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Inside the Ring: Military hit for correctness

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The U.S. military is guilty of political correctness toward domestic Islamic terror, according to a congressional report made public Wednesday that concludes al Qaeda is using U.S.-based Muslim radicals to plan mass casualty attacks.

"Homegrown radicalization is now the vanguard of al Qaeda's strategy to continue attacking the United States and its allies," said the report on domestic extremism by the House Homeland Security Committee. The report was based on several hearings held by Committee Chairman Rep. Peter T. King, New York Republican.

The report said evidence of the threat comes from recordings made public in Pakistan by the core al Qaeda terrorist group, as well from an English-language magazine produced in Yemen by two American jihadists. Additional evidence came from an American suicide bomber in Somalia who urged Muslims to wage "jihad in America."

The report said Islamist extremism is "the No. 1 terrorist threat to this nation."

Of particular concern, according to the report, is the threat posed by radical Muslims to U.S. military communities. The terror threat to military communities is "severe" and growing. It includes the use of "insiders," such as Maj. Nidal Hasan, the man accused of carrying out the 2009 Fort Hood shooting that killed 13 people and wounded 29 others.

The report faulted the U.S. military for "political correctness" toward Islam, which the report called a "potentially devastating development" for the security of troops and their families.

The Obama administration "chose political correctness over accurately labeling and identifying certain terrorist attacks appropriately, thereby denying Purple Heart medals to killed and wounded troops in domestic terror attacks," the report said.

The report stated that the June 2009 shooting attack by a U.S. Muslim convert, Carlos Bledsoe, on a U.S. Army recruiting office in Arkansas highlighted homegrown terrorists' targeting of military facilities.

"Bledsoe specifically targeted the U.S. military to avenge what he believed was its mistreatment of Muslims," the report said. "He also had traveled to Yemen and was radicalized to al Qaeda's violent Islamist extremist ideology."

Despite the evidence of terrorist ties, Bledsoe was tried in a civilian state court rather than under federal terrorism charges.

"In another glaring instance of al Qaeda-inspired homegrown terrorism, the government also neglected to indict Maj. Nidal Hasan on any terrorism-related charges, considering the case to be an example of 'workplace violence' despite his reported email communications with the operational leader [of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula], the since-slain American terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki," the report said.

Based on the hearings on the domestic Islamist terror threat, the committee concluded that radicalization of American Muslims remains "a real and serious homeland security threat." The report also found that Muslims in the United States are not cooperating enough with law enforcement in countering the threat.

Significantly, the report stated that the U.S. government needs to "confront the Islamist ideology driving radicalization."

The report also warned that Islamist terrorists are being created in U.S. prisons as the result of a policy of permitting radical Muslim clerics to lecture in prisons or to distribute jihadist materials.

The report also said that in Somalia, more than 40 American Muslims were radicalized and recruited by the Al-Shabaab group, an al Qaeda affiliate, and may pose a direct threat to U.S. national security.

The report concluded with a warning that the U.S. government "cannot continue to simply ignore or deflect" the threat posed by radical American Muslims."

"Unfortunately, it appears that within the United States, political correctness has prevented many from sufficiently acknowledging and tackling this dangerous problem," the report says.

"We continue to face an unwavering threat, and must be fully aware that homegrown radicalization is part of Al Qaeda's strategy to continue attacking the United States."

Meanwhile, the same day the report was released, the Pentagon announced it had completed a review of the Joint Forces Staff College (JFSC) course, "Perspectives on Islam and Islamic Radicalism," and other course content to determine whether the material was offensive to Muslims.

"The inquiry into the JFSC elective course ... concluded there were institutional failures in oversight and judgment, which allowed the JFSC course to be modified over time in a manner that ceased to include instruction on U.S. [countering violent extremism] policy or counter-terrorism strategy and to adopt a teaching methodology that portrayed Islam almost entirely in a negative way," said Col. Dave Lapan, spokesman for Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"The inquiry recommends the course be redesigned to include aspects of U.S. policy and reduce its reliance on external instruction," Col. Lapan said.

The review was called after Muslim advocacy groups complained that one of the course lecturers was former Joint Staff terror analyst Stephen Coughlin, a specialist on Islamic law who has been a target of Muslim groups for his hard-line but accurate views of Islamic law and its use by Muslims in conducting terrorist attacks.

Asked if political correctness was limiting the ability to the military to properly identify enemies in the war on terrorism, Col. Lapan told Inside the Ring:

"The U.S. military shouldn't be offending Muslims. We work closely with them, and people of all faiths, in many countries around the world. The military is very clear on the enemy, and the threat they pose to the U.S. We seek to dismantle and defeat al Qaeda and associated forces and counter violent extremism."

ROMNEY CABINET EYED

With polls showing a narrowing gap between President Obama and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, Republican insiders are discussing likely people for top Cabinet posts in a Romney administration.

Former Reagan administration Navy Secretary John Lehman, a current Romney adviser, is said to be a favorite for defense secretary. Also being mentioned for the top Pentagon post is former Sen. Jim Talent, Missouri Republican and also a current Romney adviser. Mr. Talent headed a blue-ribbon commission on preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

John R. Bolton, the U.N. ambassador during the George W. Bush administration and specialist on arms control and security issues, is said to be a leading candidate for secretary of state.

Paula Dobriansky, another former Reagan administration official, is said to be eyed for a senior State Department post as well.

Speculation for deputy defense secretary is focused on two Romney advisers: Dov Zakheim, a former Reagan defense official, and Eric Edelman, undersecretary of defense for policy during the George W. Bush administration.

Political watchers in Washington say one weak spot for the Romney team is China. A key China adviser to the governor is Evan Feigenbaum, a former State Department East Asian policymaker during the last Bush administration who helped formulate the failed "responsible stakeholder" approach to China that sought to convince Beijing it should play a more responsible international role.

On the plus side of the Romney China team is Princeton professor Aaron Friedberg, who was an aide to then-Vice President Dick Cheney. Mr. Friedburg, author of the recent book, "A Contest for Supremacy," has said the U.S. government has failed to deal adequately with China's military buildup.

COUNTERSPIES TARGET LEAKS

Once limited mainly to tracking and stopping foreign spies, U.S. counterintelligence agents this month were tasked with an additional mission: stop leaks of information, a staple of the Washington scene for decades.

Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper on June 7 issued Intelligence Community Directive 700 on the protection of national intelligence. It gives new authority to counterspies to go after "insiders" who disclose intelligence information.

The order calls for greater integration of security and counterintelligence in battling "foreign intelligence activities, including espionage, sabotage and assassinations."

It adds to the mission the deterrence, detection and mitigation of "insider threats" that are defined as those who use "authorized access to do harm to the security of the U.S. through espionage, terrorism, unauthorized disclosure of information."

The additional task of stopping leaks is new and reflects the post-WikiLeaks environment following the loss of some 250,000 classified documents that ended up on the anti-secrecy website.

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About the Author
Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon (www.freebeacon.com). He has been with The Times since 1985.

He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.

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