The ADL Smears Mike Pompeo
By Sohrab Ahmari
April 19, 2018
Anti-Defamation League tapped Jonathan Greenblatt to serve as its CEO in 2015,
there were concerns that the Obama White House alumnus would turn the venerable
civil-rights group into an arm of the Democratic Party. Alas, those concerns
have proved well-founded. Witness Greenblatt’s letter this week opposing Mike
Pompeo, President Trump’s choice for America’s next secretary of state, for
the flimsiest of reasons.
Running to more
than 5,000 words, the letter accuses the CIA director of fanning bigotry with
irresponsible statements about radical Islam. Greenblatt goes so far as to
suggest that Pompeo’s attitudes are redolent of classic anti-Semitism.
That’s a serious charge. It is also utterly baseless. If Pompeo is “Islamophobic,”
then so is the ADL. As it turns out, the secretary of state-designate and the
ADL have remarkably similar views on the nature of the Islamist threat.
Pompeo’s allegedly culpable statements with the ADL’s long record of public
advocacy on radical Islam, the homegrown Islamist threat, and Islamist
ideologues and networks operating in the U.S. homeland.
The Silence of
American Muslim Organizations
The ADL fulminates
against Pompeo for suggesting that some American Muslim organizations don’t go
far enough in condemning terrorism and the ideologies that inspire it. Here’s
In the aftermath
of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing when responsible leaders were attempting to
calm interfaith tensions, Mr. Pompeo did the opposite. . . . Despite the
numerous and repeated condemnations of extremism that Muslims and Muslim leaders
had voiced, then-Rep. Pompeo said that ‘silence in the face of extremism
coming from the best funded Islamic advocacy organizations, and many mosques
across America, is absolutely deafening.’
Yet the ADL has
also criticized American Muslim organizations for failing to condemn terrorism
unequivocally, and in terms that have been as harsh if not harsher than
Pompeo’s. Consider the ADL’s profile of the Council on American Islamic
Relations, or CAIR, one of the largest and most visible of such groups.
“CAIR’s stated commitment to ‘justice and mutual understanding,’” the
. . . is
undermined by its anti-Israel agenda. . . . While CAIR has denounced specific
acts of terrorism in the U.S. and abroad, for many years it refused to
unequivocally condemn Palestinian terror organizations and Hebzollah by name. .
. . CAIR’s more recent criticism on Hezbollah began only when the terrorist
organization stopped focusing solely on Israel and began engaging in military
operations against Sunni Muslim fighters in Syria and Iraq.
years before Pompeo made his speech on the House floor calling on American
Muslim organizations to more forcefully condemn terror—the ADL described major
Muslim-American organizations’ anti-radicalization efforts as “a
sham.” The ADL news release read:
As the number of
American Muslim extremists allegedly involved in terror plots in the U.S. and
abroad continues to grow, major Muslim-American organizations have publicly
acknowledged the existence of a problem in their community and vowed to tackle
it head on. But the initial efforts to root out radicalization—announced by a
few of these groups in the wake of the arrests in Pakistan of five
Muslim-American students from Virginia for allegedly attempting to join a
terrorist group—has proven to be a sham and a cover for anti-Semitism and
extremism, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
So much for
Greenblatt’s claim that Pompeo’s concerns about Muslim organizations made
the then-congressman an outlier in the American conversation about Islamism and
terror. That is, unless Greenblatt is willing to concede that the ADL, too, was
bigoted and out of the mainstream as recently as a few years ago.
The ADL’s letter
also takes Pompeo to task for allegedly promoting a “conspiracy theory that a
fifth column of Muslims exists in the United States with the express purpose of
undermining the country.” To prove the charge, the ADL quotes from a 2014
interview with Pompeo in which he said:
organizations and networks here in the United States tied to radical Islam in
deep and fundamental ways, and they’re not just in places like Libya, and
Syria, and Iraq, but in places like Coldwater, Kansas and small towns all
throughout America. This network is real. The efforts to expand the caliphate
are not limited to the physical geography of the Middle East or in the other
places where there are large Muslim majorities.
The ADL also
quoted from a 2015 speech in which then-Congressman Pompeo said:
I don’t think
that you can define the challenge by geography but rather we have a military,
political, and diplomatic challenge and a faith-driven challenge to figure out
how to contain what is not a small minority inside the Islamic faith that
believes in much of what it is we are facing in the Middle East today and the
threats that we face here in America as well.
Pompeo’s views, he believes, first, that there are radical-Islamic networks
that operate in the American heartland, and, second, that the Islamist threat is
not a geographic one but an ideological and globe-spanning challenge to Western
security. Well, the ADL has long suggested the same things, sometimes in nearly
statement from an ADL report marking a decade after 9/11:
The ideologies of
extreme intolerance that motivated the 19 hijackers responsible for carrying out
the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks continue to pose a serious threat to
While no attacks
of that magnitude have been successful on American soil in the ten years since
9/11, one of the most striking elements of today’s terror threat picture is
the role that a growing number of American citizens and residents motivated by
radical interpretations of Islam have played in criminal plots to attack
Americans in the United States and abroad.
Although they do
not constitute a fully coherent movement in the U.S., more and more American
citizens and residents are being influenced by ideologies that justify and
sanction violence commonly propagated by Islamic terrorist movements overseas.
In addition to
disagreements with perceived American actions against Muslims around the world,
these extremists believe that the West (and America specifically) is at war with
Islam and it is the duty of Muslims to defend the global Muslim community
through violent means. They come from diverse backgrounds and, as a whole, do
not easily fit a specific profile. About one fourth are converts to Islam who
embrace the most extreme interpretations of the religion.
Likewise, in a
2013 report on homegrown Islamism that was published in the wake of the Boston
Marathon bombings, the ADL noted:
Marathon bombing in April 2013 served as a tragic reminder of the persistent
threat posed to the United States by homegrown extremists motivated by the
ideologies and objectives commonly propagated by Islamic terrorist movements
overseas. The bombing also underscored the significant influence and impact of
online terrorist propaganda on a new generation of homegrown Islamic extremists.
proficiency and the use of social media grow ever-more universal, so too do the
efforts of terrorist groups to exploit new technology in order to make materials
that justify and sanction violence more accessible and practical. Terrorist
groups are not only using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and various other
platforms to spread their messages, but also to actively recruit adherents who
live in the communities they seek to target. . . .
fundamental ideological content of terrorist propaganda has remained consistent
for two decades—replete with militant condemnations of perceived American
transgressions against Muslims worldwide, appeals for violence and
anti-Semitism—terrorists groups are now able to reach, recruit and motivate
homegrown extremists more quickly and effectively than ever before by adapting
their messages to new technology. One clear indication of the success of these
efforts is the number of homegrown extremists that have been found in possession
of terrorist propaganda.
homegrown Islamic extremists have lacked the capacity to carry out violent
attacks—plots have been foiled by law enforcement at various stages—the
Boston bombing showed how two brothers influenced by online terrorist propaganda
can terrorize our communities and undermine our security.
The ADL, then, acknowledged the ideological nature of the Islamist threat and its homegrown dimension. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If Pompeo’s remarks are beyond the pale, so are the ADL’s positions. Senators weighing Pompeo’s fitness to serve as America’s top diplomat can be forgiven for dismissing this cheap attempt at sliming him. It is the ADL’s donors and supporters who should be asking tough questions—of Greenblatt.