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Breeding terror in our prisons

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By Michelle Malkin  •  September 19, 2006 07:55 AM

There’s a new study saying the same old thing about our failure to stop the spread of jihad in the US prison system:

U.S. prisons are becoming major breeding grounds for Islamic terrorists, but state and local authorities are too cash-strapped to prevent or track recruiting, a new report concludes.

The report, to be released Tuesday, found there aren’t enough legitimately trained Muslim religious leaders to counsel an estimated 9,000 U.S. prison inmates who want Islamic services. That allows Islamist extremists to target their vulnerable prison-mates with distorted versions of the Quran and other Muslim readings that urge radicalization and violence.

“Radicalized prisoners are a potential pool of recruits by terrorist groups,” concludes the joint study by George Washington University and the University of Virginia. “The U.S., with its large prison population, is at risk of facing the sort of homegrown terrorism currently plaguing other countries.”

Additionally, state and local prison officials struggle to track radical behavior changes of inmates or religious counselors. And staff and funding shortages limit preventative programs, the report found, noting that California officials “report that every investigation into radical groups in their prisons uncovers new leads, but they simply do not have enough investigators to follow every case of radicalization.”

An estimated 2 million people are imprisoned in the United States; 6 percent of them are Muslim, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Prisons have long been considered recruiting stations for gangs and, more recently, terrorists, but little has been done throughout government to combat them. The report, which will be released at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing, comes as law enforcement and intelligence officials focus on finding out how and why extremist sympathizers cross a line to become operational terrorists.

I reported on this for the NYPost two years ago:

While the media remain fixated on the plight of Muslim prisoners in Iraq, they have largely ignored the danger that radicalized Muslim prisoners pose here at home.

The Justice Department’s inspector general released a disturbing report that exposed federal prisons as a fertile breeding ground for terrorists. It was a red alert on a bureaucratic failure that jeopardizes not only other inmates and prison employees, but also the country at large. Yet it got next to no notice.

Islamic extremists have infiltrated jails worldwide to lure convicts to their murderous cause. The problem is thought to be much worse in Europe. For example, Richard Reid, the “Shoe Bomber,” converted to Islam with the help of an extremist imam in a British prison. In France, thousands of Muslim inmates have been schooled in jihad against “the Western powers and the Jews who manipulate them,” as one widely circulated prison pamphlet puts it. Radicalized French detainees have reportedly erected a “terrorist university” behind bars offering anti-Western material and instruction in bomb-making.

But we know it happens in America, too. Jose Padilla, the accused “Dirty Bomber,” converted to Islam during a stint at a Broward County, Fla., jail and is alleged to have fallen in with terrorist recruiters after his release.

And Aqil Collins, a self-confessed jihadist turned FBI informant, converted to Islam while doing time in a California juvenile detention center. At a terrorist camp in Afghanistan, he went on to train with one of the men accused of kidnapping and beheading Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

Yet the inspector general’s report warned that even the relatively well-managed federal prison system has lagged on addressing the threat.

The report was done at the request of Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) after The Wall Street Journal reported on the scandalous employment of Warith Deen Umar, former head Islamic chaplain of New York’s state prison system, who also served as a federal U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) contractor.

The Journal quoted Umar saying at a public event, “Even Muslims who say they are against terrorism secretly admired and applaud [the 9/11 hijackers].” It also reported Umar stating he believed black inmates who converted to Islam in prison were logical recruits for committing future terrorist attacks against America. Both state and federal officials fired him in the wake of the article.

The BOP’s 105 facilities hold 150,000 inmates (6 to 17 percent of them Muslim) – just a small fraction of the total U.S. prison population of 2 million. I shudder to think how al Qaeda is doing among the much larger population in the 50 state systems. In New York, Umar had free rein to hire more than 40 Muslim chaplains over 25 years.

The inspector general found that the BOP has also been lax – thanks in no small part to political correctness:

* BOP has no policy in place to screen out extremist, violence-advocating Islamic chaplains.

* It also fails to properly screen the many contractors and volunteers who help provide religious services to Islamic inmates.

* Some prison officials fear that such “religious profiling” would be illegal. (As the inspector general noted, it’s not.)

* “Information flow process” problems continue to hold up BOP and FBI background checks on Muslim personnel.

* Against federal regulations, Muslim inmates have been allowed to conduct services in loosely monitored chapels.

* Foreign convicts are importing radical Islamic beliefs and converting their cellmates, who spread their terrorist poison when they transfer to other prisons.

* Alarmingly, corrections officials told the investigators “that convicted terrorists from the 1993 World Trade Center bombing were put into their prisons’ general population ,where they radicalized inmates and told them that terrorism was part of Islam.”

* Chaplains also reported that Islamic extremist prisoners at one federal institution preached that if other inmates were going to convert to Islam, they had to overthrow the U.S. government because “Muslims aren’t cowards.”

* Despite several such cases, some federal facilities don’t even monitor volunteers’ contact with prisoners – thanks to false concerns about “privacy rights” and “religious freedom.”

This is a national-security scandal of the first order.

Our refusal to profile jihadists and their sympathizers in prisons is suicidal. Maybe if the MSM had less of an obsession with Abu Ghraib and worried more about the poison being spread in our prisons here, Washington would be moved to do something about it.

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Via Counterterrorism Blog:

The schedule of open terrorism-related hearings this week includes testi[mony] by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross on Tuesday at 10 am ET before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee at room 342 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building. The hearing topic is “Prison Radicalization: Are Terrorist Cells Forming in U.S. Cell Blocks?”, one of Daveed’s specialties. UPDATE: Steven Emerson and Walid Phares will testify before a subcommittee of the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security on Wednesday at 1 pm in room 2212 Rayburn House Office Building at a hearing on the topic, “Radicalization; Homeland Security Implications.”

Background: Daveed exposes jihadi literature disseminated in the prison system. More here.
Plus, Texas jailhouse jihad. Jihad at New Folsom. Daniel Pipes on the BOP. Frank Gaffney reports.

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