The FBI has publicly declared that its counterterrorism training seminars linking “mainstream” Muslims to terrorists was a “one time only” affair that began and ended in April 2011. But two months later, the Bureau employee who delivered those controversial briefings gave a similar lecture to a gathering of dozens of law enforcement officials at an FBI-sponsored public-private partnership in New York City.
And during that June presentation, the FBI’s William Gawthrop told his audience that the fight against al-Qaida is a “waste,” compared to the threat presented by the ideology of Islam itself.
“At the operational level, you have groups such as Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Qaida. Like teeth in a shark, it is irrelevant if you take one group out,” Gawthrop said during his lecture to the New York Metro Infragard at the World Financial Center in downtown Manhattan.
Since Danger Room published the contents of Gawthrop’s April lecture, top Senators and representatives from Arab- and Muslim-American groups have blasted the FBI for the training documents, which compare Mohammed to a “cult leader.”
This June 8 lecture is controversial in a different way. In Gawthrop’s worldview, the struggle against al-Qaida is really just an afterthought in a broader war. The group that knocked down the World Trade Center and rammed a jet into the Pentagon is a mere distraction. These are the professional assessments of a representative from the nation’s top domestic counterterrorism agency — a man considered so expert in understanding militant strategy that the FBI had him training agents on the subject.
“We waste a lot of analytic effort talking about the type of weapon, the timing, the tactics. All of that is irrelevant … if you have an Islamic motivation for actions,” Gawthrop said. Even taking down hostile states like Iran is futile, since “there are still internal forces that will seek to exert Islamic rule again.”
The best strategy for undermining militants, Gawthrop suggested, is to go after Islam itself. To undermine the validity of key Islamic scriptures and key Muslim leaders.
“If you remember Star Wars, that ventilation shaft that goes down to into the depths of the Death Star, they shot a torpedo down there. That’s a critical vulnerability,” Gawthrop told his audience. Then he waved a laser pointer at his projected PowerPoint slide, calling attention to the words “Holy Texts” and “Clerics.”
“We should be looking at, should be aiming at, these,” Gawthrop said.