ANALYSIS: On "Guilt By Association"


Given the large amount of media attention paid to the recent resignation of the Obama campaign Muslim outreach coordinator, it may be a good time to take up the issue of what is sometimes portrayed as “guilt by association” as it relates to the global Muslim Brotherhood. One of the difficulties involved with any discussion of the global Brotherhood is that the network, for lack of a better term, has both overt and covert aspects. That is, some of the activities of Brotherhood organizations and leaders is public and relatively accessibly using open source information while other activities remain covert and pose greater challenges to discover and analyze. Not all covert activity is criminal in nature and though some of it is and includes but is not limited to various forms of support for terrorism, money laundering, and corruption. Even the structure of the global Muslim Brotherhood network itself has both public and covert components. In the case of the U.S. Brotherhood, there are a collection of public organizations such as the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Muslim American Society (MAS) and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) none of which acknowledge being part of the U.S. Brotherhood. However, documents released as part of the Holy Land Foundation terrorism financing trial revealed that the U.S. Brotherhood also has had a complex covert structure as well that included leadership councils, regional heads, and various committees responsible for assorted tasks.

Researchers and investigators relying mainly on open source information are required to employ a variety of techniques in order to ferret out the activities and structure of the global Muslim Brotherhood. One of the most useful of these techniques is cataloging the various organizations and their leaders and noting the interactions among them. In carrying out such analysis over time, it soon becomes clear that the Brotherhood networks are relatively closed and that such networks rarely include individuals who are not already known to be Brotherhood affiliated. Therefore, when vetting a given individual, their ties to known Brotherhood organizations are strongly presumptive of ties to the the Brotherhood itself. Of course, there is a great deal of other information to be considered and the presumption of Brotherhood affiliation becomes stronger given a greater number of links and the greater duration of those links. In the case of Mr Asbahi, the finding that he was a member of the board of Allied Asset Advisers, itself part of ISNA, raised the question of possible ties to the U.S Brotherhood. Of further importance was the fact that the other members of the board were all important leaders of the U.S. Brotherhood including one individual further tied to Hamas fund-raising. The subsequent finding that Mr Asbahi also had ties to three other Brotherhood -related organizations, one of which dated back to the 1990’s, raised the possibility of Brotherhood ties even further.

None of this imples that Mr. Asbahi was “guilty” either by association or by anything else, only that being part of four organizations with various links to the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood suggested that the question of Mr. Asbahi’s relationship to the U.S. Brotherhood was worthy of further analysis given the position that he held in the Obama campaign.

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