When most people hear about jihadists, they usually think of radicals in far-off Middle Eastern cities… Not our own towns and neighborhoods. But it's in these very "all-American" towns that Jihadi Terrorists hide, plot, and wait.
So how can law enforcement investigate these terrorist networks?
- Implications of US v Holy Land Foundation Trial as it relates to jihadi networks currently operating in the US.
- Tools and resources available to identify jihadi organizations working at the state and local level, and
- Effective strategies to identify, investigate, prosecute, and dismantle the jihadi network at the state and local level.
Justice Clearinghouse Editors (JCH): Let’s start from the beginning: What do you mean by the phrase “jihadi network?” What are some of the jihadi networks currently operating here in the US that state/local law enforcement might not know about?
Chris Gaubatz: There are multiple jihadi groups operating in the US, to include Al Qaeda, the Islamic State, and the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood has the most extensive network here in the US, by far, of all the groups operating here. These jihadi networks are comprised of hundreds of non-profit organizations, Islamic Centers (mosques), and Islamic Societies, as well as prominent groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), and the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT).
JCH: You mentioned a court case, US v Holy Land Foundation. Without getting too far into the weeds, what was the case about and how does it apply here?
Chris: The US v Holy Land Foundation is the largest terrorism financing trial ever successfully prosecuted in America. At the time it was indicted (2001), the HLF was the largest Islamic charity operating in the US. The HLF leadership was convicted in 2008 for supporting the US State Department designated terrorist group Hamas. During the course of the trial, the US government demonstrated that several of the most prominent Islamic organizations in America, to include the Islamic Society of North America, the North American Islamic Trust, and the Council on American Islamic Relations are a part of the Muslim Brotherhood’s network here in the US. Evidence entered into the trial also demonstrated that the Muslim Brotherhood’s goal here in North America is to wage “civilization jihad” to destroy America from within.
JCH: You’ve had a great deal of experience with Jihad organizations. What’s perhaps the one misunderstanding or misconception some law enforcement officers still have about these organizations?
Chris: One of the most misunderstood elements of jihadi organizations operating in the US is that they are only working on physical jihad, or what we call terrorism. These organizations also work in the realm of intelligence, influence operations, and espionage.
When people hear the information about the global Islamic movement
and those jihadi elements here in the US,
they are always shocked to see how crystal clear the threat is.
JCH: What is unique about investigating jihadi networks at the state or local level, that law enforcement agencies might not initially think about?
Chris: Law enforcement typically doesn’t think of counterintelligence and influence operations as being an element to jihadi groups, but it is a key component to protecting their agencies and communities from jihadi (organizations and individuals).
JCH: The Jihadi world seems to be a HUGE topic. Just keeping up with all the changes and evolutions of jihadi organizations must be challenging. What keeps you motivated and engaged to keep constantly learning about this topic?
Chris: I am motivated by our founding principles: who we are as a nation that loves and protects liberty. It is not enough to fight against something; we have to know what we are fighting for. I know that this war we are in is winnable. I would not keep going if I did not think we could be victorious. When people hear the information about the global Islamic movement and those jihadi elements here in the US, they are always shocked to see how crystal clear the threat is, and that if we will but take the time to understand the enemy ie ‘understand the threat,' then there is no reason we cannot soundly defeat these jihadi groups at all levels.