CREDIT: Southern Poverty Law Center
The Rappahannock Regional Criminal Justice Academy announced on Monday that it would no longer sponsor a course for law enforcement officers which was ostensibly focused on counterterrorism, but which would have been taught by an anti-Muslim activist with a history of spreading conspiracy theories. A brief press release from the academy announces that “[a]fter careful consideration and consultation with other law enforcement agencies and academies, having firsthand knowledge of this training, the Rappahannock Regional Criminal Justice Academy will no longer be offering Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services in-service training credit for the upcoming seminar ‘Understanding and Investigating Jihadi Networks in America.’”
The training was to be hosted by the Culpeper County Sheriff’s Office. Late last week, Sheriff Scott Jenkins said that he does not plan to cancel the training session, despite outcry from civil rights groups that the event features an anti-Islamic speaker. According to a letter from 15 civil rights organizations and religious interest groups, John Guandolo, a former FBI agent and the featured speaker at the training event, “is closely affiliated with ACT! for America, a known anti-Muslim hate group, and he makes baseless, irresponsible and dangerous statements revealing his animus about the American Muslim community” — including claiming that “American Muslims ‘do not have a First Amendment right to do anything.‘”
Though the training may still go on without accreditation, Ibrahim Hooper with the Council on American-Islamic Relations told ThinkProgress that he is satisfied that it will not be attended now that the academy has pulled its sponsorship, adding that law enforcement officers attend these kinds of seminars because they require continuing education credits — but they will no longer receive those credits following the academy’s decision. In Hooper’s words, “why would people show up for three days if they don’t get credit?”
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Guandolo accused Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan of bringing “known Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood leaders into the government and into advisory positions,” and claimed that Brennan did so because he “converted to Islam when he served in an official capacity” in Saudi Arabia. Weeks later, Guandolo expanded this conspiracy to include President Obama, claiming that the president has “made a significant effort to protect known members of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood inside this government.”
In 2009, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that Guandolo resigned from the FBI in 2008 before the bureau’s Office of Professional Responsibility could question him regarding allegations that he had “an intimate relationship with a confidential source.” According to a court filing by the federal government, a “cooperating witness” in the investigation against former Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA) told FBI agents that “she had sexual relations with now-former FBI agent John Guandolo during the time that Mr. Guandolo served in an undercover capacity as her driver during the pro-active phase of this investigation.”
On Saturday, the Roanoke Times reported that Sheriff Jenkins plans to move forward with the training regardless of concerns over Guandolo. As of this writing, the Culpeper County Sheriff’s office has not responded to an inquiry from ThinkProgress asking if they have changed their mind.