Ali Abdelaziz lamented the lack of cooperation between the federal, state and local agencies when it came to intelligence-sharing and investigations. This dysfunction, he felt, s part of the reason that MOA is able to get complimentary remarks from law enforcement personnel who are kept in the dark and manipulated by MOA’s public relations campaign.
“They fight so stupidly,” he complained.
He claimed that the NYPD Intelligence Division instructed him not to share the intelligence they gathered with the FBI, and attributed turf wars to the tension between the two over his service as an informant. The Department of Homeland Security was also allegedly involved in the in-fighting.
Our own study of MOA indicates that this lack of intelligence-sharing is indeed a problem.
For example, law enforcement will be left in the dark about what is known regarding MOA and are sometimes assured that there’s no derogatory information. Some FBI field offices will give statements to the press to tamp down concern about MOA, while documents will later be declassified showing that there was/is an ongoing investigation.
A source with direct awareness of the investigation into MOA and White Hawk Security International confirmed that the intelligence on the group was tightly held. As far as he knew, it was not even shared with other federal agencies and certainly not the local or state law enforcement agencies.
“Federal agencies are compartmentalized. I was never told that the concern was real until I had a real need to know. Others who raised the topic were told to leave the subject alone and the conversations ended. It even happened to me after I completed my duties that required me to be briefed on them,” he said.
Abdelaziz said that MOA made a concerted effort to makeover its image after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. A top objective was to “bullshit” law enforcement and the media with kindness and condemnations of extremism.
One friendly meeting with law enforcement involved a picnic at the “Islamville” camp in York County, South Carolina. MOA posted pictures of the picnic on their website to claim that they are law enforcement partners maligned by anti-Muslim paranoia.
The PR effort in South Carolina even got then-Congressman Mick Mulvaney on MOA’s side after a November 2015 visit to Islamville. His defense of the group and photos with members were proudly posted on one of MOA’s websites for years after. Mulvaney is now President Trump’s Chief of Staff.
According to Abdelaziz and other sources who were first-hand witnesses, MOA has a choreographed routine for such events:
“The FBI goes up there and visits them. They bullshit them, they bullshit them. When they go visit the camps, after that, they take the American flag down and put their flag back. Slick! Actually, I did that. I took a picture of the American flag one time, when the FBI left, they put their flag back up. I took a picture and provided it to the NYPD.”
He mentioned that the visits to the camps are prearranged with limited access. Pointing to one picture of law enforcement personnel with MOA members and their children, he said he was at the meeting and saw how MOA sought to deceive them about the size of their families:
“This is nothing. Over half the kids are hiding in the back when they come to visit. MOA leaders tell them, ‘You go hide in the back. Don’t come out.’ It’s about three times more kids than what is in that picture. I was there.”
Abdelaziz was visibly frustrated with the public embrace of MOA by the New York State Police and New York FBI personnel involved in community outreach:
“They come. They hang out. They eat food. They get photos taken with the leaders and kids. They’re not really investigating. These people aren’t investigating them at all.
Of course, you have to understand, these guys don’t know. There are other FBI agents in the know. The NYPD is in the know. But they don’t share their information with these guys…the New York State police don’t know shit.”
He believed that those in the government who do know the truth about MOA simply “don’t want people to know.”
Another “slick” move by MOA was the formation of its interfaith front named the United Muslim Christian Forum. The Forum’s website and statements used anti-Semitic themes to try to unite Christians and Muslims against Jewish enemies.
Abdelaziz was struck at how then-mayor of Binghamton, Matthew T. Ryan, attended the Forum’s event and publicly supported it and MOA. Ryan Mauro, founder of Fuqra Files, attended its 2011 event and wrote about the experience.
Above: Ryan Mauro talking to Fuqra/MOA official Hasib Haqq at the group’s United Muslim Christian Forum event (2011).
Above: Mauro talking with Matthew Gardner, senior MOA official from the group’s Red House, Virginia camp, at the UMCF event in 2011.