It is now well-established in Washington that any scandal, no matter how seemingly innocuous, soon is given the suffix "-gate," establishing a lineal connection to the mother of all scandals, Watergate.
Well, let me be the first to suggest that a recent scandal in the Pentagon be known hereafter as "Front-gate" in recognition of the central role played in the drama by the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), an organization designated by the Justice Department as a front for the Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan). With the House and Senate both back in business this week, Front-gate should be subjected to close congressional scrutiny since it may involve the most strategically ominous case of official misconduct since the Clinton administration's China-gate.
The Front-gate saga began with the firing last month of Stephen Coughlin, a major in the Army Reserves working as a civilian contractor for the Joint Chiefs of Staff when he ran afoul of one Hashem Islam, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England's point-man on Muslim community outreach.
Hashem Islam is also evidently an admirer of ISNA. He arranged for Mr. England to address one of the group's meetings last year -- a huge help to an organization reeling from its designation by the Bush Justice Department not only as a Brotherhood front but as an unindicted co-conspirator in a terrorism-financing conspiracy.
According to reporting by The Washington Times' national security correspondent, Bill Gertz, the sacking of Maj. Coughlin was precipitated by a sharp disagreement with Mr. Islam over ISNA. The former had made a serious study of this and other Islamist organizations as part of a 333-page thesis titled "To Our Great Detriment: Ignoring What Extremists Say About Jihad," prepared for and recently accepted by the National Defense Intelligence College.
Based on his analysis of the Islamofascist roots and agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood, Stephen Coughlin was given to warning his military audiences that it was no "moderate" organization. For example, he notes that one of the Ikhwan's most prominent leaders, Sheik Yousef Al-Qaradhawi, has declared: "The abduction and killing of Americans in Iraq is an obligation so as to cause them to leave Iraq immediately."
Maj. Coughlin has also studied the evidence submitted by the government in the Holy Land Foundation trial, including this chilling passage from a 1991 Muslim Brotherhood memorandum about its mission: "The Ikwan['s]... work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and 'sabotaging' its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and Allah's religion is made victorious over all other religions."
Mr. Islam reportedly told the Joint Staff's Maj. Coughlin to soften his criticism of the Brotherhood's ISNA and, when the latter refused, defamed him as "a Christian zealot with a pen." Some accounts add that it was a "poison" pen. Since Maj. Coughlin is not giving his side of the story to the press, it may require a congressional subpoena to get it properly told.
What is known, however, is that shortly after this exchange, the Joint Chiefs of Staff did not renew Maj. Coughlin's contract, which will expire at the end of March. Mr. Gertz reports the Chiefs deemed it "too hot" to retain the services of a man widely believed to be the military's most knowledgeable expert on the Islamist ideology of our enemies.
Unfortunately, the sacking of Stephen Coughlin is not only a scandal in its own right. It is a window into a variety of actions that cry out for congressional investigations. These include:
• The true nature, agenda and sources of funding of Muslim Brotherhood front organizations like the Islamic Society of North America and the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). Sen. Jon Kyl convened a most informative Judiciary Committee hearing on the latter several years ago; it is time for an updated and more comprehensive review of the subject.
• The judgment, if not the loyalties, of those in government who promote such organizations -- especially those officials who insist that Brotherhood fronts be the "go-to" groups for Muslim outreach, to the exclusion of anti-Islamist Muslims.
• The extent of Islamist penetration of the U.S. government. Such an evaluation should examine, among other things: Muslim military chaplains recruited and credentialed by Abdurahman Alamoudi, a convicted felon now serving 23 years in federal prison for terrorism-associated crimes; Saudi-sponsored travel and indoctrination of armed forces personnel; any Islamist ties to mosques on military bases like the Marine Corps' Quantico facility; and "sensitivity" training for FBI agents by CAIR.
• The larger, seditious political-religious-legal agenda the Islamists call Shariah and its newest, alarming manifestation: "Shariah Finance" (also doing business around the world as "Islamic banking," "ethical finance" or "structured finance"). To his credit, a freshman Rep. Paul Broun, Georgia Republican, last week convened the first Capitol Hill briefing for House members and staff concerning this deeply worrisome Trojan horse in Western capital markets, drawing on research developed by and for the Center for Security Policy.
The needed congressional investigations into Front-gate and related matters should result not only in a full airing of the Coughlin-Islam affair. They should ensure that the military is not denied in time of war the services of so able a student of our enemy, its motivations and doctrine as Maj. Coughlin.
If anything, as part of a comprehensive effort to counter the influence operations and penetration activities of Muslim Brotherhood front organizations, patriots like Steve Coughlin should be entrusted with even greater responsibilities -- by Congress, if not the executive branch.
By Frank J. Gaffney Jr.
The Washington Times
Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. is the founder, president, and CEO of The Center for Security Policy. During the Reagan administration, Gaffney was the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear Forces and Arms Control Policy, and a Professional Staff Member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, chaired by Senator John Tower (R-Texas). He is a columnist for The Washington Times, Jewish World Review, and Townhall.com and has also contributed to The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The New Republic, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, The Los Angeles Times, and Newsday.