War of ideas
James K. Glassman, the new undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, has launched a more aggressive program to counter Islamist extremism through a war of ideas.
“The war of ideas is a very important aspect of the non-kinetic part of the war on terror,” Mr. Glassman said in an interview this week. “In fact, it may be the most important aspect of the war on terror.”
Mr. Glassman’s office is the lead federal agency in organizing both policy and programs designed to “push back against violent extremist ideology.” Most of the focus is on al Qaeda and other radical Islamist groups.
The war of ideas is supposed to be one of three equal components of the U.S.-led war on terrorism, after military operations and law enforcement and intelligence counterterrorism.
However, it is by far the least developed aspect, according to U.S. officials.
Mr. Glassman said the specific mission of the new programs is to “create an environment that is hostile to violent extremism.”
One key aspect of the new campaign is to encourage credible voices from the Muslim world to speak out against extremism. One such voice is that of Sayyed Imam al-Sharif. The former al Qaeda theorist, also known as Dr. Fadl, has recanted his earlier views and now states that Islam does not allow Muslims to kill civilians under the pretext of jihad.
A second U.S. government effort involves what Mr. Glassman calls educational and other programs to “divert” Muslims, especially young people, away from extremism.
Mr. Glassman said he was reluctant to provide details of these efforts because it could cause problems for host governments. However, one program initiated this month with U.S. backing - Young Tribal Voices - involves the production of Pashtun radio dramas by students in the tribal areas of Pakistan. The broadcasts include anti-extremist themes and are beamed into the tribal regions, currently major al Qaeda and Taliban redoubts.
Another U.S.-backed program is a Farsi-language social-networking site called Parsloop.com in which Farsi speakers in Iran and outside the country can discuss issues of importance to Iranians. A second “dot-gov” Farsi site directly promotes American messages and ideas.
“The model that we’re using is trying to bring not just Muslim voices, but mainstream voices in general together,” Mr. Glassman said. “What we try to do is convene, facilitate and amplify mainstream voices.”
Among those involved in the programs are businesspeople, women’s groups and activists representing victims of terrorism, similar to the domestic group Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
Within government, Mr. Glassman set up a new interagency system that is more strongly supported by officials from the Pentagon, the intelligence agencies and the Treasury Department. “Now we are beginning to put the programs in place,” he said.
A July 28 analysis sent out by an intelligence unit of the Multinational Division Center near Baghdad states that the past year produced significant progress toward a “safer Iraq.”
According to the report, Iraqi and U.S. forces in June uncovered 244 caches with more than 55,000 pounds of explosives and other munitions, including mortars, artillery rounds, rocket-propelled grenades, RPG launchers, explosively formed projectiles, roadside bombs, mines, missiles, rockets and C-4 explosive.
A major factor has been increased support from local Iraqis cooperating against Shi’ite extremists. A year ago, such weapons cache discoveries were rare.
“Everything is an improvement from a year ago. Attacks are down, and the people are turning in more caches,” said Staff Sgt. Kevin Bennett of Connersville, Ind., an intelligence analyst with the Analyst Control Element for MND-C.
In June 2007, 321 improvised-explosive-device attacks were carried out and another 194 IEDs were found along the roads. Last month, there were 33 IED blasts, and 50 were thwarted.
After releasing the report, the division’s headquarters sent out an e-mail notice recalling it, suggesting that perhaps the progress report was overstated. However, the report’s author, Staff Sgt. Michel Sauret, said the recall was caused by a typographical error and had nothing to do with the substance.
A congressional report made public July 25 reveals continuing problems with the Energy Department’s counterintelligence program designed to protect sensitive nuclear weapons secrets from foreign spies.
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) report on the department’s counterspy problems revealed budget cuts that degraded counterintelligence analysis; a breakdown in communications between counterspy field offices and department headquarters, and a failure to reach strategic counterintelligence goals.
