Gaffney’s ‘Summit’ in Nevada a Nonstop Procession of Extremism, Conspiracism — and Candidates
The Center for Security Policy puts a veneer of normalcy on a daylong program of fearmongering and conspiracy, even as it's being courted by GOP presidential candidates.
President Obama is a secret Muslim conspiring to destroy the United States and is using the Justice Department to squelch anti-Muslim speech. Liberals are covertly working with radical Islamists to transform the country into a radical socialist state while Muslims are pouring over our borders. Hillary Clinton is not only a liar and criminal, she is likely blackmailing the FBI director and other authorities to keep out of prison.
All these theories and many more were featured Monday at the Nevada version of the Center for Security Policy’s “National Security Action Summit” at the International Peace Education Center in Las Vegas, a meeting hall owned by the Unification Church. It was everything its chief organizer, noted anti-Muslim extremist Frank Gaffney, could have hoped for.
Gaffney’s CSP has been riding high on the tidal wave of Islamophobia he and similar anti-Muslim organizations have created, with the help of right-wing political candidates who have legitimized their dubious and often outrageous claims. CSP made headlines this past week when Donald Trump, the leading Republican presidential candidate, cited dubious statistics generated by Gaffney’s group in defending his proposal for a ban on all immigration by Muslims into the United States.
Indeed, Monday’s gathering was timed and located to coincide with Tuesday’s GOP presidential debate at the Las Vegas Hilton, the better to attract the participation of the candidates. Gaffney’s hopes were largely realized: Four candidates participated in the gathering, three of them (Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, and Ben Carson) via videotaped messages, and one – Rick Santorum – in person. The procession underscored the extent to which CSP’s extremism has been embraced by ostensibly mainstream conservatives.
That extremism was on full, if not constant, display Monday. By the end of the eight-hour conference, attendees had been treated to a nonstop cavalcade of extremism and conspiracy.
Leading off the parade was a retired Navy admiral, James “Ace” Lyons, who claimed that not only had President Obama “embraced” the Muslim Brotherhood, but that its radical Islamists had infiltrated the nation’s security agencies and the administration itself (a claim he has made previously). Lyons frequently seized the microphone to ramble about various topics, including gays in the military and women in combat, even at the end of other speakers’ appearances during question-and-answer sessions.
His official speech was mostly an extended rant about Obama’s supposed Muslim affinities:
You understand that we have not only a constitutional crisis, because our Congressional leadership fails to understand why they were given that leadership role. It was to stop the fundamental transformation of America – not to facilitate it.
But it was [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan, the prime minister of Turkey, who said it best: “Islam is Islam. There are no modifiers. Democracy is the train we ride to our ultimate objective, which is imposing Sharia law throughout the world, and replacing our Constitution with Sharia law.” [Note: While Erdogan did say “There is no moderate or immoderate Islam -- Islam is Islam and that's it,” the remark was widely interpreted as arguing against the legitimacy of radical Islamists. Erdogan also is credited, somewhat dubiously, with saying that “Democracy is the train we get off once we reach our destination,” he has never said anything regarding the imposition of Sharia law.] What else needs to be said? So here we go. I’ve gotta say: We cannot let this stand. We have to take up and challenge everything by this administration.
… You know, for those of you who say the Obama administration has no policy, well let me tell you, you’re all wrong. They have a policy, and they’ve been executing it brilliantly – with the complicity of our Congressional leadership, and the mainstream media. And let me tell you – any thinking American can grasp it. It’s anti-American, anti-Western, but pro-Islam, pro-Iranian and pro-Muslim Brotherhood.
I have to ask you: Why would an American president embrace the Muslim Brotherhood when their creed is to destroy America from within by our own miserable hands and replace our constitution with Sharia law? It makes absolutely no sense.
And here is a group that has been able to penetrate all our national-security agencies, our intelligence agencies, and have had a massive impact on our rules of engagement, our foreign policy. This has got to stop.
Lyons also turned his venom toward Clinton, calling her “the pathological liar” and castigating her for her role in the so-called Benghazi scandal, which Republicans and right-wing media generated by claiming that Clinton had ordered American forces to “stand down” rather than rescue the American ambassador to Libya who was killed in the incident. Lyons claimed that “we switched sides in the war on terror, we facilitated the Al Qaeda militia and the Muslim Brotherhood.”
Lyons also claimed that administration officials had committed crimes by lying to Congress:
“What more do you need? All of our senior leadership – [CIA directors Leon Panetta, David Petraeus, and Michael Hayden, as well as Gen. Martin Dempsey, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] – all lied before a congressional committee. They must be held responsible. Those are felonies. You go to jail for 15 years.”
