In the wake of last weekend’s terrorist attack that targeted a Texas synagogue, a highly trained FBI professional said, in effect, the attack had nothing to do with the Jewish community. That he felt the need or was trained to make such a risibly false statement needs to be investigated.
On January 15, a 44-year-old man, later identified as Malik Faisal Akram, entered Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, and took four hostages. He demanded the release of a Pakistani national, Aafia Siddiqui, who is serving an 86-year federal sentence for assault and attempted murder of federal agents and military personnel.
The intent of Akram’s attack was clearly terrorism — the definition being “unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.” Akram died of gunshot wounds received as the hostage ordeal came to an end, with all four hostages emerging unharmed. Had it not been for Covid-19 concerns, there may have been far more people, as most congregants were worshiping from home on Zoom.
FBI’s Incredulous Explanation
In his post-incident news conference, Matthew J. DeSarno, the FBI’s special agent in charge of the Dallas field office, said of Akram’s attack, “We do believe from our engagement with this subject that he was singularly focused on one issue, and it was not specifically related to the Jewish community.”
When I heard DeSarno’s remarks, I was immediately incredulous. When some intrepid reporters asked about motives again, DeSarno doubled down, asserting, “I’m not ready to add any more about the demands set [by the hostage taker], except that they were specifically focused on one issue that was not specifically threatening to the Jewish community.”
Akram was heard to say via the live stream that operated from the synagogue for much of the incident that he chose it because he thought it was the closest assemblage of Jews to the federal facility holding Siddiqui. There are about 1,000 churches in the Fort Worth area within a half-hour drive of Siddiqui’s place of incarceration, compared to seven Jewish centers of worship — but sure, Special Agent DeSarno, the terrorism was “not specifically threatening to the Jewish community.”
Siddiqui came to local attention just last month when the Dallas-Fort-Worth chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) held an event called “In Pursuit of Freedom” about 35 miles away from Colleyville’s Congregation Beth Israel and 55 miles from where Siddiqui is being held. The event called for Siddiqui’s release with the incendiary claim that she had been “kidnapped, ripped apart from her children, shot at, renditioned to the U.S., and is currently serving an 86-year prison sentence for a crime she did not commit.”
This is potent propaganda. CAIR condemned the hostage incident as it took place.
DeSarno, a former Army infantry officer with the First Cavalry Division in Fort Hood, Texas — where, seven years after DeSarno joined the FBI, Muslim terrorist Nidal Hasan fatally shot 13 people and injured more than 30 others — was promoted to deputy assistant director of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division in 2017.
DeSarno is supposed to know terrorism inside and out. As such, it is highly implausible to suggest that DeSarno didn’t know about Siddiqui’s own anti-Semitic rantings during her trial, where she refused to cooperate with the three lawyers hired by the Pakistani embassy to augment her two public defenders, on the grounds they were Jewish. Siddiqui even demanded that there be no Jewish people on the jury and wanted all jurors to be DNA-tested to check “if they have a Zionist or Israeli background.”
But, of course, Siddiqui’s words and Akram’s deeds are not “related to the Jewish community.”
Even President Joe Biden suggested the attack had intent beyond Siddiqui when he said, “This was an act of terror… and not only was related to someone who had been arrested… 15 years ago and had been in jail for 10 years.” The FBI changed its tune hours later, releasing a new statement on Sunday night admitting that the attack was a “terrorism-related matter, in which the Jewish community was targeted.”
Biden also said Akram bought his gun “on the street,” feeding into the left’s gun control narrative that firearms are too easily obtained in America. But that claim raises interesting questions that might be better answered if law enforcement were able to ask questions without fear of being labeled bigots. For instance, how does a foreign national in the United States for less than a month obtain a weapon? Did he have help?
Woke Indoctrination at the FBI
What we do know is that the FBI isn’t in the habit of promoting its agents to run large field offices if senior leadership doesn’t see them as right for the job. This raises the very disturbing likelihood that DeSarno, experienced as he is in counterterrorism, knew exactly what he was saying on Saturday before FBI headquarters walked it back on Sunday night after a hail of incredulous criticism.
DeSarno said what he said — “no connection to the Jewish community” — for a reason, that being that to say or think otherwise is now a thoughtcrime. Bright, ambitious professionals in federal service, whether civilians or military officers, have endured nearly 13 years of non-stop woke indoctrination from the left.
If you know what’s good for you and your career, there are simply some things you don’t say. And suggesting that attacks on America’s Jewish community might have something to do with them being Jewish might then lead to forbidden questions about who is doing a disproportionate amount of the attacking these days.
This brings to mind the nearly memory-holed December 2019 Jersey City terror attack by antisemitic black nationalists who, were it not for an unexpected encounter with local law enforcement, aimed to kill a large number of Jewish people and still ended up killing four people at a Kosher supermarket. Bari Weiss, in her indispensable substack “Common Sense,” noted on Jan. 17 that some black community leaders in Jersey City rationalized the attack:
Joan Terrell-Paige, a school official in the city, explained on her Facebook page that the murderers effectively had no choice. The Jews (she called them ‘brutes’) had caused their killers to murder them. ‘I believe they knew they would come out in body bags,’ she wrote of the killers. ‘What is the message they were sending? Are we brave enough to explore the answer to their message? Are we brave enough to stop the assault on the Black communities of America?’
In Weiss’s penultimate paragraph, she notes, “Jews thrived in an America that had confidence in its goodness. Jews are not safe—no one is—in one which does not.”
Should Republicans regain one or both chambers of Congress in the 2022 elections, one key task, among the many, needs to be added to the “to do” list. There must be a series of hearings probing whether federal employees have been under official pressure to self-censor so as not to transgress against leftist articles of faith, facts be damned—or risk missing out on that promotion.
To the extent Congress finds this is so, it may be too late to reform or undo years of ideological pressure. Instead, Congress needs to do two things: reclaim decision-making authority from an unelected elite increasingly contemptuous of the American public that pays their salaries and generous retirements; and reduce the size, and therefore the ability, of agencies like the FBI to interfere in the lives of law-abiding Americans — such as concerned parents of public school children.
Chuck DeVore is vice president of national initiatives at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a former California legislator, special assistant for foreign affairs in the Reagan-era Pentagon, and a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army (retired) Reserve. He’s the author of two books, “The Texas Model: Prosperity in the Lone Star State and Lessons for America,” and “China Attacks,” a novel.