Center for Security Policy
Founded in 1988 by former Reagan administration official Frank Gaffney Jr., The Center for Security Policy went from a hawkish think tank focused on foreign affairs to a conspiracy-oriented mouthpiece for the anti-Muslim movement in the United States.
Known for its accusations that a shadowy “Muslim Brotherhood” has infiltrated all levels of government and warnings that “creeping Sharia,” or Islamic religious law, is a threat to American democracy, Center for Security Policy (CSP) founder Frank Gaffney has called for Congressional hearings along the lines of the notorious Cold War-era House Un-American Activities Committee to expose Muslim conspiracies. CSP has even been banned from the Conservative Political Action Conference, a premiere gathering of thousands of conservatives each spring in Washington, D.C.
Despite this, CSP maintains relationships with mainstream political allies, including lawmakers, who lend a veneer of legitimacy to the group’s anti-Muslim posturing.
In Their Own Words
“There’s no getting around it, when you’re talking about people whose explicit goal is to destroy our form of government and replace it with an Islamic caliphate. You’re talking about a mortal threat, whether it’s from outside or within the United States, to everything we hold dear. You’ve introduced the whole new topic of the allies of many these groups, who are self-described as progressives. … They’re hard leftists, who have forged what we call at the Center for Security over the years, the Red-Green Axis, to advance, perhaps with different outcomes in mind, but nonetheless a shared purpose, which is taking down the government of the United States and replacing it with something to their liking, whether it’s the worker’s paradise, as the Communist would have us believe, or the Sharia supremacist Islamic republic.” – Frank Gaffney interview with David Yerushalmi, “Secure Freedom Radio,” Oct. 25, 2021
"It’s certainly true there are some communities in the United States that have not assimilated. I’m not concerned about Amish or Jewish communities, but I will tell you that there are enclaves of Muslim communities in Michigan and Minnesota that concern me. We know that in Minnesota there’s a rising rate of measles because the community has not assimilated into the rest of the community and is not vaccinating their children. This is wrong. This is a big problem. The problem with these Muslim communities is that it is making them susceptible to this radical worldview that wants to destroy modern society, create a global caliphate, and impose sharia law on everyone on Earth. These other communities aren’t trying to do that. They’re peaceful religious communities. – Fred Fleitz, interview with Breitbart, June 5, 2017
“They essentially, like termites, hollow out the structure of the civil society and other institutions,” Mr. Gaffney said, “for the purpose of creating conditions under which the jihad will succeed.” – Frank Gaffney, interview with The New York Times, Feb. 1, 2017
“‘Bridge-building’ and interfaith ‘dialogue.’ The stealth jihadists have made enormous inroads in the faith community by enlisting non-Muslim clerics to argue on First Amendment grounds against opposition to shariah. This practice provides protection to and enables the civilization jihad.” – Center for Security Policy Report, “A Plan for Victory Over the Global Jihad Movement,” Feb. 20, 2015
“So, let us do what we should have done years ago: Declare war on shariah, and wage it as though our lives and posterity depend upon our victory. For indeed they do.” – Frank Gaffney,” Secure Freedom Minute,” Aug. 25, 2014
“For over fifty years, the Muslim Brotherhood has used front groups to wage what it calls ‘civilization jihad’ against this country. That form of warfare uses subversion, rather than violence, to impose the Islamic supremacist code of shariah here.” – Frank Gaffney, “Secure Freedom Minute,” Aug. 20, 2014
“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 website, 2011
“When people in other bona fide religions follow their doctrines they become better people – Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, Jews. When Muslims follow their doctrine, they become jihadists.” – Then-CSP staffer Clare Lopez during a speech before the Central New Jersey chapter of the American Jewish Committee, 2013
Frank Gaffney, Jr. founded the neo-conservative turned anti-Muslim think tank Center for Security Policy (CSP) in 1988, following his tenure as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Nuclear Forces and Arms Control Policy in the Ronald Reagan administration.
From the late 1980s to the mid-2000s, CSP was seen as a mainstream though hawkish organization that favored the so-called “peace through strength” doctrine popularized by President Reagan. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the CSP never left its Cold War mentality, and instead shifted its focus from battling Communism to fighting Islam.
Along those lines, CSP supported the so called “War on Terror” and in 2002, a prominent British newspaper listed Frank Gaffney 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.
