By lex, on February 12th, 2011
The Director of National Intelligence – whose main role, I am told, is to serve as a sacrificial goat for the prospective failures of the national intelligence apparatus – is catching a lot of flak for a mis-statement he made **in testimony to Congress:
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said at a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Thursday that Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood is a secular organization.
Clapper said the Egyptian opposition group, which many American commentators have expressed fears of coming to power in a post-Mubarak Egypt, is a “very heterogeneous group, largely secular.”
Clapper said that the group “has eschewed violence and has decried Al Qaeda as a perversion of Islam” and “have pursued social ends, a betterment of the political order in Egypt.”
He also said the the Muslim Brotherhood, which has branches in many Muslim countries, has “no overarching agenda, particularly in pursuit of violence, at least internationally.”
Terming the organization “largely secular” attracted immediate criticism, including from NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel, who called the statement “a wild misreading of this organization.”
The White House had to take the rare step of disassociating itself from its own DNI the next day.
It’s not the first time Clapper has taken heat: He was well behind the news cycle on the take-down of a terror group in London last December – and let’s be frank, it’s not a good thing when Google auto-fills the word “unaware” behind your name after the user types in “Clapper un”.
But let’s be generous and at least explore the word “secular” as Clapper has used it. Given the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has in fact renounced violence in the pursuit of their political aims and has in fact filled some of the gaps in the Egyptian government’s social safety net through good works, three possibilities come to mind:
- Clapper doesn’t know that it’s impossible for a group under the moniker “Muslim” to be secular, i.e., he’s an idiot.
- “Secular”, to Clapper, means “good” in a way that a lot of unreflective people use the word, i.e., self-evidently superior to its alternative.
- Clapper believes that, in renouncing violence, the MB have proven themselves insufficiently Islamic, at least in the way that our national security apparatus classifies such things when they think that nobody’s looking. In other words, “Sure, they call themselves Muslims, but if they’re not running around blowing themselves up or cutting off peoples’ heads, how can we be sure?”
I’d like to think that it’s impossible for a guy to work his way up to brigadier general and director of the Defense Intelligence Agency have number 1 also be true. So for me, it’s a toss-up between 2 and 3 in which I lean towards 3.
** 10-18-2018 Original link gone; replacement found – Ed.