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Is Huma Abedin the New Alger Hiss?

Washington GOP Establishment hits Bachmann for fighting Muslim Brotherhood.

By 7.24.12

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Is Huma Abedin the new Alger Hiss?

Is Huma Abedin to the Muslim Brotherhood what Alger Hiss was to the Soviet Union?

Why are Republican Senator John McCain, Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rodgers (R-MI) acting in the growing Abedin controversy as Washington Establishment Democrats of the 1940s did in the Hiss episode? Which is to say, writing off the dangers of a foreign enemy whose goal is to infiltrate the U.S. government -- because, well, the people in question are part of the Washington Establishment?

And last but certainly not least, why is the Republican Establishment pursuing a losing strategy in the war against Islamic radicalism? Is it returning to the losing strategy it pursued during the Cold War -- a strategy that was overturned over Establishment opposition by Ronald Reagan's victorious "we win, they lose" strategy?

These questions arise because of McCain's vehement attack on Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. Bachmann, along with four other conservative House members (Louis Gohmert of Texas, Trent Franks of Arizona, Thomas Rooney of Florida and Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia), has written a series of hotly controversial letters.

What did Bachmann and the others do to infuriate McCain? And draw a rebuke from Boehner and Rodgers?

The five House members wrote letters to the Inspector Generals of the Departments of State, Justice, Defense, and Homeland Security -- along with a fifth to the IG in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Asking?

Asking that the recipients take seriously the possibility that the Muslim Brotherhood is becoming a security threat within the government of the United States itself.

The congressional group cited chapter and verse to back up their concerns. This included the reference in the State Department letter to Ms. Abedin, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's deputy chief of staff. As the letters were individualized to five different departments, Abedin was mentioned only in the State Department letter, with other people or issues mentioned as relevant to the respective department receiving each individual letters. So Abedin was most certainly not alone.

So why all the fuss from McCain and the others that focused on Huma? After all, the government itself has reported that an unwillingness to recognize the presence of Islamic extremism in the military is exactly what caused the Ft. Hood shootings by Maj. Nidal Hasan, a man whose sympathies with Islamic extremism was well-known but fatefully ignored by his superiors. What is so disreputable about raising the very same questions about Ms. Abedin, her security clearances, and the Muslim Brotherhood?

There are two serious points at issue here. Let's start with the Washington Establishment and Huma Abedin. Why all the fuss over the mention of Huma?

Because Ms. Abedin's prominence comes both because of her position in the State Department -- and her political connections through her husband.

Ms. Abedin, if known at all outside the corridors of Washington and Establishment power, is prominent because of her marriage to now-former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner. Yes, that Anthony Weiner, the Democrat who departed the House in haste when it became clear that was he was busy texting pictures of his… uh… nether regions to various women.

But as Bachmann and company point out, Ms. Abedin plays a much more serious role in her own job as a senior aide to Secretary Clinton. (Abedin also worked in the Clinton White House as well.)

The reason for the concern is expressed this way by Bachmann:

For example, according to "The Muslim Brotherhood in America: The Enemy Within," a product of the Center for Security Policy (MuslimBrotherhoodinAmerica.com), the Department's Deputy Chief of staff, Huma Abedin, has three family members -- her late father, her mother and her brother -- connected to Muslim Brotherhood operatives and/or organizations. Her position affords her routine access to the Secretary and to policy-making.

In other words, the concern from Bachmann is that Abedin's family has or had (in the case of her late father) close ties to a group that is dedicated to "destroying Western civilization from within." Or, as it is known, "civilization jihad."

To most Americans, the notion that a son or daughter is heavily influenced by family traditions and beliefs is a no-brainer. A sterling example of this would be no less than -- John McCain.

It is John McCain himself who famously presented himself in just this fashion in his bestselling book Faith of My Fathers. Here's how McCain's book is advertised on the book flap:

John McCain learned about life and honor from his grandfather and father, both four-star admirals in the U.S. Navy. This is a memoir about their lives, their heroism, and the ways that sons are shaped and enriched by their fathers.

