Known for its accusations that a shadowy “Muslim Brotherhood” has infiltrated all levels of government and warnings that “creeping Shariah,” or Islamic religious law, is a threat to American democracy, CSP’s Gaffney has called for Congressional hearings along the lines of the notorious Cold War-era House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) to expose Muslim conspiracies. CSP has even been banned from the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), a premier gathering of thousands of conservatives each spring in Washington, D.C.
In Its Own Words
“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
“I don’t know about you, but it kind of creeps me out that they are getting jobs in the food supply of the United States.” – Frank Gaffney on Somali refugees working at meat processing plants at the 2015 Western Conservative Summit in Denver, Colorado
“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.” — Clare Lopez speech before the Central NJ 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 '80s 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.
For the past decade, 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 US government from within, and that Shariah 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 of the 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.
In 2010, CSP teamed up with some of America’s most notorious anti-Muslim activists, who 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 [sic].” 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 Shariah 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 are rumored to be unable to police because they’re heavily Muslim. The report’s authors admit that, “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 Scott Israel [the sheriff] 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. General Jerry Boykin, a retired three-star general. 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.” Boykin is currently the executive vice president of the Family Research Council (FRC), an anti-LGBT hate group.
Another Team B II contributor was John Guandolo, a disgraced former FBI agent. Guandolo joined the FBI’s counterterrorism division after 9/11, but by 2005 he was posing as a driver for a “star witness” in the corruption case of former Congressman William Jefferson (D-LA). He made “inappropriate sexual advances” to that witness and soon was having an “intimate relationship…that he thought could damage an investigation.” He also unsuccessfully solicited the witness for a $75,000 donation to an organization he supported and carried on extramarital affairs with female FBI agents.
Guandolo’s actions risked ruining the government’s prosecution of Jefferson, and he faced an investigation by the bureau's Office of Professional Responsibility. Though he later expressed “deep remorse” for his actions, he resigned from the bureau in December, 2008, ahead of an internal review. Not long after, he became a full-time anti-Muslim activist and conspiracy theorist—all under the guise of being a counterterrorism expert. According to his resume, Guandolo became Vice President of the Strategic Engagement Group the same month he resigned from the FBI. He describes the tiny consultancy as the “only company in the United States aimed at identifying potential threats to homeland security.” He currently travels the country training law enforcement on counter-terror techniques and speaks at various events. In 2013 he made an appearance at an event hosted by the anti-immigrant Social Contract Press, a group that regularly publishes white nationalist authors.
Two other members of CSP’s Team B II report are current CSP staffers, namely Clare Lopez, a former CSP fellow and current vice president for research and analysis, and David Yerushalmi, Esq., 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 Senator John McCain (R-AZ).
Yerushalmi is the architect of the “anti-Shariah” bills that appeared in dozens of states in recent years. Yerushalmi began his campaign in 2006 by founding the Society of Americans for National Existence (SANE), an anti-Muslim organization devoted to promoting his theory that Islam is inherently seditious and that Shariah, is a “criminal conspiracy to overthrow the U.S. government.” He equates Shariah with Islamic extremism so totally that he advocates criminalizing virtually any personal practice compliant with Shariah. In his view, only a Muslim who fully breaks with the customs of Shariah can be considered socially tolerable.
In early 2012, Yerulshalmi founded the American Freedom Law Center (AFLC) along with fellow attorney Robert Muise of the Thomas More Law Center, a Christian Right law firm. Arguing that America has “unique values of liberty and freedom” that do not exist in foreign legal system, the AFLC has launched an “American Laws for American Courts” initiative to push model anti-Shariah legislation, drafted primarily by Yerushalmi, in state houses across the country,. Legal experts accurately describe such anti-Shariah 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. Similar bills are being introduced in states in 2016.
A year after CSP published the Team B II report, Gaffney’s anti-Muslim conspiracy theories began to draw the ire of not only the left, but also the right. In January 2011, Gaffney penned a piece for the conspiracy-orientated website World Net Daily 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, 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."
