Thursday, March 25, 2010

Recipe for Profiling: Boston Transit Police Study the "Legal Wing of Jihad in America"

Why are Boston Transit Police Studying Islam?

While reading the February/March 2010 issue of the industry magazine Counter Terrorist (a publication of Security Solutions International), I came across a troubling advertisement.

On May 10-12, 2010, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is sponsoring a three-day seminar in Florida that takes participants through the “formative phases of the Islamic religion” and the branches and ideologies of Islam to help them “really understand how extremism is organized in Radical Islam.”

The MBTA is promoting a discriminatory seminar, led by SSI Security Solutions International, which raises concerns about whether such training is counter-productive, promotes racial and religious profiling, and makes local residents less safe. Why is the cash-strapped MBTA using limited funds to study the political or religious motives of potential terrorists? Is this the best way to keep T riders safe? How will this training affect religious and ethnic/racial bias among intelligence officials and the police?

The course content, according to the advertisement, includes “Arab naming conventions,” “Women in Islam and Female Suicide Bombers,” and “The Legal wing of Jihad in America.” Of what concern is the LEGAL wing of [alleged] jihad in America to the Boston’s transit police since it is, by that definition, legal?

This course promotes thinly-disguised Islamophobia that harkens back to McCarthyistic witch hunts for communist front organizations. It has nothing to do with effective law enforcement. Indoctrinating metro Boston law enforcement with these inflammatory views is a recipe for racial, ethnic, religious, and political profiling. Unquestionably, courses of this nature will lead law enforcement attendees to subject individuals to increased scrutiny (and possibly illegal searches) based on their appearance and beliefs, rather than conduct. Law enforcement resources are better spent protecting infrastructure and observing criminal conduct, not studying (or tracking) peoples’ religious belief systems and political motivations.

Security Solutions International is a Miami-based company founded in 2004 [1] that bills itself as a frontline defense against the threat of “radical Islam” and prime provider of “homeland security training” to a range of clients, including local police forces, corporations, and federal agencies. [2] Employing alarmist rhetoric about Islamic groups’ purported existential threat to the United States in the “war on terror,” SSI’s website encourages “first Responders and interested members of the concerned public to help Security Solutions International fight the war on terror. Radical Islam has an agenda and wants to destroy our country. As part of our mission, we are dedicated to keeping you informed about the enemy and developments in this global conflict.”[3]

According to the bio of SSI’s CEO, Solomon Bradman, he formerly managed “Diplomat Trading, a multi-million dollar exporter of Electronic Equipment specializing in Central America, South America and the Caribbean. He has a Bachelor's degree from Thomas Edison State College in Aviation. His management and administrative training and experience began while running the fixed base operation at Marathon Airport back in 1984 where he eventually ended up manager, chief pilot, and head flight instructor until moving to Denver to pursue a pilot position with Rocky Mountain Airways. … Over the last three years his responsibilities as CEO of SSI have required his experience and full attention to Administration, Marketing, Sales, Product Development and Public Relations, including being a spokesperson for SSI and appearing on news casts on NBC, CBS, and ABC commenting on SSI programs and security issues. He also provides articles on Aviation-related security issues to top publications such as Business Aviation, Helicopter Monthly and others.” [4]

SSI lists two products that are presumably provided to people who sign up to be SSI “Patriot Partners”: the Counter Terrorist newsletter, an SSI publication that claims to keep readers “up-to-date with developments, technologies, successes and … failures in the global struggle against Islamofascism”; and “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War against the West,” a controversial film described as “hate propaganda” by some critics and distributed by the Clarion Fund, a nonprofit organization closely linked to both the U.S. and Israeli right-wing. [5]

Among the activities SSI advertises on its website are a training course for law enforcement agencies that is entitled “The Islamic Jihadist Threat” and a Department of Homeland Security-funded training program in Israel for U.S. clients. According to SSI’s website, this course is a two-day program “designed to give First Responders a deep understanding of the terror mindset and an explanation of the reasons for the Global Jihad as well as practical tips for Law Enforcement in detecting, preventing and responding to acts of terror.” Course topics include “Where does the hatred come from?- Arab naming conventions - Jihad - The Five Pillars of Islam - Ramadan - Domestic Terror groups - International Terror groups - Understanding the culture of Jihad.”[6]

