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Mr. Islam and Coughlin recently quarreled over intelligence briefings Coughlin presented showing a close connection between the religion of Islam and terrorism. Coughlin's contract with the Joint Chiefs, which ends in March, was not renewed.Mr. Islam according to the FBI:"He's a Muslim brother," an FBI official said of Islam. "
A firestorm that played out in the conservative press – led by Washington Times Pentagon reporter Bill Gertz – Islam was put under a microscope, and questions were raised regarding his background.
For example, Claudia Rosett of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies wrote a column challenging key claims in Islam's official biography. Within days, a Defense Department profile of Islam was removed from the department's website.
A Pentagon spokesman said it was "taken down in an attempt to reduce the rhetoric and the emotion surrounding this issue while we try to determine the facts."
A senior U.S. official says the life story Islam presented now appears sketchy.
"His resume didn't add up, and he knows it," the official said. "He's voluntarily leaving the government in March."
At the same time, a report by terror expert Steven Emerson revealed that Islam, as special assistant to the deputy secretary of defense, has scheduled at least two meetings in the Pentagon with Syrian-tied radicals – including a leading member of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood – in direct violation of U.S. policy.
As WND previously reported, FBI officials believe Islam is involved with the U.S. branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and is helping its front groups run "influence operations" against the U.S. government.
"He's a Muslim brother," an FBI official told WND. "He's a bad actor, and he's made other unreported nefarious contacts."
Islam has worked closely in the Pentagon with Muslim chaplain Abuhena M. Saifulislam, who as WND also previously reported, received his training at a radical Islamic school in Northern Virginia that was raided by federal authorities after 9/11.
Islam, whose son is active in the military, obtained one of the highest security clearances for classified information. Sources confirm he has sat in on Pentagon meetings in which intelligence clearance was restricted at the Top Secret/SCI (Sensitive Compartmented Information) level.
The Pentagon had no comment. And Islam, who has not been accused of any crimes, has refused interviews.
Emerson says Islam prescribed a steady diet of Muslim Brotherhood-connected outreach for his unwitting boss, deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England.
For example, England spoke at the Islamic Society of North America's 2006 convention and last year even hosted a luncheon with ISNA officials in the Pentagon. At the time, federal prosecutors had linked ISNA to the Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy in the U.S. and named the group as an unindicted co-conspirator in a major terrorism-financing case.
In one intelligence briefing, Coughlin argued that the Pentagon should end its outreach programs with ISNA, which also put him at odds with Islam.
Pentagon insiders say Eric S. Edelman, undersecretary of defense for policy, has sought to stop the awarding of a new contract to Coughlin. Edelman served as ambassador to Turkey from 2003 to 2005.
Rep. Sue Myrick, R-N.C., who co-chairs the House Anti-Terrorism Caucus, has been fighting to keep Coughlin in the Pentagon, where she says his blunt analysis of the Islamic enemy is sorely needed.
Citing federal court documents introduced as evidence in a recent major terror case, she also warns that U.S. front groups for the Muslim Brotherhood are conspiring to destroy America from within.
"Our enemies have clearly stated their intention to infiltrate us, much like the Russians did during the Cold war," Myrick said. "We had no problem analyzing and acting on that information then."
"I know that some people will refuse to admit there is a subversive movement going on here, but let me remind you that we have underestimated the will and capability of our enemy for more than 30 years," she added. "They are patient and determined to achieve their radical agenda."
WND has learned that Islam is closely associated with a Muslim military chaplain trained at a radical Islamic school that federal agents raided after 9/11 in connection with terror-financing.
As WND reported, the chaplain, Abuhena M. Saifulislam, studied Islam at the Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences in Virginia.
Recently declassified FBI documents reveal its sister organization, an Islamist think tank known as the International Institute of Islamic Thought, or IIIT, is involved in a Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy to wage a cultural and political jihad to eventually take over America from within ? most notably, through infiltration of government agencies.