Lyons was followed by Mark Krikorian of the anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies, which specializes in manufacturing dubious statistics and pseudo-academic “studies” purporting to support various smear-driven claims against immigrants, and which has a history of dalliances with white nationalists.
Krikorian, whose remarks were delivered via videotape, focused on Trump’s proposed Muslim immigration, which he dismissed as a “crude, sledgehammer approach.” However, he also defended its legitimacy, saying the matter was “not a constitutional issue” since “there is no right for foreigners to come to the United States.”
He went on to explain his own proposal for dealing with Muslim immigrants:
This is purely a question of ‘is it good policy to simply keep all Muslims out of the United States, or not?' The way it’s formulated by Mr. Trump is not good policy, certainly not in my opinion. Because the issue is not keeping out anyone who identifies as a Muslim, or is identified as a Muslim. Rather, the issue is to keep out people who adhere to the political aspects of Islam. If someone prays five times a day and fasts during Ramadan, that’s none of anybody’s business. But, someone who supports killing homosexuals, killing adulterers, using the law to punish blasphemers, that sort of thing – the Sharia aspect of Islam, rather than the strictly religious parts of it. That, we can and should exclude people for.
And there are a number of ways we can do it. The simplest, first thing to do is to use ideological exclusion – that’s a provision, a concept that’s been in the law, or was in the law for a long time, that a person who wasn’t actually a member of a totalitarian party, isn’t actually a terrorist or using violence but still expresses support for essentially overthrowing the Constitution or replacing the Constitution can be kept out, should be kept out.
We changed the law after the Cold War, thinking history had ended. We need to reinstitute that idea so that on visa applications and what have you, we ask some very basic, lowest-common-denominator types of questions: Do you support freedom of speech for people, even if it insults religious sensibilities? Do you support freedom of religion, or changing religions? And you know, some people will lie, but we will be setting a marker, you know – these are things that are not permitted, that Islamic supremacism has no place in the American constitutional order or American society.
Krikorian is referring to laws passed in the 1950s during the height of anti-Communist hysteria, notably the 1950 Internal Security Act (which excluded communists, totalitarians, and fascists from immigrating) and the 1952 Walter-McCarran Act, which further codified those exclusions. Those exclusions were largely overturned in the Immigration Act of 1990, which limited the exclusion of aliens to those whose "entry or proposed activities within the United States would have potentially serious adverse foreign policy consequences."
However, the kind of exclusion that Krikorian favors is actually present in current immigration law, which requires that applicants be "attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the same.” There also remain several ideological bars, including “advocates of assassination, government overthrow by force, destruction of property, and sabotage.”
Krikorian’s comparatively reasonable remarks shortly gave way to a presentation by James Simpson, introduced by Gaffney as an “investigative journalist” and the author of The Red-Green Axis: Refugees, Immigration, and the Agenda to Erase America, a book available for free online at CSP’s website. Simpson has previously promoted similar conspiracy theories, including one claiming that communists were behind major Latino-rights organizations.
Simpson’s latest bête noire is the U.S.’s refugee-resettlement program, which he claimed is providing “extreme leftists” all the pretext they need to “fundamentally transform America.” According to Gaffney, Simpson travels the country providing training sessions for anti-Muslim activists in communities dealing with an influx of refugees under these programs, which are all overseen by a nefarious United Nations and its cabal of conspirators who want to “erase America.”
He opened his presentation by claiming a quote from a supposed 1960s left-wing radical (actually sourced as an unnamed “SDS radical” ostensibly quoted by right-wing pundit David Horowitz) that he claimed showed their true nature: “The issue is never the issue. The issue is always the revolution.”
What he meant was that issues for them – and it doesn’t matter. You can pick immigration, gay rights, welfare, civil rights, it doesn’t matter. The issue for them is only relevant insofar as it can be used as a vehicle to advance them into positions of power so that they can move forward with the fundamental transformation of this country into a leftist – God knows what. Yes, thank you – socialism.
… This is what we are up against. And the resettlement immigration open-borders agenda is a perfect vehicle for the Left to complete its agenda. And let’s just be clear about it. This is not a new agenda. It’s been going on since the dawn of time. These are simply unscrupulous people, corrupt people who are willing to use any and every tactic to insinuate themselves into positions of power. That’s all it is.
Socialism puts a pretty face on it – ‘We’re here to help the little guy.’ No we’re not. We’re here to insinuate ourselves into power, suck all resources into the federal government, so we can redistribute to our friends and people who are gonna support us. That’s what it’s about.