Fair enough.

So if that common-sense wisdom applies to John McCain -- why not to Huma Abedin? Just as McCain learned about "the ways sons are shaped and enriched by their fathers" -- isn't it just possible -- or probable -- that the same exact thing could be said about a daughter named Huma Abedin? That Huma Abedin has been "shaped and enriched" by the Muslim Brotherhood-believing "ways" of her father, mother and brother?

And that those "ways" are now in some fashion influencing the policies that flow from the United States State Department precisely because Huma Abedin has the ear of the Secretary of State? And doubtless some degree of influence within the government bureaucracy?

Of course this is possible to any sentient observer.

But for having the brass to write these letters asking common sense questions that bear directly on national security, suddenly Michele Bachmann is under attack. From Republicans! And not just Senator McCain, either.

Speaker of the House John Boehner jumped into the fray, saying that "from everything I do know of her [Abedin] she has a sterling character, and I think accusations like this being thrown around are pretty dangerous."

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rodgers piled on saying: "I have no information in my committee that would indicate that Huma is anything other than an American patriot." Catch that first name reference?

Bachmann herself has stuck by her guns, responding to her critics by saying this to Glenn Beck:

After the Fort Hood tragedy, a report was issued that said the real problem in our government is that we are not teaching FBI agents or our military to recognize radical Islam. So that's what we need to do. We need to teach about it. 

The Blaze reported the rest of what Bachmann said of Abedin this way:

She is the chief aide for the -- to the Secretary of State, and we quoted from a document, and this has been well reported all across Arab media, that her father -- her late father who's now deceased was a part of the Muslim Brotherhood….

Her brother was a part of the Muslim Brotherhood, and her mother was a part of what's called the Muslim Sisterhood. It would be, we have requirements to get a high-level security clearance. One thing that the government looks at are your associations, and in particular your family associations. And this applies to everyone. It would be the same that is true with me. If my family members were associated with Hamas, a terrorist organization, that alone could be sufficient to disqualify me from getting a security clearance. So all we did is ask, did the federal government look into her family associations before she got a high-level security clearance.

Without doubt the best look at this erupting controversy was done in this detailed piece titled "Questions about Huma Abedin" by Andy McCarthy over at National Review. Take a good read. (And there's a second brilliant piece by McCarthy which we will come to shortly.)

McCarthy makes clear that no one is accusing Abedin of a crime. Bachmann certainly isn't accusing her of a crime. What is at issue, says McCarthy correctly, is this:

…asking questions that adults responsible for national security should feel obliged to ask: In light of Ms. Abedin's family history, is she someone who ought to have a security clearance, particularly one that would give her access to top-secret information about the Brotherhood? Is she, furthermore, someone who may be sympathetic to aspects of the Brotherhood's agenda, such that Americans ought to be concerned that she is helping shape American foreign policy?

McCarthy then specifically details the Obama administration policies toward the Muslim Brotherhood, policies he calls a "sea change" in American policy. A sea change that has flowed straight from the State Department where Huma Abedin is a top adviser to the Secretary of State.

Stop.

America has been here before. And yes, it was the case involving Alger Hiss.

What was the biggest issue on the American foreign policy plate after the end of World War II?

Right. The emerging Cold War with the Communist Soviet Union.

And what was one of the very first problems that began to appear in the late 1940s?

Right again. That would be the infiltration of the United States government by agents of the Soviet Union. Radicalized Americans who were devoted not to their own country, but to the ideology of Communism.

And the very first person to be prominently subjected to these accusations turned out to be a State Department aide by the name of -- Alger Hiss. (And Hiss was not alone. Harry Dexter White of the Treasury Department was in this mix, as were others.)

There is a reason to compare Huma Abedin to Alger Hiss. Why?

