By Kalia Abiade
A former FBI agent known to propagate his fear that radical Muslims are infiltrating the highest levels of government may have outdone himself when he claimed that John Brennan, President Obama’s pick to head the CIA, is secretly Muslim.
During a Feb. 8 appearance on Tom Trento’s radio show, John Guandolo surmised that Brennan converted to Islam during a visit to Saudi Arabia in the 1990s.
“Are you kidding me? The head [sic] of the CIA is a Muslim? I mean, for real?” Trento, who is also connected to Islamophobic efforts, asked rhetorically.
“That is correct.”
Guandolo said the “fact” that Brennan is Muslim is only part of the reason why he should not be confirmed as CIA director.
“He has interwoven his life, professionally and personally, with individuals that we know are terrorists,” Guandolo said, adding that Brennan has “brought known Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood operatives” into high-ranking government positions.
He also told Trento that Brennan “has learned and gets his understanding and his worldview… from Islam.” According to Guandolo, that alleged relationship to Islam is part of what makes him “dangerously ignorant” and “unfit” to lead the CIA.
The allegations seem to stem from a 2010 speech Brennan gave at a meeting facilitated by the Islamic Society of North America in which he distinguished between faithful Muslims and radical terrorists.
“I came to see Islam not how it is often misrepresented but for what it is and how it is practiced every day by well over a billion Muslims worldwide: a faith of peace and tolerance and great diversity,” he said.
Writing for Foxnews.com, Steve Emerson, a man who has been called one of the “leading lights of the Islamophobia network,” said Brennan’s remarks prove that he has fallen “for the bait from radical Islamists.”
“While the politically correct rhetoric may have pleased his hosts, this is just sticking America’s head in the sand when it comes to understanding what drives Islamist terrorists,” he wrote.
Guandolo and Trento admit Brennan’s remarks do not actually confirm he converted to Islam. They do agree with Emerson, however, that the remarks, at the very least, implicate him as sympathizing with extremists.
Lack of evidence notwithstanding, far-right personalities and known anti-Muslim propagandists have decided to run with Guandolo’s claims, using his assertions to bolster their existing opposition to Brennan’s confirmation.
Glenn Beck attempted to couch his excitement by acknowledging that Brennan’s alleged conversion to Islam has not been publicly verified, but he did not let that doubt stop him from saying the idea itself is totally believable.
“I don’t know if this is true or not,” he said. “I will tell you that there is so much in John Brennan’s background that should be questioned that this is plausible.”
Guandolo is in “good” company with Walid Shoebat and Robert Spencer, documented activists in the Islamophobia movement, vouching for him. Spencer, who calls the ex-FBI agent a “good friend” and an “unimpeachable source,” carries Guandolo’s insistence that many top intelligence officials are also secretly Muslims.
“There are already quite a few CIA desk chiefs, bureau chiefs that are already converts to Islam,” Spencer told Michael Coren, a far-right television host who regularly hosts anti-immigrant and Islamophobic activists. “There is a concerted effort by the Saudis and others to convert them and yes, immediately, if anybody raises any protests about this nomination, on those grounds people would say, ‘Well you can’t say that. It’s just bigotry and Islamophobia and hate.”
No stranger to making baseless claims, Guandolo has a long history of anti-Islam activism. He left the FBI after allegations that he had a sexual relationship with the star witness in the corruption case against former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson. Since then, Guandolo has made the rounds as a counterterrorism “consultant,” including widely criticized stints training law enforcement agencies. As vice president of the Strategic Engagement Group, he argued against the construction of a Tennessee mosque, saying Muslims “do not have a First Amendment right to do anything.”