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Colonel Mustard Is Not A Jihadist

Dahlia Lithwick gets Abdulmutallab's story wrong.

12:00 AM, Jan 12, 2010 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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Actually, citing excerpts from Abdulmutallab’s emails, I specifically argued that “Abdulmutallab was likely radicalized long before he consorted with the likes of Begg.” I did raise the possibility, however, “that Begg and his ilk helped solidify Abdulmutallab's jihadist inclinations.” I also wrote: “Perhaps Begg's jihadist propaganda operation helped push Abdulmutallab further down his dark path.”

It is not clear why this should be “frightening,” and investigators in the UK are certainly not frightened by it. In fact, a few days after I first published my piece, the Times (UK) reported:

 

US counter-terrorism authorities believe that Mr Abdulmutallab began his radicalisation in Britain, where he was a mechanical engineering undergraduate in 2005-08. The British arm of the investigation is focused on who Mr Abdulmutallab met and had contact with at that time and his connection to Cageprisoners is understood to be part of the intelligence picture.

 

The title of the Times piece that includes the excerpt above is “Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had links with London campaign group.” The London campaign group in question is Begg’s Cage Prisoners. We aren’t playing a game of Clue here.

Third, Lithwick gets some basic facts wrong. She says that “Begg didn't participate” in Abdulmutallab’s “War On Terror Week” conference. It is not clear how she arrived at this conclusion. In my piece I noted that I could not find a transcript or video of his appearance. But this doesn’t mean that he didn’t participate. The aforementioned Times piece and other accounts in the British press say that he did. The Times piece also says that Begg denies remembering meeting Abdulmutallab (there is no reason for anyone besides Lithwick to take his word for it), but concedes that he did speak at the UCL five or six times.

War on Terror week: Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutullab's name appears in the lower left hand corner of this poster for "War on Terror Week." Former Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg is featured prominently on the poster.War on Terror week: Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutullab's name appears in the lower left hand corner of this poster for "War on Terror Week." Former Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg is featured prominently on the poster.

Begg’s appearance at Abdulmutallab’s conference was also prominently featured in the Islamic Society’s advertisements for the event. A poster that was created for the event included both the Christmas Day bomber’s name in the lower left-hand corner and Begg’s name as a guest speaker. A video advertisement that has been blocked from public view in recent weeks also featured Begg.

Lithwick also gets it wrong when she writes that “the Pentagon counts among those who have ‘returned to terrorist activities’ former prisoners who have publicly made anti-American statements.” According to the last recidivist study released by the Pentagon, “engagement in anti-U.S. propaganda alone does not qualify as terrorist activity.” This was true for both “confirmed” and “suspected” cases of recidivism – that is, it was true for all of the former detainees included in the study.

 

So, Lithwick simply got it wrong even with respect to this basic fact. Ironically, she laments the supposed lack of “factual accuracy…when it comes to Guantanamo.”

 

The rest of her piece is similarly flawed, as it has to be. It is a piece of fiction, just like Moazzam Begg’s story about his “experiences” at Gitmo. That is the only way she can continue to pretend that most of the men at Gitmo were not terrorists, but instead “largely just unlucky.”

Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. 

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