The course has been harshly criticized. In 2008, for example, the Washington state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) argued that SSI’s training at the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission promoted stereotypes that could lead to prejudicial profiling of Muslims. A CAIR representative told the Seattle Times, “Most police officers don’t have a basic grounding in Islam, so before you teach them about Islam, how can you teach them about radical Islam? It just makes you nervous because when a law-enforcement person pulls someone over, when they see a Muslim person or someone who appears Muslim to them—all this information they just learned kicks in.”[7]

In August 2009, Political Research Associates attended a two-hour presentation by Long Beach, California, Police Detective Ebrahim Ashabi, SSI’s purported expert on Islamic culture. Det. Ashabi says he is trying to help law enforcement “gain a better understanding of how terrorists think and why they are terrorists.” He offered an explanation of the political and social origins of Islam, the Spread of Islam, Prophet Muhammad, Ottoman Empire, The Crusades, the Muslim brotherhood, Hezbollah, and the long-term goals of terrorism. Such lessons are counter-productive; by suggesting that violent terrorism finds its roots in the Islamic religion, SSI is legitimizing claims by terrorist organizations that their acts are justified by faith, when in fact they are distorting Islam for their own political aims.

Det. Ashabi provided a window into the mindset of some counter terrorism specialists who believe that there are no good Muslims, only bad ones. Ashabi contends that the Muslim Brotherhood aims “to destroy Western civilization from within, through subversive means, legal, political and non-terrorist means, and by changing laws and U.S. constitution. He cited several examples of Islamic “infiltration,” such as the July 29, 2009 arrest of 7 men in North Carolina charged with terrorist conspiracy to wage an Islamic holy war overseas; the Holy Land Foundation case (wherein individuals were accused of giving aid to a group with ties to Hamas that was not on the U.S. government’s list of forbidden charities); and the shooting of police deputy in Fresno by a Kashmir group.

However, with those criminal cases, Ashabi lumps in “on-going threats of lawsuits against police and other law enforcement agencies that offer counter terrorism and race awareness training programs (alleging racial, religious profiling) as means of intimidating police departments to stop training programs.” He cited the July 2009 case (above) of the Seattle Police Department taking criticism from CAIR over its race awareness program. PRA’s investigator, Mary Fischer, observed, “It’s Ashabi’s belief that CAIR is a serious threat to U.S. safety and that the organization continues to permeate all facets of our society in effort to undermine it. One strategy it seeks to use--nominate Muslim sympathizers to political office and law enforcement ranks to then gain access to computer databases.”

So, the MBTA is sponsoring a seminar which views as suspect Muslim-Americans’ participation in the democratic political process. We need to tell MBTA officials that the public does not approve of this religious prejudice. This is not the first time that MBTA has partnered with SSI. In August 2009, PRA requested records related to a similar course held in Massachusetts last year, but the MBTA failed to supply the requested materials. No law enforcement agency should not be lending its name or funds to SSI, whose aim is to stir up suspicion of all Arab, Muslim, Middle Eastern, and South Asian persons, or to get rich trying.

* UPDATE: In response to community concerns, the MBTA canceled its sponsorship of the seminar run by Security Solutions International on March 31, 2010.

1. Market Wire, “Miami Becomes the Homeland Security Capital of the USA during the UASI National Conference April 10th-April 13th,” April 5, 2007.
2. See Security Solutions International website.
3. SSI, “Patriot Partners,” (accessed September 28, 2009)
4. SSI, “Corporate Officers,” (accessed September 28, 2009)
5. SSI, “Patriot Partners,” (accessed September 28, 2009)
6. SSI, “The Islamic Jihadist Threat,” (accessed October 1, 2009)
7. Janet I. Tu, “Does Course on Islam Give law Enforcers Wrong Idea?” Seattle Times, May 26, 2008.

Information for this posting also comes from Right Web, a project of Political Research Associates,