Counterterrorism trainings offered by former FBI agent and anti-Muslim activist John Guandolo have been the subject of increased media scrutiny recently, and last month an academy yanked accreditation for a training he offered for law enforcement officers in Virginia.
Even so, Guandolo continued with the three-day training in Culpeper County — with the full support of the local sheriff — and was vigorously defended by notorious anti-Muslim strategist Robert Spencer in a lengthy blog post last week.
Now, Guandolo is switching gears from law enforcement training to “civilian training.” Next week, he is scheduled to offer a two-day course “Understanding and Identifying Jihadi Networks in Your Neighborhood” in Northern Virginia. An overview for the event reads:
“Our civilian training seminar is taught by former FBI Special Agent, counterterrorism expert, and author, John Guandolo. Our training is in high demand and courses fill up, so be sure to register and mark your calendar at your earliest convenience to ensure your spot in this crucial training!”
It is clear why shifting away from accredited courses might be a smart strategy for Guandolo. A “civilian training” that is open to the public would not need the same type of vetting that would required for credit-based courses for law enforcement officials. Law enforcement agencies concerned with receiving credible information without an explicitly anti-Muslim slant would be wise to steer clear of Guandolo and trainers like him.
According to the event registration page, participants can expect “‘bleeding-edge’ instruction that explores the ‘jihadi mind’ and a copy of Guandolo’s book Raising a Jihadi Generation.” The course is $375 per person and the exact location is to be announced.
Guandolo’s past activity and public statements would seem to be enough to discourage law enforcement training academies and agencies from hiring him:
- At a 2010 training in Columbus, Ohio, Guandolo falsely accused a college professor of having ties to terrorism. The Columbus Police Department suspended the training after the first day, condemning Guandolo’s statement and federal agents assured the class the professor was not a suspect. Representatives FBI, Department of Homeland Security and the Joint Terrorism Task Force said Guandolo’s accusations were “unfounded.” Guandolo’s response: He knew things that the FBI didn’t
- Guandolo was hired in 2012 to teach sheriff’s deputies in Murfreesboro, Tenn., — a hotbed of anti-Muslim sentiment and fierce opposition to a mosque’s construction — about Muslim culture. This training came after Guandolo said local mosques were front organizations and “do not have a First Amendment right to do anything.”
- Guandolo collaborated with ACT! for America to create the Thin Blue Line Project, a project billed as a one-stop “anti-terrorism” internet resource for law enforcement. The website, which requires a login and is open to the public, does not offer much in the way of novel information, but it is notable for the “Radicalization Locator Map,” which lists personal information and addresses of leaders of prominent Muslim civil liberties organizations.
Instead of addressing the criticism head on, Guandolo has repeatedly changed the subject. He recently declined to be interviewed by Religion News Service and instead offered a list of associations between founding members of the Council on America-Islamic Relations and people accused of having ties with Hamas.
And, Spencer’s defense of Guandolo doesn’t lend any credibility to the “counter-jihad” cause. Spencer complains that a recent Religion News Service article uses the term “anti-Muslim” throughout the piece to refer to who he calls “foes of jihad terror.” He says this labeling “is like calling foes of Nazism ‘anti-German.’” He also said the Washignton Post, which picked up the RNS article, is “eager as ever to run defamation in the service of Islamic supremacists and jihadists, then presents to its hapless readers.
Spencer also waxes nostalgic about the days when he offered counterterrorism training, which, by and large, he is no longer considered credible enough to continue.
“When I was flying around the country in order to help give training for the FBI, CIA, JTIF, and military groups, I didn’t get paid. Not a penny. Not even for expenses. I paid my own way, bought my own hotel rooms, etc.,” Spencer said. “I did the training out of a sense of duty to my country, not for personal gain.”
Lack of personal gain aside, there is nothing honorable about the inflammatory rhetoric, false accusations and conspiracy theories Guandolo, Spencer and other anti-Muslim strategists are peddling. There are, indeed, real threats to public safety and security. Law enforcement agencies — and the broader public — deserve to have qualified instructors who can offer accurate information and practical strategies for challenging them, not distractions.