Since around 2010, CSP’s main focus has been on demonizing Islam and Muslims under the guise of national security. Statements from Frank Gaffney and other CSP staffers, along with claims made in CSP publications, have become increasingly conspiratorial in nature, making such claims as Muslims are attempting to overthrow the U.S. government from within, and that Sharia law is trumping the constitution in American courts.
In the late 2000s the anti-Muslim movement in America became more organized, and CSP quickly established itself as one of the movement’s premier think tanks. Many other organizations making up this movement, such as the grassroots group ACT for America, were young. But CSP enjoyed extensive contacts in Washington after almost 20 years working in the capital. Gaffney and CSP thus became a key player in the anti-Muslim movement almost overnight.
‘Team B II’
In 2010, CSP teamed up with some of America’s most notorious anti-Muslim activists, whom Gaffney referred to as “Team B II,” to produce a report titled “Shariah: The Threat to America.” The name “Team B II” is a nod to the original “Team B,” a group of conservative analysts commissioned by the CIA in 1976 to evaluate classified information on the threat the Soviet Union posed. That evaluation has been declassified, and determined to be mostly inaccurate, having grossly exaggerated the threat the Soviet Union then posed to the United States. In 1978 a Senate investigative committee found that the members of the original Team B had “yielded a flawed composition of political views and biases.”
Nevertheless, the CSP-produced report focused on what it called the “preeminent totalitarian threat of our time: the legal-political-military doctrine known within Islam as shariah.” The report is a 170-page compendium of conspiracy theories and anti-Islamic claims, including the notion that “many of the most prominent Muslim organizations in America are front groups for the Muslim Brotherhood,” which, the report claims, is trying to implement Sharia law across the U.S. and around the world.
The report concluded with a number of alarmist recommendations, including a call for U.S. government agencies to halt outreach to Muslim communities “through Muslim Brotherhood fronts whose mission it is to destroy our country from within, as such practices are both reckless and counterproductive.” Other recommendations included warning Imams that they will be charged with sedition if they advocate for Shariah in America. The report also called for dismantling so-called “no-go zones” – non-existent neighborhoods where law enforcement is rumored to be unable to police because they’re heavily Muslim. The report’s authors admit, “Such measures will, of course, be controversial in some quarters.”
CSP recruited several people to contribute to the report, including Tom Trento, founder of the anti-Islam group The United West (Florida Security Council), who has a record of peddling anti-Islam conspiracy theories. Trento once addressed a crowd in Florida in December 2015 after the Broward County Sheriff hired a Muslim deputy, saying, “What the hell is going on that [Sheriff] Scott Israel hires a terrorist!” Diana West was another contributor. An author and columnist, West has said that it is really the basic teachings of Islam, not “some peculiar strain called ‘Islamism’ or of an organization such as the Muslim Brotherhood or ISIS,” that poses a threat to Americans’ constitutional liberties.
Also a member of “Team B II” was Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, a retired three-star general and vice president of the anti-LGBTQ hate group Family Research Council. In 2010, the same year the Team B II report was released, Boykin appeared on a video of the Christian Dominionist-leaning Oak Initiative stating, “[Islam] should not be protected under the First Amendment, particularly given that those following the dictates of the Quran are under an obligation to destroy our Constitution and replace it with sharia law.” He has also referred to Islam as “evil.”
Another Team B II contributor was John Guandolo, a former FBI agent turned anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist. Guandolo is a regular guest of Gaffney’s “Secure Freedom Radio,” which, as of publication, is housed a project housed CSP.
Two other members of CSP’s Team B II report were Clare Lopez, CSP’s former vice president for research and analysis, and David Yerushalmi, CSP’s general counsel. Lopez spent two decades at the CIA before joining up with Gaffney. Her history of touting anti-Muslim conspiracy theories echoes those of CSP. She has long claimed, for example, that the Muslim Brotherhood has “infiltrated and suborned the U.S. government to actively assist … the mission of its grand jihad.” She wrote a 2013 report that linked Huma Abedin, deputy chief of staff to Hillary Clinton when she was secretary of state, to the Muslim Brotherhood – a favorite, but false, allegation on the far right that earned condemnation from conservative members of Congress like former Senator John McCain, R-AZ.
American Laws for American Courts
Yerushalmi is the chief architect of anti-Sharia legislation often referred to as American Laws for American Courts. Sharia is a set of guiding religious principles. Anti-Muslim groups push conspiratorial rhetoric about it in an attempt to frame Islam as a foreign threat.
