistics are accurate, it is impossible to judge the underlying methodology used to categorize attacks without reference to the specific cases. MPAC's online report referred to an appendix containing citations, but it appears that appendix has not been posted so for now we simply take their word for it. Despite the absence of MPAC's "Post 9/11 Database," the report itself provides some disturbing insight into how cases were categorized.
Citing an editorial by Karen Greenberg and Francsca Laguardia, MPAC identifies what it apparently agrees are the three "indicators of serious danger:
- Training in a terrorist camp
- Association with al Qaida
- Intent and ability to use a weapon of mass destruction
While these are indeed serious indicators that danger is afoot, they are merely demonstrative rather than exhaustive. To suggest anything less, as MPAC does, is not only intellectually dishonest, but dangerous. Consider the following.
The MPAC report focuses too much on the "bomb thrower"—the militant with an "intent and ability to use a weapon of mass destruction" who is actually ready and willing to die for their Islamist ideology. However, if the Department of Justice can prevent these militants from getting their hands on money, weapons, communication equipment, etc., they can effectively cripple terrorist organizations. That is why it is so important to strike at the domestic and international support structure of terrorist groups. Despite the importance of these "material support" prosecutions, MPAC has consistently advocated on behalf of those who provide financial assistance to terrorist groups.
Similarly, MPAC apparently believes that the United States should only be concerned with Islamic terrorism connected to al Qaida. While the law enforcement focus may appear to be al Qaida-centric since the attacks of September 11, there are currently 45 organizations designated by the State Department as Foreign Terrorist Organizations. Among the ranks of these international villains are groups such as Hamas and Hizballah, two groups which MPAC has repeatedly defended as "resistance movements."
Perhaps most disconcerting however, is MPAC's reliance on "attendance at a training camp" as an indicator of the severity of a potential threat. This demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of the evolving nature of terrorism. Those wishing to engage in terrorism in the United States no longer need to attend terrorist training camps abroad. Now, with the use of developing technologies, terrorists can engage in virtual-based learning from everything to handling weapons to bomb making.
Setting aside that MPAC's description of the threat hints at faulty categorization of terrorist incidents, the conclusions and policy suggestions reveal at least a hint of doublespeak. Take for example MPAC's call for expanded community policing initiatives. Citing the Department of Justice, MPAC explains:
"collaborative partnerships between the law enforcement agency and the individuals and organizations they serve to develop solutions to problems and increase trust in police."
While community policing is an important tool in the battle against domestic and foreign terrorism, effective implementation of these programs has been undercut by the actions of groups like MPAC. On the one hand, MPAC recognizes that:
"one of the benefits of trusting partnerships is community members feeling comfortable enough to step forward and provide critical information to prevent a crime, including terrorism."
However, MPAC has some serious explaining to do regarding its role in establishing these necessary "trusting partnerships." The organization has repeatedly sought to portray all U.S. counter-terrorism efforts as part of a broader "War on Islam."
As an organization that demands law enforcement reliance on community sympathy and cooperation, MPAC contradicts itself with its creative definition of terrorism and attempts to sow distrust with law enforcement agencies.