Once a respectable Washington insider, Frank Gaffney Jr. is now one of America’s most notorious Islamophobes. Gripped by paranoid fantasies about Muslims destroying the West from within, Gaffney believes that “creeping Shariah,” or Islamic religious law, is a dire threat to American democracy. He favors congressional hearings to unmask subversive Muslim conspiracies, and was even banned from far-right Conservative Political Action Conference events after accusing two of its organizers of being agents of the Muslim Brotherhood.
In His Own Words:
“We’re witnessing not just the violent kind of jihad that these Islamists believe God compels them to engage in, but also, where they must for tactical reasons, a more stealthy kind, or civilizational jihad as the Muslim Brotherhood calls it. We’re witnessing that playing out, not only in places in the Middle East but also in Europe, in Australia, in Canada and here in the United States as well.”
—Quoted by Newsmax, October 2011
“So pervasive now is the MB’s [Muslim Brotherhood’s] ‘civilization jihad’ within the U.S. government and civil institutions that a serious, sustained and rigorous investigation of the phenomenon by the legislative branch is in order. To that end, we need to establish a new and improved counterpart to the Cold War-era’s HUAC [House Un-American Activities Committee] and charge it with examining and rooting out anti-American – and anti-constitutional – activities that constitute an even more insidious peril than those pursued by communist Fifth Columnists fifty years ago. ”
–column, Center for Security Policy, October 2011
“We know for a fact that the Muslim Brotherhood has as its mission the worldwide imposition of Islam's toxic, brutally repressive and anti-constitutional supremacist doctrine known as Shariah. And yes, it means here, too.”
– column, FamilySecurityMatters.org, August 2013
If Frank Gaffney Jr. had his way, average hard-working Americans of the Muslim faith would be dragged before Congress to face such questions as, “Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood?” In Gaffney’s mind, America is in peril, and bringing back the notorious Cold War-era House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) would expose the subversives he imagines are working to implement Shariah religious law throughout the land.
Gaffney’s wild-eyed accusations would certainly fit right into the red-baiting HUAC tradition, judging from his long history of smears and innuendo aimed at Muslims. There was his groundless 2011 claim that Huma Abedin — aide to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — was part of a “Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy.” That charge was subsequently trumpeted by U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), prompting even conservative Republican stalwarts such as Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and House Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) to condemn it.
Then there was Gaffney’s 2011 claim that two board members of the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) were secretly aiding the Muslim Brotherhood, proving that even potential right-wing allies are not safe from his vitriol. Gaffney’s evidence was predictably flimsy — board member and anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist’s wife is Palestinian-American, while board member Suhail Khan is a Muslim. Both were political appointees in the George W. Bush administration with long experience in conservative Republican Party affairs. Calling the accusations reprehensible, CPAC banned Gaffney from participating in future events.
Following his banishment from CPAC events, Gaffney teamed up with the inflammatory right-wing site Brietbart News to offer an alternative conference, called Homeland Threats. Featured speakers at the March 2014 event included U.S. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), and panel discussions flogged such tired topics as “Benghazigate: The Ugly Truth and the Cover-Up” and “Amnesty and Open Borders: The End of America.”
Naturally, Gaffney also hosted a panel entitled “The Muslim Brotherhood, the Civilization Jihad and Its Enablers” in the March Homeland Threats lineup, not so subtly thumbing his nose at his former CPAC comrades in arms.
Among the “enablers” of civilization jihad in America, President Obama is near the top of Gaffney’s list. But Gaffney has tried — and failed — to gather support for baseless suggestions that Obama is a practicing Muslim, or for the accusations he leveled in a series of Washington Times articles in 2009 that the Obama administration is adopting the Muslim Brotherhood’s Middle East plan.
“What if it turns out that some of the people the Obama administration has been embracing are actually promoting the same totalitarian ideology and seditious agenda as al Qaeda, only they’re doing it from White House Iftar dinners?” he asked in the Washington Times, referring to the meal served after Ramadan fasts.
During an appearance on MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews” in 2009, Gaffney made a statement that boggled even veteran Gaffney-watchers: “There is also circumstantial evidence, not proven by any means, but nonetheless some pretty compelling circumstantial evidence, of Saddam Hussein's Iraq being involved with the people who perpetrated both the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center and even the Oklahoma City bombing."
But Gaffney wasn’t always such a fringe character. As recently as in 2002, a prominent British newspaper listed him with Iraq invasion cheerleaders Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, and Richard Perle as one of the men “directing” then-President George W. Bush’s post 9/11 security doctrine.
A native of Pittsburgh, Pa., Gaffney graduated from the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in 1975, and subsequently received a graduate degree from Johns Hopkins University's Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. After serving as an aide to the late Sen. Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson (D-Wash.) in the 1970s, Gaffney in 1983 was appointed Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear Forces and Arms Control Policy. In 1987, he was nominated for an Assistant Secretary of Defense post, but the Senate did not confirm him. In 1988, he founded the Center for Security Policy (CSP), a hawkish but initially respectable think tank.
Sometime after that, he seemed to go off the rails, becoming increasingly taken with a conspiracy theory about the infiltration of the United States by nefarious Muslim Brotherhood operatives burrowed deep within the infrastructure. This line — amplified via Gaffney’s radio show, his contributions to numerous far-right periodicals, and the CSP website — quickly elevated his stature in hard-line anti-Muslim circles.
