During his regular Wednesday press conference, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery reaffirmed his commitment to bringing a crew of Islamaphobic crackpots to town on the taxpayer's dime, supposedly to instruct prosecutors and law enforcement on threats presented by Muslim extremists.
The training session, titled "Understanding the Threat," which is to be held on September 19 at a Tempe hotel, features as a presenter John Guandolo, a controversial former FBI agent who reportedly left the bureau after admitting to an affair with a confidential informant.
Guandolo is well known for promoting Islamaphobic conspiracy theories, such as his bizarre contention that CIA Director John Brennan is a secret Muslim.
Asked about that paranoid claim, Montgomery offered a cute reply.
"That hasn't been denied by the CIA director," said Montgomery, adding, "For the purposes of this training, I don't care whether or not the CIA director is a practicing Muslim."
For the record, I called the CIA, which declined to comment on Guandolo's absurdity, natch.
However, the allegation, if you can call it that, is given as much credence in the non-lunatic world as the assertion that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were an "inside job" by the administration of President George W. Bush.
Guandolo's training has been criticized as anti-Muslim fearmongering by several groups, including the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
On Tuesday, representatives from both the ACLU of Arizona and CAIR Arizona, called on Montgomery to end the training.
But Montgomery brushed aside such concerns, taking aim at CAIR, and apparently looking to pick a media fight with the organization.
"We're going to move forward with that training," he said. "I am aware that in other parts of the country there were concerted efforts by CAIR out of Washington, DC, to try to get that training canceled...CAIR should just stop now. It's not going to have any effect."
He called the organization an "unindicted co-conspirator," referring to a federal case dating back to 2004 against the Holy Land Foundation, an Islamic charity, the leaders of which were accused and ultimately convicted of charges related to funneling money to groups such as Hamas.
In a 2011 article about CAIR, The Washington Post noted that CAIR "was indeed named as an `unindicted co-conspirator or joint venturer' in the Holy Land Foundation case."
The Post also observed that, "CAIR was not alone in that designation; nearly 250 other organizations and individuals were also named."
CAIR has denied being a front for Hamas or the Muslim Brotherhood.
I asked Montgomery if there were any Muslim organizations other than CAIR, whose opinion he'd accept. He declined to name any.
As if on cue, a couple of hours after Montgomery's press conference, the ACLU of Arizona released a letter it had sent Montgomery, asking him to "rescind its ill-conceived invitation and cancel Mr. Guandolo's September 19, 2014 training session."
The correspondence is signed by representatives of CAIR, the ACLU, the Arizona Muslim Police Advisory Board, the Muslim American Society of Arizona, the Islamic Community Center of Tempe, the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix, and the Islamic Center of North East Valley.
It states, in part, that,
Mr. Guandolo has a well-publicized history of making inaccurate, biased, and inflammatory statements regarding Islam, promoting racial and religious stereotypes, and utilizing blatant anti-Muslim rhetoric. Mr. Guandolo's statements have been discredited and disavowed by law enforcement personnel and community leaders across the country due to their inaccuracy and ethnic and religious bias.
The presentations by Mr. Guandolo and his associates are noted for inaccurate and dangerous statements based on their animus and bigotry towards the Muslim community. Mr. Guandolo has claimed that "every major Muslim organization is controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood" and that American Muslims "do not have a First Amendment right to do anything...In his trainings, Mr. Guandolo falsely claims "it is a permanent command in Islam for Muslims to hate and despise Jews and Christians" and that mosques are "front organizations for the Muslim Brotherhood with no right to exist."
The letter also points to an anti-Muslim statement made by Clare Lopez, one of the seminar's other presenters, that, "when people in other bona fide religions follow their doctrines they become better people -- Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, Jews. When Muslims follow their doctrine, they become jihadists."
When similar concerns about the presenters were raised at his press conference, Montgomery pooh-poohed them, portraying the seminar as a responsible way of instructing law enforcement.
"I want our law enforcement to be able to distinguish between extremist groups and movements from the community that we have here within the Maricopa County area," he said.
Of course, how else will cops know the the difference between a "good Muslim" and a "bad Muslim"? (Sarcasm alert.)
Asked whose genius idea this training was, Montgomery said that he had sent members of his staff to one of these same training sessions in Virginia and then decided to go forward with hosting a training here.
How much money is Montgomery spending on this seminar?
He claimed not to know. He also said he wasn't sure how the office was paying for it.
So much for that "fiduciary responsibility" office-holders are always yammering on about.
It's plain that Montgomery is courting controversy here, on the anniversary of 9/11, likely hoping to score some face time on Fox News.
To that end, CAIR and the ACLU have played right into his hands.
But they and other organizations representing Muslims and civil libertarians have no choice, because this is law enforcement we're talking about.
For instance, the ACLU's letter to Montgomery addresses the consequences of incorrectly training cops, referencing the federal racial-profiling lawsuit, Melendres v. Arpaio:
The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, defended at trial by MCAO attorneys amongst others, was recently proven to have engaged in the systematic improper use of race in the Ortega-Melendres lawsuit It is troubling that a person with Mr. Guandolo's history of racist statements has been invited to speak with law enforcement personnel by the attorneys who represented defendants in this lawsuit. Mr. Guandolo's message would undermine the Court-ordered training in Ortega-Melendres and conflict with the training curriculum developed to deter racial and ethnic profiling. The sponsorship by the County Attorney reflects a pattern by Maricopa County law enforcement of insensitivity toward Muslims and hostility to minority and immigrant communities.
There are even more serious consequences to fanning the flames of religious intolerance.
I'm thinking of the murder of local business owner Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh, whom a deranged idiot shot down in 2001, mistaking him for an Arab in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks, supposedly because Sodhi wore a turban.
Montgomery knows better than to use his office in this fashion.
But then, the guy's a politician, and therefore naturally inclined to such ill-considered stunts.
Just ask Monty's pal, clown car maestro Sheriff Joe.
Got a tip for The Bastard? Send it to: Stephen Lemons.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.