Legal experts accurately describe such anti-Sharia measures as superfluous given that there is no mechanism by which any foreign criminal or civil code can trump U.S. laws. By the summer of 2013, however, anti-foreign law measures had passed in Arizona, South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Tennessee and North Carolina.
Not only has CSP provided the ideological ammunition for such bills with such reports as “Shariah: The Threat to America,” but staffers of the group have also been involved in pushing legislation at the state level. CSP’s Director of State Outreach Christopher Holton has advocated for anti-Sharia law bills in states throughout the country. In 2018, SPLC published an investigative story on public records showing Holton working with the American Public Policy Alliance and a local ACT for America chapter in Idaho (two other groups that advocate for such legislation) to lobby a state representative to introduce an anti-Sharia bill.
Gaffney wrote in 2014, “As a corrective to this civilization jihadist incursion into American jurisprudence, seven states have adopted legislation known as American Laws for American Courts (ALAC).” Since 2010, there have been at least 201 anti-Sharia laws introduced in 43 states. At least 10 states have enacted some form of anti-foreign law legislation.
Gaffney and the Conservative Political Action Conference
Gaffney’s anti-Muslim conspiracy theories have drawn the ire of not only the left, but also with some the right. In January 2011, Gaffney penned a piece for the conspiracy-orientated website WorldNetDaily where he claimed that two board members of the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) were secretly aiding the Muslim Brotherhood. Gaffney’s evidence for such an accusation was that board member and anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist’s wife is Palestinian American, while board member Suhail Khan is Muslim. Both were political appointees in the George W. Bush administration with long experience in conservative Republican Party affairs.
CPAC chairman David Keene responded to these claims by banning Gaffney and CSP from participating at the event that year, noting that Gaffney “has become personally and tiresomely obsessed with his weird belief that anyone who doesn’t agree with him on everything all the time or treat him with the respect and deference he believes is his due, must be either ignorant of the dangers we face or, in extreme case, dupes of the nation's enemies.”
In 2013, the inflammatory right-wing site Breitbart News hosted “Uninvited,” a series of panels in the same hotel as CPAC 2013 for those who had not been invited to participate in the largescale conservative event. Those panels featured a number of anti-Muslim commentators and activists, including Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer and Gaffney. Kicking off that event was then-Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, a supporter of the anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim movements who has suggested that the U.S. government should spy on mosques and attempted to paint two Muslim congressmen as un-American by not “renouncing Sharia law.” King also said in early 2015 that undocumented immigrants given a path to citizenship will “destroy our republic.”
Breitbart organized a larger conference in 2014 titled “The Uninvited II: National Security Action Summit,” which was moderated by Gaffney. It took place at a hotel down the street from the 2014 CPAC conference in Washington, D.C. The summit featured anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant speakers as well as politicians, including Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaking on panels with titles such as “Amnesty and Open Borders: The End of America – and the GOP” and “Benghazigate: The Ugly Truth and the Cover-up,” part of the right-wing’s continued attempt to use the tragic events in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012 to hurt the Obama administration and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Gaffney and CSP’s relationship with CPAC remained off and on over the years since 2011, but the group was able to make it back into the conference. In CPAC 2016, Gaffney spoke on the panel “Obama’s Dangerous National Security Legacy and How it Must Be Reversed.” CSP also organized a panel on “The Global Jihad Movement in America and the Counterjihad Campaign” that featured two European Islamophobic figures, Paul Weston and Lars Hedegaard.
Alarming ‘investigative’ reports
The CSP had propagated Gaffney’s claims, often by issuing alarming “investigative” reports and other products, like the 10-part video course hosted by Gaffney titled “The Muslim Brotherhood in America,” and to further a conspiratorial outlook of Muslim Americans: “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.’”
In keeping with its Cold War traditions, CSP issued another dubious report, titled, “Rise of the ‘Iran Lobby’: Tehran’s Front Groups Move on – and Into – the Obama Administration” in 2009. The report alleged that an “Iran Lobby” is operating in Washington, D.C., and influencing U.S. policy through a network of shady operatives and prominent politicos. The report said that “in one way or another” then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, Council on Foreign Relations president Richard Haass, and Dennis Ross, then the special adviser for the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia to Secretary of State Clinton, were among those with ties to the Iran Lobby.
