Islamic 'Pipeline to Extremism' Turns Out to Be Mostly FBI Set-Ups
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According to Liepman, “Among Somali-Americans, the refugee experience of fleeing a war-torn country, combined with perceived discrimination, marginalization, and frustrated expectations, as well as local criminal, familial, and clan dynamics may heighten the susceptibility of some members of these communities to criminal or extremist influences.”
At this same congressional hearing, Philip Mudd, the FBI associate executive assistant director of the National Security Branch, said that the FBI believed there were deliberate efforts to recruit young people to fight for al-Shabaab. He stated the youths seemed to be motivated by nationalism, with the desire to defend their country from an Ethiopian invasion, rather than Islamist ideology, although the appeal was based on shared Islamic identity. Mudd also indicated that socio-economic conditions such as “violent youth crime and gang subcultures, and tensions over cultural integration may have played some role in the recruitment process.”
Do these activities indicate a growing alienation and anger among the 1.5 and second generation of Somali youth growing up in the United States? The vague accusations threaten to indict thousands of otherwise law-abiding Somalis who were outraged by the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia in 2006. The majority of parents and community leaders consider the United States a place of refuge from the chaos and violence that led to their flight from Somalia. They were as surprised and dismayed as other Americans when they learned that their children had joined the jihadist movement in Somalia.
Providing “material support or resources” -- such as money, goods, personnel, and advice that can be used in terrorist activity -- to a group designated as a “foreign terrorist organization” is illegal and carries a 15-year sentence. Congress first criminalized material support in 1996 in order to deny terrorist groups with humanitarian offshoots the ability to raise funds in the United States. After 9/11, the 2001 Patriot Act broadened it to criminalize “expert advice or assistance.” In June 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the “material support” provision to include money and materials as well as “training” and “advice” -- even if for humanitarian purposes.
In August 2010, the Justice Department indicted 14 Somali-Americans on charges of providing “material support” to al-Shabaab and allegedly recruiting youth to join the militia. Twelve of the suspects from California, Minnesota, and Alabama were indicted for leaving the United States to join al-Shabaab. Six of the suspects are U.S. citizens. Attorney General Eric Holder stated that these indictments indicate the existence of a “deadly pipeline that has routed funding and fighters from cities across the United States.”
Three months later, prosecutors in San Diego charged five Somali-Americans with providing “material support” to a foreign terrorist organization. The group allegedly sent about $9,000 to al-Shabaab between 2007 and 2008, with some of the funds possibly transferred after the United States added al-Shabaab to its terrorist list in 2008. But in 2008, al-Shabaab was an insignificant threat to the international community, having emerged to resist an Ethiopian invasion supported by the Bush administration. The defendants included such community leaders as Mohamed Mohamed Mahmood, who has served as the imam of a Somali mosque for over a decade. Some of the defendants claimed that they were collecting funds for humanitarian projects in Somalia.
Also in November, prosecutors indicted a San Diego woman for allegedly sending $800 to two former Minnesota residents fighting in Somalia. The amounts sent by the defendants are minimal considering that al-Shabaab has other more lucrative funding sources including piracy in the Gulf of Aden and supporters across the oil-rich Arabian peninsula.
The “material support:” provision of the Patriot Act is already very controversial among human rights activist interested in Latin America and Asia where it has been used to deny refugee status to individuals forced to cooperate with rebel groups. This provision of law was also used to justify a recent raid on the homes of 14 peace activists (non-Somalis) who oppose U.S. foreign policy in Latin America and Israel/Palestine. The railroading of suspects into the justice system is reminiscent of tactics used by the FBI and prosecutors during the era of McCarthyism and COINTELPRO, both of which persecuted perceived “radicals” such as Paul Robeson, W.E.B. DuBois, and Martin Luther King, Jr.