“This CRS study raises some troubling questions about the state of DOE´s counterintelligence program and the need for Congress to look more closely at how it is functioning,” said Rep. John D. Dingell, Michigan Democrat and chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which released the report.
The report comes a decade after disclosures by the CIA that China obtained thorough espionage secrets on every nuclear weapon deployed in the U.S. arsenal.
The FBI has said it is continuing to investigate the loss of nuclear weapons secrets but has not caught the spies.
Los Alamos National Laboratory nuclear weapons designer Wen Ho Lee was charged initially in 1999 with giving nuclear secrets to China but pleaded guilty in 2000 to lesser charges of mishandling classified information for removing tapes containing highly classified nuclear test data.
The Energy Department’s Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence said in an e-mail in response to the CRS report that it “takes very seriously” its mission to protect the nation’s most sensitive national security secrets.
“DOE maintains that our growing investments in counterintelligence over the past three years have resulted in substantial counterintelligence gains, including greater resources for analysis, investigations, the cyber threat, and other counterintelligence programs.”
Chinese influence questioned
Kenneth Lieberthal, a former Clinton White House National Security Council staff member, came under some sharp questioning recently before Congress about his business ties to China.
During a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on China and the Olympics, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican, pressed Mr. Lieberthal, who testified as a University of Michigan professor, about his connection to Stonebridge International, a Washington consulting firm that works with businesses in China.
Mr. Rohrabacher noted that China is buying influence in the United States through “people who are making billions of dollars allying themselves and doing the bidding of a dictatorship that fundamentally hates everything this country’s all about.”
Asked if his company represents the Chinese, Mr. Lieberthal said, “I’m not with a company. I’m at the University of Michigan.”
Mr. Rohrabacher had asked if Mr. Lieberthal had sought to press Chinese officials to release imprisoned Chinese dissidents.
Mr. Lieberthal said he had done so when he worked in government, but apparently not recently or as part of his role as a Stonebridge board member.
“I think corporations try to stay out of political issues as much as they can, but I think on balance the opening of the Chinese economy to Western corporate participation has been a positive for [the] standard of living in China and, let me say also, for the quality of life in China,” he said.
Mr. Rohrabacher returned to questioning Mr. Lieberthal later in the hearing, stating that “corporate America seems to have what I consider to be an unholy relationship with that clique that runs China with an iron fist.” He then asked Mr. Lieberthal about his relationship with Stonebridge and whether it was a corporation doing business in China.
“Let me clarify, sir. What I was reacting to was you said ‘your company….,’” Mr. Lieberthal said.
Mr. Rohrabacher: “So you’re not associated with Stonebridge?”
Mr. Lieberthal: “No. I am a senior director at Stonebridge. I’m not…”
Mr. Rohrabacher: “Is that a corporation?”
“Yes. I’m not an employee,” Mr. Lieberthal said.
“So your company, you are on the board of directors. Are you paid by Stonebridge?”
“Yes, I am.”
“All right. So I wasn’t incorrect in saying ‘your company.’ You’re paid by a corporation. And does it have a major economic interaction with China?”
“Stonebridge is a consulting company, and some of the consulting it does is on, you know, advising on operations in China,” Mr. Lieberthal said.
Mr. Rohrabacher then announced to the committee that Mr. Lieberthal’s business ties to China should be considered as the committee listened to his opinion.
“What we’re seeing here is a perfect example of where we have corporate interest … making billions of dollars, who actually have an influence on public opinion here and governmental opinion here in the nation’s capital of the United States of America,” Mr. Rohrabacher said. “That doesn’t mean your opinions are wrong, just - we need to know about that.”
Mr. Rohrabacher stated that there needs to be a clear distinction between “the people of China” and “a dictatorship… a small group of people who repress them.”
Mr. Lieberthal did not return phone calls seeking comment on the exchange.
Bill Gertz covers national security affairs. He can be reached at 202/636-3274 or at InsidetheRing@washingtontimes.com.