The resettlement immigration issue is perfect for that. We’re all seeing it. It dilutes American culture by bringing in people from all over the world of disparate cultures who have no understanding of our Constitution, no understanding of the rule of law, no interest in any of that, but only what American society can provide in benefits to them.
They will not support the notion of a constitutional Republican government. That is what is critical and essential, that’s what has made us special, that’s what’s made us the most prosperous nation in the world, and that’s what the Left wants to destroy, because it’s standing in the way.
Simpson explained that the United Nations is the center of this leftist conspiracy, working in cahoots with Islamist radicals to allow in more extremists. Their main vehicle, he claimed, is refugee resettlement.
As evidence of the danger, he claimed that “at least two Paris attackers entered as refugees” (in reality, the only supposed refugee passports found near the bodies carried of two of the ISIS terrorists who killed 140 people in Paris in mid-November are now considered fakes).
And he touted the growing “pockets of resistance” in communities, particularly smaller rural towns such as Twin Falls, Idaho, and Duncan, S.C., where there is growing resistance (some of it led by extremist militiamen) to the possibility that refugees from Syria might be relocated in their midst.
Simpson claimed that these communities face demonization at the hands of “leftist” organizations such as the SPLC:
The resettlement agencies and their various supporters actually went forward and created this campaign designed specifically to oppose these pockets of resistance. And it’s an organized nationwide campaign of vilification. Guess what? Can you just fill in the blanks? What is anybody who opposes the out-of-control, insane refugee resettlement program? You wanna fill in the blank? “Racist! Bigot! Xenophobe! You’re all bad people!”
And it’s an organized effort using the Southern Poverty Law Center and other organizations funded by George Soros and other radical leftist organizations. They’re trying to change the culture by changing the narrative. And it’s a massive, massive operation.
But people are fighting back all over the country. And we call ourselves pockets of resistance. That’s what we’re doing. We’re resisting them.
Simpson was shortly followed by a video presentation from right-wing stalwart Phyllis Schlafly, who has made a career out of leading a number of arch-conservative political battles, beginning with women’s rights and continuing with battles over gay rights and education. But it was immigration and refugee resettlement that were her main focus Monday.
She opened with praise for Gaffney and the CPS:
The American people need someone to alert them to the dangers to our sovereignty. … Illegal immigration is a tremendous attack on our sovereignty. Because the people coming in don’t necessarily want to be Americans, they don’t want to speak English, they don’t want to adopt our ways. They want to help Obama engage in his transformation of the United States of America. But we think we have a perfectly wonderful country, and we want to make it great again.
Obama seems to want to bring into our country anybody who shows up at the border, but we need to be careful about who we let into our country. We want people to come who love us, who want to be Americans.
A few months ago, I wrote about the Syrian immigrants, and they are a real danger. And it’s not only the people who might be vetted – and I don’t think they are vetted when they come in – but even if they were, we find that the next generation of people can be easily radicalized. And they are a danger right in the midst of our country.
Just before lunch, Gaffney introduced Connie Foust, the self-proclaimed “Border Granny” who has made a career as a nativist border watcher based in Arizona.
Foust had a long and colorful career, beginning in 2005, as one of the leaders of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, where, as she described for the audience she eventually became “national border operations director for Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas.”
The MCDC, however, has been defunct since 2010, and its onetime leader, Chris Simcox, is currently awaiting trial in Phoenix on two counts of child molestation. Nowadays, as Foust explained, she is primarily involved with another Arizona border-watch operation called Project Bluelight.
Project Bluelight is run by a resident of Arizona’s Altar Valley, south of Tuscon in the desert borderlands, named Joe Adams. Adams is something of a shadowy figure himself, with a background as a CIA operative and drug smuggler. He was indicted in 1988 for violations of the Neutrality Act as a result of his work helping to fund (often through drug smuggling) and organize the right-wing Contra death squads in Nicaragua in the 1980s, and he later became a private investigator with ties to the Jimmy Hoffa family.
He told a reporter he was naturally attracted to the Minutemen and first joined Chris Simcox’s Minuteman Civil Defense Corps in 2006, but he then left (saying MCDC was “a bunch of people who want to do a good job but don’t know what they’re doing”) to eventually form his own offshoot, which he called Project Bluelight, suggesting that it operates with the tacit cooperation of law enforcement (“blue light” being law enforcement lingo for proceeding with the blessing of police).