As the anti-Muslim movement began to increase in size and influence, CSP also branched out to potential allies in the anti-immigrant movement. Gaffney for example, is an admirer and ally of Mark Krikorian, head of the anti-immigrant hate group Center for Immigration Studies, which essentially plays the same role in anti-immigrant circles as does CSP in the anti-Muslim movement – namely, providing reports with dubious claims and conspiracy theories that grassroots groups and others can use as “proof” to support anti-immigrant claims.
In 2012, Center for Immigration Studies hosted Gaffney at the Women’s National Republican Club in Manhattan to discuss the topic “Immigration as a Catalyst for Shariah in the West?” Gaffney’s opening remarks were telling, in that he admitted that he wanted to help further bridge the gap between the already-converging anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant movements in the United States.
“In truth,” Gaffney said, “I’m sure you’re here for the Center for Immigration Studies, at least I hope you are, because I’m here for the Center for Immigration Studies because I have had a chance to work with Mark and his team a lot.” He went on to say, “One of the things I hope we might talk about in the course of the conversation is what we might do much more of because I see a nexus developing between the work that Mark really does uniquely in this country and the work that we do, and it would be terrific if we could collaborate more intensively.”
Since then, Krikorian and Jessica Vaughan, policy studies director at Center for Immigration Studies, have been regular guests on Gaffney’s “Secure Freedom Radio.”
The bulk of CSP’s efforts in 2015 were devoted to creating a climate of fear around Syrian refugees entering the United States. Thousands of Syrian refugees fled their war-torn homeland in 2015 for European countries and the U.S., which has created an anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim backlash in this country and Europe. CSP put out a survey asking to “collect contact and geographical data from those who wish to stay engaged” in “refugee resettlement action” – meaning working to prevent the relocation of refuges to certain locations.
CSP has also began working with Ann Corcoran, an anti-refugee activist who runs the hate blogsite Refugee Resettlement Watch. In April 2015, as part of its “Civilian Jihad Reader Series,” CSP published a monograph by Corcoran titled “Refugee Resettlement and the Hijra to America." Corcoran writes in the monograph that “unchecked Muslim immigration will destroy us.” She also recommends readers “Speak up against the opening of more mosques in your neighborhoods; they are literally the beachheads for the expanding Muslim population as it marks its expanding territory.”
Also in 2015, CSP published another monograph by Jim Simpson, a right-wing author with a history of peddling Islamophobia, titled “The Red-Green Axis: Immigration, Refugees and the Agenda to Erase America” In it, Simpson laments the “assimilation problems all immigrants and refugees, but particularly Muslims, bring with them.” (CSP published a follow-up monograph by Simpson in 2019)
On June 9, 2015, CSP launched a “Refugee Resettlement Activism” page to alert interested people about resettlement news. The hope was “to use this data to connect activists in their local areas to run with their own initiatives going forward.” Simpson contacted those who signed up about forming local “pockets of resistance” to refugee resettlement programs.
CSP’s campaign against Syrian refugees brought its founder to interview extremist figures on the subject. In September 2015, Gaffney invited white nationalist Jared Taylor on his radio show to discuss the Syrian refugee crisis. Taylor is a longtime figurehead of the white nationalist movement in America.
During the interview, Gaffney called Taylor’s white nationalist American Renaissance website “wonderful,” and asked, “Is it the death of Europe what we’re seeing at the moment in terms of this migration, this invasion?” After a number of watchdog groups including the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote about Taylor’s appearance on the radio show, Gaffney backtracked, and attempted to bury the evidence by scrubbing the Taylor interview from his site and claiming he was “unfamiliar” with Taylor’s views before inviting him on.
Run-up to the 2016 election
With an eye on the 2016 election, CSP organized and held four “National Security Action Summits” in 2015 in early election states including Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. A number of GOP presidential contenders, Ben Carson, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, appeared at the events which featured anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant figures.
Gaffney again teamed up with Cruz and Trump following the announcement of the Iran nuclear deal. Trump and Cruz held an anti-Iran rally in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 9, 2015, which was co-sponsored by CSP. Brigitte Gabriel, head of the largest grassroots anti-Muslim group in the country, ACT for America, also spoke.
On Dec. 7, 2015, GOP candidate Donald Trump issued a press release calling for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” In order to justify such a policy, Trump’s campaign cited a shoddy survey commissioned by CSP claiming “25% of those polled agreed that violence against Americans here in the United States is justified as a part of the global jihad” and that 51% of those polled “agreed that Muslims in America should have the choice of being governed according to Shariah.” Trump praised the staff of CSP, stating they are "very highly respected people, who I know, actually.” The survey was conducted by Kellyanne Conway’s The Polling Company. Conway would go on to serve as Trump’s senior counselor. She and Gaffney are both members of shadowy right-wing coalition known as the Council for National Policy.
