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Patrick Poole, a counterterrorism consultant to government and law enforcement agencies, said the documents reveal a “culture of willful blindness that continues to grow” within senior levels of government.

“For our military, intelligence, and homeland security agencies to continue to ignore the short- and long-term strategic threat from jihadist groups, and the radical Islamic ideology that fuels them, is nothing less than a dereliction of duty,” Mr. Poole said.

“The current administration seems hellbent on doubling down on the previous administration’s failure to comprehend this threat, and there are American citizens and armed service members [who] are going to die as a result.”

The Heritage Foundation’s James Carafano poured scorn on the idea that the omission was not deliberate, pointing out that the quadrennial reviews were subjected to a comprehensive interagency editing and approval process. “It’s not like this is an oversight. … No one is slapping their forehead going, ‘Oh, yeah, we forgot to use the word.’”

Mr. Carafano said he sympathized with the desire “to separate the act of terror from the religion” of Islam, but he said there was a straightforward solution: The word Islamicist or Islamist - as used by Ms. Collins. Webster’s dictionary defines Islamist or Islamicist as “an advocate or supporter of Islamic, especially orthodox Islamic, political rule.”

Mr. Carafano called this “terminology that’s well understood in both the East and the West … [as] an extremist grouping with a political agenda, not a religious one.”

A 2008 paper produced by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties suggested that the distinction between Islam and Islamism might not be well understood.

“The experts we consulted did not criticize this usage based on accuracy,” according to the paper, “Terminology to Define the Terrorists: Recommendations From American Muslims.”

“Nevertheless, they caution that it may not be strategic for [U.S. government officials] to use the term because the general public, including overseas audiences, may not appreciate the academic distinction between Islamism and Islam.”

A U.S. military report produced in 2008 by a special unit of the U.S. Central Command criticized the federal government for not properly identifying the nature of the Islamist terrorist threat.

“We must reject the notion that Islam and Arabic stand apart as bodies of knowledge that cannot be critiqued or discussed as elements of understanding our enemies in this conflict,” said the internal report by the Centcom “Red Team,” a unit that provides contrarian views for the combatant commander.

“The fact is our enemies cite the source of Islam as the foundation for their global jihad,” the report said. “We are left with the responsibility of portraying our enemies in an honest and accurate fashion.”

Other Obama administration officials, including, most strikingly, the top U.S. diplomat, appear less timid than their defense and homeland security colleagues in using terms such as “Islamic” to describe the nation’s terrorist enemies. Speaking over the weekend of the various threats to U.S. security, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton described al Qaeda and its allies as “extremists … fundamentalist Islamic extremists.”

A homeland security official authorized to speak on background said the quadrennial review was not designed to provide a definition of the enemy; instead, it “focuses on what the key goals and objectives should be to prevent terrorism. … Preventing and deterring terrorism - in any form - is the primary mission, which is very clearly spelled out.”

Bill Gertz contributed to this report.