Worse, some politicians bought into his beliefs — notably U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), who has appeared on Gaffney’s radio program and publicly repeated his baseless statistics and “facts,” and who, in 2011, held his own HUAC-style hearings on the “radicalization” of American Muslims. Another congressional acolyte of Gaffney’s theories is Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.).
Gaffney’s supporters conveniently overlook the fact that many of his theories are based on a single, discredited source – a 1991 fantasy written by a lone Muslim Brotherhood member that was introduced into evidence during the 2008 Holy Land Foundation trial in Dallas federal court. But to Gaffney, this document is a smoking gun, a mission statement pointing to a massive Islamist conspiracy under our noses.
“When it is impracticable to engage in violence, Shariah-adherent Muslims are still obliged to engage in jihad through stealthy techniques or, in the words of the Muslim Brotherhood, ‘civilization jihad,’” Gaffney said in 2011. “They are doing it through influence operations, the target set of which is comprehensive — government, law enforcement, intelligence agencies, the military, penal institutions, media think tanks, political entities, academic institutions. And they are very aggressively targeting non-Muslim religious communities in the name of ecumenicalism.”
To reinforce Gaffney’s delusions, the Center for Security Policy issues alarming “investigative” reports. One of the latest is a 10-part video course hosted by Gaffney entitled “The Muslim Brotherhood in America,” which concludes: “America faces in addition to the threat of violent jihad another, even more toxic danger — a stealthy and pre-violent form of warfare aimed at destroying our constitutional form of democratic government and free society. The Muslim Brotherhood is the prime-mover behind this seditious campaign, which it calls ‘civilization jihad’.”
CSP also distributes what it calls “Occasional Papers,” which offer a revealing window into the breadth of Gaffney’s obsessions. It was in one of these reports that Gaffney leveled his infamous charges against Huma Abedin, the Hillary Clinton aide. Another paper, titled “Shariah Law and American State Courts: An Assessment of State Appellate Court Cases” purports to prove “that Shariah law has entered into state court decisions, in conflict with the Constitution and state public policy,” using a small sample of published cases as evidence.
In 2009, another dubious CSP report alleged that an “Iran Lobby” operating in Washington, D.C., was influencing U.S. policy through a network of shady operatives and prominent politicos. The report said that “in one way or another” U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass and Dennis Ross, then the special advisor for the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, were among those associated with the Iran Lobby. In fact, the Iran Lobby was essentially a fabrication.
That was actually Gaffney’s second attempt to create a Muslim lobbying scandal. Back in 2002, he claimed that the so-called “Wahhabi Lobby” was contributing heavily to U.S. political campaigns to gain influence over policy. This theory, too, generated a lot of smoke (and a congressional hearing) but, ultimately, no fire.
Gaffney’s scurrilous broad-brush tactics have a serious effect on the lives of all Muslims in America, from students and housewives to corporate executives and budding politicians. A shadow of unfounded suspicion follows even the most upright Muslim citizens, growing cumulatively each time Gaffney feeds new “intelligence” to congressional allies such as Reps. Bachmann and Peter King.
In 2012, Salon.com’s Alex Seitz-Wald interviewed one such victim of Gaffney’s Muslim-baiting, Salil Gill. A former member of the Navy’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps, a legal branch of the military, and Bush White House official, Gill was blindsided soon after he joined the newly formed Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2004. The problems started when DHS officials questioned him regarding a former American Muslim Council member who was convicted of money laundering. After the inquiry, Gill was cleared, and went back to work.
“His real problem, it turned out, was not anti-terror officials but the vigilantes,” Seitz-Wald reported. “Building on a report (from former Salon writer Mary Jacoby) that Gill had ‘failed to disclose’ his work for the American Muslim Council on security clearance forms, the man behind [Rep. Michele] Bachmann’s witch hunt got involved. ‘Frank Gaffney took the ball and ran with it,’” Gill said.
A Fox News firestorm followed, and damaging letters were written by then-Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) demanding that Gill be investigated. In the end, it all amounted to nothing, and the DHS completely cleared Gill of the failure-to-disclose flap, saying in a statement, “Following a thorough investigation, we found that Mr. Gill exceeded all requirements.”
But that didn’t stop Gaffney and his allies from continuing to beat the drum, hounding Gill from his position despite support from the White House and then-Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge. The false accusations still complicate Gill’s life, as he told Wald: “Whenever I go try to do something else, this is the first thing that is asked,” Gill said. “Everybody Googles nowadays, and this is what happens when you Google me.”
In 2007, Gaffney got into the movie business, which did not turn out the way he planned. The project was a “documentary” called “Islam vs. Islamism” produced by ABG Films with Gaffney as co-executive producer. A controversial examination of how radical Islamists are allegedly intimidating moderate Muslims, the film was funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for the PBS series “America at a Crossroads.” It was expected to air on 300-plus PBS stations nationwide — until PBS executives saw a screening. They promptly rejected film on the grounds that it did not meet editorial standards, reportedly using words like “alarmist” and "overreaching" After an ugly feud between ABG Films and PBS, eight House members demanded that CPB get the film aired or release it to another network.
The film finally aired after a deal was brokered with Oregon Public Broadcasting acting as distributor for other PBS stations, packaged with an on-camera host introduction and an in-studio panel discussion