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EXCLUSIVE: DOD ‘Proteus Management Group’ Cultivated Islamophobic Training Materials

By Eli Clifton  

"EXCLUSIVE: DOD ‘Proteus Management Group’ Cultivated Islamophobic Training Materials"

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Reports that FBI counterterrorism training programs relied heavily on Islamophobic material has sent shockwaves through the FBI and the Department of Justice. Wired’s Spencer Ackerman has closely followed the influence of FBI trainer William Gawthrop’s presentation, “The Sources and Patterns of Terrorism in Islamic Law,” and notes that the slides have been cited in Justice Department training material which portray an existential battle between Islam and the West.

Ackerman notes that in 2007, Gawthrop taught a class on “intelligence and homeland security” and the National Defense Intelligence College. A ThinkProgress investigation into Gawthrop’s background reveals he was part of a U.S. Army War College think tank, the Proteus Management Group (PMG), at which Islamophobic training material and papers were regularly produced and shared.

Pat Cohn, a contractor for the Army who works at the War College and is listed as a contact for the group, told ThinkProgress that, to the best of his knowledge, Proteus had been shut down when it lost its funding. He could not say when the funding had been cut. Portions of the project’s website have been erased but a combination of a cached version of the website and documents still hosted on U.S. military web-servers reveal a DOD operation which served as a breeding ground for the Islamophobic narratives present in Gawthrop’s presentations.

Proteus’ mission was to “consider differing values and perceptions,” and “frame complex issues holistically.” A banner on the now-erased Proteus website reflects the group’s “outside the box” mission:

Proteus, which was sponsored by the Office of the Director for National Intelligence and the U.S. Army War College’s Center for Strategic Leadership, hosted Gawthrop as a “PMG Fellow.” A March 2007 Proteus newsletter directs readers to one of Gawthrop’s articles in which he suggests the ideas of Islam should be “countered” through “critical vulnerabilities.” He writes:

Critical vulnerabilities of the Koran, for example, are that it was uttered by a mortal; portions were ghostwritten by others; portions were lost or redacted, and it was revised and re-issued by another mortal. Similar vulnerabilities may be found in Mohammad’s character as a political and military leader, the character of other Clerics in the Modern Era, as well as the topics addressed in the Haddiths.

But Gawthrop’s portrayal of Islam as inherently violent — indeed he glosses over the history of Christian wars of aggression by declaring “the Crusades were a delayed response to Jihad” — and at odds with Western civilization was hardly outside the norm in the “future” research conducted at Proteus.

Documents hosted on DOD webservers and associated with the Proteus program lay bare a culture of hostility toward Islam and closely resemble the messages in Gawthrop’s training materials.

A “Proteus Monograph Series” on “Truth, Perception, And Consequences,” authored by Christine A. R. MacNulty, reads:

[The Enlightenment] was the time of a major paradigm shift for the West, away from the authoritarian epistemology of medieval religious doctrine and towards an empirical epistemology based on the scientific method. The Islamic world has not been through a similar shift, which could explain its current predicament. [...]

While the [Islamic] radicals permit no creativity in general, they exhibit great creativity in terms of tactics and the development of IEDs, bombs, and other weaponry. They are innovative in their uses of technology such as cellphones. But behind them are still the concepts of revenge, honor, and “face” mixed with resentment and envy of the West.

In a presentation delivered by Cynthia E. Ayers at a Proteus workshop in August 2006, she warns that the Bush administration’s offer of incentives for Iran to cease nuclear enrichment could “be interpreted by Iranian leaders as an offer to pay ‘tribute’ in submission to Islam.” The presentation concludes with the following slide:

While public attention has focused on Gawthrop’s presence at the FBI, documents from Proteus would suggest that the Islamophobic narratives in his presentations were common, if not actively encouraged, by the Department of Defense at the Army War College.

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