Huma Abedin, a longtime aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, briefly appeared on the national political radar screen when her husband, former congressman Anthony Weiner, resigned in disgrace. Now she???s got a starring role in a bit of Washington controversy that has nothing to do with Weiner???s disgusting behavior.
At issue are connections between Abedin???s family and the Muslim Brotherhood, which has a rather mixed reputation in Washington these days. The so-called ???Arab Spring??? was really about the rise of the Brotherhood into power across much of the Arab world. A sizable portion of the foreign policy establishment is struggling to digest them as international ???partners in peace,??? while studiously ignoring that nasty terrorist jihad aftertaste.
A group of House Republicans - including Reps. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Tom Rooney of Florida, Trent Franks of Arizona, and Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia ??? recently sent a letter to various security agencies, including the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Justice, expressing concern about undue influence exercised within the U.S. Government by the Muslim Brotherhood. ???Given that the U.S. government has established in federal court that the Muslim Brotherhood???s mission in the United States is ???destroying the Western civilization from within??? ??? a practice the Brothers call ???civilization jihad??? ??? we believe that the apparent involvement of those with such ties raises serious security concerns that warrant your urgent attention,??? the authors of this letter declared.
The representatives are concerned that the Brotherhood is conducting deliberate operations to influence U.S. policy, by creating ???a fundamental misunderstanding of the Muslim Brotherhood by U.S. intelligence ??? which could, in turn, have contributed to the policy community???s susceptibility to subversion at the hands of the Brothers and their allies.??? The remarkable February 2011 description of the Muslim Brotherhood as a ???largely secular??? group interested in ???social ends??? and ???the betterment of the political order in Egypt??? by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper is cited as an example.
The Brotherhood???s motto reads, ???Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. The Koran is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.??? If those are all supposed to be metaphorical references to internal spiritual struggles by a ???largely secular??? group, they???ve got the most metaphorical motto ever written.
It was another letter, this one sent to the Inspector General of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, that created the most intense controversy. In this letter, also signed by Reps. Bachmann, Franks, Gohmert, Rooney, and Westmoreland, connections between Huma Abedin???s family and the Muslim Brotherhood were questioned.
The letter noted that the State Department, sometimes under the specific direction of Abedin???s boss Hillary Clinton, has ???taken actions recently that have been enormously favorable to the Muslim Brotherhood and its interests,??? including Secretary Clinton???s personal intervention to grant Brotherhood leader Tariq Ramadan entry into the United States. Clinton???s waiver of restrictions on financial aid to Egypt and the Palestinian Authority were also mentioned.
The Inspector General was therefore asked to ???conduct a formal investigation or evaluation of the extent to which Muslim Brotherhood-tied individuals and entities have helped achieve the adoption of these State Department actions and policies, or are involved in their execution.??? The IG is asked to recommend ???corrective action??? in his report, ???consistent with the Constitution and laws of the United States, to ensure that no Muslim Brotherhood-associated entity or individual is placed into a position of honor or trust within the programs and operations of the Department of State unless he or she has publicly condemned and disclaimed the previously stated goals of the Muslim Brotherhood.??? The statute granting the IG authority to prepare such a report is cited in the letter.
The list of items to be included in the Inspector General???s report does not specifically mention Abedin, level any accusations against her, or call for any particular action against her. The prominent mention of her family ties to the Muslim Brotherhood earlier in the letter is obviously meant as an example of the sort of influence Rep. Bachmann and the others want investigated, but the sum total of Abedin???s mention in the letter reads as follows:
???For example, according to ???The Muslim Brotherhood in America: The Enemy Within,??? a product of the Center for Security Policy (www.MuslimBrotherhoodInAmerica.com), the Department???s Deputy Chief of Staff, Huma Abedin, has three family members ??? her late father, her mother, and her brother ??? connected to the Muslim Brotherhood operatives and organizations. Her position affords her routine access to the Secretary and to policy-making.???
For merely asking these questions, Bachmann, Gohmert, and the others have been savaged by the Washington establishment, including top Republicans. House Speaker John Boehner is on board, telling reporters ???I don???t know Huma, but from everything that I do know of her, she has a sterling character. Accusations like this being thrown around are pretty dangerous.???
???The letter alleges that three members of Huma???s family are ???connected to Muslim Brotherhood operatives and/or organizations.??? Never mind that one of those individuals, Huma???s father, passed away two decades ago,??? thundered Senator John McCain. ???The letter and the report offer not one instance of an action, a decision, or a public position that Huma has taken while at the State Department that would lend credence to the charge that she is promoting anti-American activities within our government. Nor does either document offer any evidence of a direct impact that Huma may have had on one of the U.S. policies with which the authors of the letter and the producers of the report find fault. These sinister accusations rest solely on a few unspecified and unsubstantiated associations of members of Huma???s family, none of which have been shown to harm or threaten the United States in any way. These attacks on Huma have no logic, no basis, and no merit. And they need to stop now.???
Well, yes, it???s true that the letter ???offers not one instance of an action, a decision, or a public position??? that McCain???s first-name good friend Huma has taken at State that ???would lend credence to the charge that she is promoting anti-American activities within our government.??? No such charge is made in the letter. Its purpose was to ask the Inspector General to investigate the possibility of undue influence by the Muslim Brotherhood upon U.S. policy decisions. If the authors of the letter were in possession of smoking-gun evidence of such influence, they wouldn???t be asking for an investigation. And the sort of influence envisioned by ???the Bachmann letter,??? as it has come to be known, is well short of anti-American subversion.
It should be possible to object to the line of questioning laid out for the Inspector General without mischaracterizing it. But McCain, and many other strident critics of the Bachmann letter, don???t seem interested in dealing honestly with what it actually said. In fact, they???re doing exactly what they accused the letter authors of doing.
There are a lot of worldwide Islamist groups, connected in complex ways. The use of front groups, creating a more acceptable public ???face??? for dangerous organizations, is hardly unheard-of. The clear implication of the backlash against Bachmann, Gohmert, and the others is that we???re not even allowed to ask questions about any of it.