Wednesday, September 09, 2009
CIA reaches out to Muslims
Dinner in Dearborn will come on 'wrong night' amid Ramadan
Paul Egan / The Detroit NewsDearborn -- CIA Director Leon Panetta plans to visit Dearborn on Sept. 16 for an invitation-only dinner and speech with 150 leaders of the Arab and Muslim communities, officials confirmed Tuesday.
The visit comes amid an unprecedented outreach effort by the Central Intelligence Agency and as Panetta seeks to double the number of CIA analysts who are proficient in Arabic and other Mideast languages.
But the date chosen for the meeting -- the 27th night of Ramadan or "night of power," when many devout Muslims and imams spend the entire night worshiping in the mosque -- is drawing criticism.
"They picked the entirely wrong night on this," said Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "This is our leading intelligence agency who doesn't know this."
Imad Hamad, regional director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in Dearborn, acknowledged the sensitivity of the night but said he and other community leaders, not the CIA, should take any blame because the agency consulted with the community before choosing the date. [the community does deserve blame because it should have scheduled the CIA visit a week later, on Eid, a joyous celebration during which sacrifices are made to whomever you worship.]
"It's a simple miscall," said Hamad, who added that most Muslims would break their fast before going to the mosque on the night of power. [If the CIA wants us to skip prayer on the night of power, surely God will understand]
Once among the most secret of agencies, the CIA has been setting up booths at events in Dearborn and Detroit and spending tens of thousands of dollars annually sponsoring galas and other events and scholarships. CIA spokesman George Little said Tuesday the agency's outreach to "first- and second-generation Americans" in Dearborn and elsewhere began about five years ago.
"These individuals have the kinds of skills, knowledge and experiences that can strongly advance our vital intelligence mission and protect the nation's security," Little said. "The number of job applications from the Detroit area has risen steadily over that time period."
The CIA was a platinum sponsor -- representing a contribution of at least $10,000 -- to the ADC's 29th annual fundraising gala in December, according to the committee's Web site. The CIA also contributes about $10,000 to the annual gala of the Arab American and Chaldean Council, said Executive Director Radwan Khoury. The agency also is a sponsor of the Arab International Festival and the Arab American Scholarship Foundation, according to the Web site of the American Arab Chamber of Commerce and Hamad.
In March, the CIA hosted an appreciation dinner for leaders of the Arab American and Chaldean communities at the Westin Hotel in Southfield. Top CIA officials, but not the director, attended.
Osama Siblani, publisher of the Arab American News, said the CIA also spends money on image and recruitment advertisements in his newspaper. [and boasting about it]
"I don't know that they're recruiting people, but I know that they're making a great effort," Siblani said.
Walid said his organization has never sought sponsorship money from the CIA and would not accept it. "We would lose our credibility as an advocacy agency," he said. "We've criticized openly some of the tactics of the CIA, particularly under the previous administration."
Hamad said the CIA's outreach shows his community is as valued and as American as apple pie. ["and as Israeli as falafel"]
"We'd rather have the CIA, like the FBI or other government agencies, do their work in the open," he said. "The CIA did its job years and years ago, and we didn't meet any of them one to one." [did you get that, Lynndie? Torture Iraqis on an outdoor plaza in downtown Dearborn, not behind the walls of Abu Ghraib]