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Friday July 20, 2012

Frank Gaffney’s Fill-in-the-Blank Boogeyman

Posted by Frank Matt at 2:47 pm

A name that has been ubiquitous in recent coverage of Michele Bachmann’s witch-hunt is Frank Gaffney, founder and president of the Center for Security Policy. Gaffney and the CSP were the sole sources cited in the initial letters to various government agencies, and the allegations within largely mirror those in Gaffney’s 10 part training film “Muslim Brotherhood in America.” Gaffney and his organization allege that the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated our government at various levels and is currently influencing policy in their favor, with the ultimate goal of implementing Sharia in the United States.

While the Muslim Brotherhood has been Gaffney’s boogeyman of choice recently, a bit of digging by ThinkProgress’s Matt Duss into CSC’s past campaigns and publications revealed that within the past 10 years Gaffney has leveled nearly verbatim charges of infiltration against an “Iran Lobby” and a “Wahhabi Lobby.” The striking similarity in language suggests that Gaffney’s “research” is actually more of a game of fear-mongering mad-libs, in which he simply fills in the blank to accuse these assorted nebulous boogeymen of infiltrating the government.

In 2002, Gaffney penned an op-ed about the “Wahhabi Lobby,” which he described as “a far-flung network of organizations associated with the agenda of the radical Wahhabist sect of Islam and largely financed, directly or indirectly, by the Saudi Arabian government and its proxies.” This network, he claimed, was responsible for “an organized, highly disciplined and skillfully targeted influence operation aimed at U.S. political institutions, the media and businesses, and underwriting ominous recruitment efforts on campus, in the prisons and even in the U.S. military.”

In 2009, Gaffney’s CSP issued a 25 page report about the existence of an “Iran Lobby.” Gaffney defined the Iran Lobby as follows:

“A complex network of individuals and organizations with ties to the clerical regime in Tehran is pressing forward in seeming synchrony to influence the new U.S. administration’s policy towards the Islamic Republic of Iran. Spearheaded by a de facto partnership between the National Iranian-American Council (NIAC), the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and other organizations serving as mouthpieces for the mullahs’ party line, the network includes well-known American diplomats, congressional representatives, figures from academia and the think tank world.”

Gaffney’s descriptions about the “Wahhabi Lobby,” “Iran Lobby,” and “Muslim Brotherhood in America” are practically identical. Each contains claims of close coordination between groups and individuals with completely disparate goals. Each lobby, he claims, have managed to penetrate the highest levels of government and successfully subvert American interests to invented global Islamist agendas. The only aspect that changes is the organization behind it all, which he apparently changes to match whatever imagined enemy is on the tip of Islamophobes’ tongues in any given year.

CSP also employs the same bafflingly shoddy logic to accuse academics and government officials of taking part in these fill-in-the-blank plots. From a 2009 CSP Report, here is the logic used to implicate U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice:

“Amb. Rice served on the board of directors for the Center for a New American Security. While CNAS is not formally connected directly with either NIAC or Trita Parsi, the foreign policy positions of its affiliates correspond strongly to the preferred policy positions of Tehran’s mullahs.”

This “six degrees of separation” logic is the only sort Gaffney has ever employed to smear his alleged conspirators, including Deputy Chief of Staff to Sec. Hilary Clinton, Huma Abedin. Anderson Cooper summed up Gaffney’s logic in tying Ms. Abedin to the Muslim Brotherhood:  "Huma Abedin's deceased father, who started an organization decades ago, had the support of a guy who had another organization that might have had the support of another organization, the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Frank Gaffney has been peddling his conspiracy theories for years. The only aspect of his accusations that has changed is the names of the organizations infiltrating and influencing the government. The substance and logic behind his accusations has neither changed nor improved, so it’s somewhat surprising that he has managed to get traction and press for one of his theories. The difference this time around is simple… Frank Gaffney managed to find five members of Congress as willing as he is to parade paranoia and flagrant falsehoods as empirical evidence.

Tagged as Issues, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Islamophobia, Posted by Frank Matt

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