Islam works closely with Saifulislam (Arabic for "sword of Islam") on Pentagon outreach projects involving Middle Eastern embassies and the so-called Wahhabi lobby in Washington.
"He's a Muslim brother," an FBI official said of Islam. "He's a bad actor. He's well-positioned to be where he is, and that doesn't do us any good."
He also said Saifulislam is "definitely Muslim Brotherhood," while noting that Islam "is a lot smoother than Saifulislam," who as a chaplain at Gitmo lobbied for special meals and other privileges for al-Qaida detainees.
The official hastened to add that, at this point, belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood is not criminal, and neither Defense Department employee is the subject of a formal counterterrorism or counterespionage investigation. Both men have refused interviews, and the Pentagon had no comment.
However, the FBI official warned that the Muslim aides are part of a conspiracy by Muslim Brotherhood fronts to run "influence operations" against the U.S. government.
"Their M.O. is to make nice for the very purpose of penetrating us," he said, "and we just roll over for them, at least at the top levels."
He says England, who also recently dedicated an Islamic prayer center at Quantico on the advice of Saifulislam, is blind to the threat.
"England doesn't know it's an influence operation that's been laid at his door," he said. "His lack of awareness is irresponsible."
A senior U.S. official who has met with England says he was not even aware that a convicted terrorist and al-Qaida fund-raiser created the Pentagon's Muslim chaplains corps.
Adurahman Alamoudi, a Muslim Brotherhood leader and founder of the American Muslim Council, placed Muslim chaplains throughout the military. He is now in jail on charges of terrorism. However, most of the chaplains he trained and sponsored are still in their current positions.
"The Islamic chaplains who serve were trained by a known terrorist," said terrorism expert Steve Emerson.
Emerson says Islam, like Alamoudi, has invited "subversive" elements into U.S. military headquarters.
"Hesham Islam is an Islamist with a pro-Muslim Brotherhood bent who has brought in groups to the Pentagon who have been unindicted co-conspirators," he said.
Emerson said a "Trojan horse" of subversives and potential spies have penetrated deep inside the Pentagon, and they are now bearing fruit with the ouster of Coughlin. Sources say Islam has high security clearance.
A former Pentagon colleague of Coughlin described Islam as a "gatekeeper," who at a minimum, is blocking candid discussion of the religious nature of the threat posed by Muslim terrorists. Such action, William Gawthrop says, thwarts the U.S. war effort, because it denies military brass and rank-and-file the information they need to effectively fight the Islamist enemy.
"We still do not have an in-depth understanding of the war-fighting doctrine laid down by (the Muslim prophet) Muhammad, how it might be applied today by an increasing number of Islamic groups, or how it might be countered," Gawthrop told WND.
He says Coughlin was trying to bridge that gap before being pushed out.
Supporters of the respected contractor say Islam had a direct hand in his firing. They say that on Jan. 3 Coughlin was told his contract, which ends in March, would not be renewed because his message had become too "politically hot."
They say that in a meeting late last year between Coughlin and a member of England's staff, which Islam unexpectedly attended, Islam asked Coughlin to "soften his message" regarding Islamic war doctrine. Coughlin refused.
Islam was heard referring to Coughlin as a "Christian zealot with a poison pen." The conflict resulted in his contract being terminated.
A well-placed Pentagon insider described it differently, however. Islam and Coughlin were present at the briefing, but there was no direct confrontation between the two. It was not until Hesham returned to England's office suite that he remarked that Coughlin had a "poison pen."
"He clearly doesn't like him," the source told WND.
Also, Coughlin was let go in part because his contract was up, and at $440,000, it was too steep to justify renewing, the insider says. And though he had written a 329-page thesis on the subject, he was not effective at briefing the J-2 intelligence staff of the Joint Chiefs.
"He's brilliant, and he knows his stuff, but he couldn't teach it," the source said. "It went over everybody's head."
Still, England has not properly vetted his long-time aide, Islam. "Gordon is so trusting of this guy because he's worked for him for so long," the same official said. "But he's got questionable contacts, and he (England) needs to have his antennae up."