Adams also had a yearlong, frequently contentious association with onetime Minuteman border-watch leader Shawna Forde, whom he met when she showed up to promote her own border-watch outfit at a Bluelight border-watch operation. Forde was later charged and convicted in the murders of an Arivaca, Arizona, marijuana smuggler and his nine-year-old daughter in their home in the early morning hours of May 30, 2009, and now sits on Arizona’s Death Row. Adams sent Forde an email breaking off their association the same day the murders took place.
During her speech, Foust described Project Bluelight as “some pretty cool guys” and added: “These are American patriots like no other.” Then she went on to claim that the border watchers had “assisted over the course of these years the Department of Homeland Security, ICE and Border Patrol in the apprehension of 10,000 persons plus. They have seized over 200 loads of narcotics, they have rescued over 100 persons in distress.”
“We have no interest in the worker coming over for a better life. We have an interest in securing our border so we can all have life.”
She then went on to describe in detail how she and other border watchers had observed Muslims coming over the border with “full beards” and “prayer rugs,” and claimed she had the video to prove it.
The extremism and conspiracism reached a real fever pitch, however, when right-wing pundit Wayne Allyn Root – who nowadays styles himself as “the poor man’s Donald Trump” – took to the stage.
Root covered a range of topics. He opened up by ranting against Obamacare, claiming that President Obama nakedly lied in his claims while selling it to the American public. “Now, if I do that, I’m in prison for life like Bernie Madoff,” he said. “It’s called fraud. Someone needs to hold them accountable. Someone needs to put people in jail.”
He called Obama the “worst gambler, degenerate gambler in history” because he is someone who “makes bets he cannot win” and he is “betting with your money and your children’s lives.”
Root also joined in castigating plans to bring in Syrian refugees, and also claimed that he had eyewitness accounts of Muslims coming over the Mexico border.
“No one gives a damn in the media, they don’t care,” he said.
Because their agenda is helping Obama, supporting Obama, defending Obama, championing Obama, and soon it will be helping, championing, and supporting Hillary Clinton, even though we all know in this room that if it was a Republican guilty of everything Hillary’s guilty of, he’d be in prison for the next 20 years. Everyone knows that."
The crimes that Hillary Clinton has committed, no Republican on Earth could get away with – and I’m not talking about Benghazi, I’m not talking about the emails, I’m not talking about the secret surveillance emails.
All I’m talking about is: Can you imagine a Republican Secretary of State working for a Republican president starting a foundation for charity that collects money from foreign governments by the hundreds of millions and billions and then takes the money and hands out government contracts to the same country that made the contribution from the State Department? That’s not a criminal offense, that’s a hanging, treasonous offense.
During the question-and-answer session, a member of the audience asked Root “when we are going to nail Hillary. Is she gonna go to jail?” Root replied that he wasn’t sure: “I don’t know if Comey, the FBI director, is totally on the straight-and-narrow.”
“I believe we’ve got massive blackmail going on in the United States government,” he said. “The NSA, the IRS, their goal is to find out everything about Republicans — not everybody. Republicans.”
“They want to know everything about us, especially Republican politicians in Washington, D.C., and then they blackmail them,” he explained. “Is Comey susceptible to that? I have no idea, but I certainly have my suspicions about the Supreme Court justice of the United States voting twice for Obamacare.”
The day wrapped up with a series of appearances from GOP presidential candidates, who themselves managed to pile on with more extremism.
That was especially the case with Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, whose 15-minute video message ran earlier in the day. Cruz also had praise for Gaffney, who he described as a “patriot” who “has been attacked over and over again for having the courage to stand up and speak the name ‘radical Islamic terrorism’ of the enemy that is waging jihad against us.”
He then went on to claim that President Obama was using the Department of Justice to “attack the First Amendment” by threatening anyone critical of Muslims with prosecution:
It raises the specter that Americans will be labeled as bigots if they dare utter the word “Islam” in connection with a terrorist attack. Our president refuses to do so – in fact, he spent a significant portion of his Sunday address as an apologist for Islam.
… And the Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, told a gathering the day after the attacks in San Bernardino, that her department would move to prosecute anyone whose, quote, “anti-Muslim rhetoric edged toward violence.” As has been the case all too often in the Obama administration, we may be facing the weaponization of one of our own government agencies, deployed not to protect Americans, but to try to force them to submit to the Obama administration’s code of what is and is not acceptable speech.
Cruz did not, however, acknowledge or address the wave of hate crimes and ugly attacks on Muslims that followed immediately in the wake of the San Bernadino murder spree.
The day's events ended with the Senator Rick Santorum and the videotaped messages from fellow GOP candidates Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson, giving Gaffney and the CSP exactly what they wanted: a stamp of approval from mainstream political leaders of all the conspiracy and extremism that came before it.