The CSP serves to propagate 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 advisor for the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, were among those with ties to the Iran Lobby.
Connection with anti-Immigrant Groups
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 Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) 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.
The Center for New Community reported that in the winter of 2012, CIS 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 that, “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.”
In truth, CSP has organized with anti-immigrant groups for over a decade. In 2005, for example, Gaffney spoke at an event co-sponsored by the anti-immigrant hate group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). FAIR and CIS account for two of the “big three” anti-immigrant groups in the U.S., and CSP is also allied with the third, NumbersUSA , the anti-immigrant movement’s grassroots mobilizer. Rosemary Jenks, NumbersUSA’s vice president and director of government relations, is a stalwart at CSP events.
In 2013, the inflammatory right-wing site Breitbart News hosted “Uninvited,” a series of panels in the same hotel as CPAC 2013. Those panels featured a number of anti-Muslim commentators and activists, including Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer and Gaffney. Kicking off that event was Rep. Steve King (R-IA), 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 Shariah 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-Tex.), speaking on panels with titles like, “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 Clinton. An investigation into the attacks on the diplomatic compound in Benghazi led by the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee found no wrongdoing by Obama administration officials.
CSP held its annual awards ceremony in 2015 at the posh Metropolitan Club of New York City. The packed fundraiser honored Congressman Trent Franks (R-AZ), a champion for the anti-Muslim cause, as well as Beth Van Duyne, the mayor of Irving, Texas. The mayor made national headlines in February 2015 when she began vocally opposing a tribunal dealing with civil cases between Muslim couples, in which an Imam was acting as the arbitrator. Van Duyne and CSP saw this as proof of their claims that Shariah law was being implemented in the US, even though similar religious tribunals have existed for decades in the American Jewish and American Christian communities to resolve disputes, something the Islamic Center of Irving duly noted in its response to the mayor.
In September, a few months after Van Duyne received CSP’s 2015 “Defender of Freedom” award, police in Irving arrested a 14-year-old Muslim student on suspicion that he had brought a bomb to his school. The “bomb” turned out to be a homemade clock. Not long after Ahmed Mohamed’s wrongful arrest, CSP’s Clare Lopez told the crowd on a panel at the Christian Right Values Voter Summit in Washington D.C. that she had just gotten back from Irving where she and John Guandolo had been training law enforcement.
2015: Syrian Refugees
The bulk of CSP’s efforts in 2015 were devoted to creating a climate a 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 a certain locations.
CSP has also taken Ann Corcoran, the face of the anti-refugee movement in America, under its wing. Corcoran also promotes “refugee resettlement action” which she calls “pockets of resistance” to refugee resettlement. In April 2015, Corcoran released “Refugee Resettlement and the Hijra to America," a pamphlet published by the CSP which included calls for Americans to oppose the opening of mosques in their neighborhoods and a ban on all Muslim immigration to the United States. Corcoran also spoke at two of CSP’s major events in 2015. CSP continues to work on creating model legislation at the county level that would ban all Syrian refugee relocation to counties that enacted it.
CSP’s campaign against Syrian refugees prompted its founder to seek out more radical allies. In September 2015, Gaffney invited white nationalist Jared Taylor on his radio show to discuss the Syrian refugee crisis. Taylor is considered a preeminent spokesman for 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.
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 the GOP candidates joined the cast of anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant characters at these Summits, including Ben Carson, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.
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 September 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 December 7, 2015, GOP candidate Donald Trump issued a press release calling to ban Muslims from entering the United States. Trump’s campaign cited a bogus CSP poll released a few months earlier in June 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 percent 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.”
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 immediately, 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.” In parentheses, the Bridge Initiative stated, “We learned this after reaching out to the Polling Company to get more details about their methodology, which wasn’t released to the public when Gaffney began promoting the survey’s findings.” According to the body that sets ethical standards for polling, the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR), opt-in surveys cannot be considered representative of the intended population, in this case Muslims.”