When the poll was first released, the Bridge Initiative at Georgetown University, a project started to connect the academic study of Islamophobia with the public square, debunked it, noting that, “CSP’s survey was a non-probability based, opt-in online survey, administered by the conservative group, the Polling Company/Woman Trend, a small Washington-based agency that has collaborated with CSP on other occasions to produce surveys about Islam and Muslims.”
While Trump was citing CSP on the campaign trail, it was Cruz who group members supported. Both Gaffney and Clare Lopez, who worked for CSP at the time, joined presidential candidate Cruz’s national security team. After Trump was elected, CSP supported the real estate mogul in the White House.
The Trump years
In March 2018, Trump named longtime CSP ally John Bolton as his new national security advisor. In a March 28, 2018, column, Gaffney said of Bolton, “These are among the many laudable qualities of the new National Security Advisor that may be detested by the Left, but that will serve President Trump and our nation well.” The relationship appears to have since strained after Bolton left the Trump administration in 2019 and published a tell-all book bashing his former boss.
A few months after being appointed as national security advisor, Bolton hired CSP staffer Fred Fleitz as his chief of staff. Fleitz was a co-author of 2015 CSP titled “The Secure Freedom Strategy: A Plan for Victory Over the Global Jihad Movement.” One section of the report urges readers to be wary of engaging in interfaith dialogue with Muslims, claiming it is a tactic used by “stealth jihadists.”
Fleitz has also peddled a clash of civilization narrative about Islam and the West, once warning about what he said were “disturbingly high levels of support for the global jihadist ideology among Muslims in the United States.” He has also come under fire for disparaging Muslim communities in Michigan and Minnesota.
Gaffney and CSP supported Trump’s Muslim travel ban. In a Jan. 17, 2017, article published on CSP’s website, Gaffney wrote, “Mr. Trump recognizes that we must not import in our time more immigrants committed to a similar outcome in the name of imposing here another supremacist totalitarian ideology, Islam’s Sharia. He’s absolutely right.”
Another individual with ties to CSP, Charles Kupperman, was hired as deputy national security advisor under Bolton. Kupperman served on CSP's board from at least 2001 to 2010, according to the group's tax records. He formerly served as an executive for defense contractors Boeing and Lockheed Martin, both of which have funded CSP in the past. A report from Salon revealed that CSP received $25,000 from Boeing and $15,000 from Lockheed Martin in 2013.
Kupperman took over as acting national security advisor in September 2019 when Trump fired Bolton.
Under new management
In October 2018, Fred Fleitz left the National Security Council to return to CSP to take over as the group’s new president. Gaffney moved into an executive chairman role at the group. He continues to host his program “Secure Freedom Radio,” which is housed under CSP. Gaffney continues to host Islamophobic figures on his radio show. In 2021, he hosted David Horowitz, John Guandolo and David Yerushalmi, among others.
Under Fleitz’s leadership, the group has postured toward more reporting on the threats from China, Iran and antifa. As of January 2022, the group lists anti-Muslim hate leader Robert Spencer as a senior fellow. Spencer also runs the hate blogsite Jihad Watch and is involved with the hate group American Freedom Defense Initiative.
In 2020, CSP published a book by Spencer titled Mass Migration in Europe: A Model for the U.S.? The book suggests that Muslims have begun to take over Europe via immigration and that the U.S. is on a similar trajectory unless it works to curb Muslim migration to the country. In it, Spencer writes:
If Western Europe does become Islamized, as demographic trends suggest, before too long America will be facing a world that is drastically different and more forbidding than today’s. And that same process of Islamization will proceed here – unless enough people wake up in time to head it off. The Muslim population in the United States is much smaller than that of Western Europe. The active supremacists among them are even smaller in number. Nonetheless, the same things that have happened in Europe could easily happen in the United States.
In July 2021, CSP hosted a webinar featuring Robert Spencer titled “Islamophobia and the Threat to Free Speech.” The event was moderated by CSP’s Kyle Shideler. The webinar consisted of Shideler and Spencer suggesting that rather than being a recognized form of bigotry, Islamophobia is simply another concept adopted by the left to supposedly silence free speech.