Because when Hiss's name first surfaced in an accusation by a then-Time magazine editor named Whittaker Chambers -- Chambers confessed to having been a Communist who had abandoned the faith, but had been in a Communist cell with Hiss -- all hell broke loose. Chambers fingered Hiss as not just an off-hours Communist believer but as someone who was actively engaged in espionage, passing U.S. government secrets to the Soviets.

The controversy was huge. Hiss was accused, tried, and convicted and went to prison for a while, never to enter the government again. Decades later, in 1995 after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Venona project files were released. A top secret project run by the FBI in the 1940s, it had dramatic proof in the form of decrypted Soviet telegrams that, yes indeed, Alger Hiss had in fact been a Soviet agent.

At the time, then-New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote of the revelation that:

The complicity of Alger Hiss of the State Department seems settled.

But Moynihan also observed something else, and it was a very important something else that has a direct bearing on the supporters of Huma Abedin and the critics of Michele Bachmann. Moynihan wrote:

Belief in the guilt or innocence of Alger Hiss became a defining issue in American intellectual life. Parts of the American government had conclusive evidence of his guilt, but they never told.

Moynihan, who had lived through the period, was exactly right. Alger Hiss -- and the larger issue Hiss symbolized of Soviet penetration of the American government -- became for years a "defining issue" -- and not only in American intellectual life but in American political life.

As recent as the Bush administration, FBI agent Robert Hanssen was convicted of spying for the Soviets and Russian governments for 22 years. He was far from alone -- yet the indignation and fury was and has always been over Alger Hiss.

Why?

Because Alger Hiss was a New Deal liberal. He was, in the vernacular, plugged in. A Harvard Law School graduate, he was a protégé of future Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter -- an FDR appointee. He clerked at the Supreme Court for Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, was a government lawyer in FDR's Justice Department, a Senate staffer for a liberal Senator, a lawyer in FDR's Agriculture Department as run by progressive favorite Henry Wallace. He began working for the first of three FDR-Truman era Secretaries of State in 1936.

So when Whittaker Chambers stepped forward and spoke up -- the entire factual issue of whether Hiss was a spy for the Soviets got caught up in something else entirely.

That something else?

Defending the Washington Establishment. Defending the New Deal. Defending liberalism. Defending the good-ole-boy network.

To show just how deep and public the adamant defense was of Hiss by the Establishment, there is this reply from Secretary of State Dean Acheson when Hiss was convicted in 1950:

… I do not intend to turn my back on Alger Hiss.

Acheson went on to say anyone who had questions about his support for Hiss would have them answered by reading "the 25th Chapter of the Gospel according to St. Matthew beginning with verse 34. Have you any other questions?"

The verse Acheson was citing as a defense of Hiss and what was done to national security included the line: "I was in prison and you came to visit me." All well and good for the Christianity of Secretary Acheson. Not so good when making judgments on issues of national security.

As a result of the kind of attitude exhibited by Acheson, those who were intent on a serious investigation of Chambers' charges were politically assaulted with a furious indignation. The idea that there could be anything amiss with Alger Hiss was received with John McCain-style angry and righteous indignation.

And yet, there it was.

A specific set of allegations from Whittaker Chambers that one of the most respected members of the Washington Establishment was in fact a Soviet spy. Hiss's alleged task: not simply to steal government documents but to influence American foreign policy with a tilt toward Communism.

Which, it was recorded, Hiss did.

As history records, the Michele Bachmann of the day was a young Republican Congressman named Richard Nixon. And what is particularly eerie here in the similarity department is not just the furiously negative treatment Nixon received -- just as Bachmann is receiving it today -- but the reason why he received it.

In his 1962 book Six Crises Nixon discussed how and why he was so furiously disdained. The how?

As soon as the Hiss case broke and well before a full bill of particulars was even available, much less open to close critical analysis, they [Hiss defenders] leaped to the defense of Alger Hiss -- and to a counterattack of unparalleled venom and irrational fury on his accusers." 

The why? Nixon recounts being at one Washington dinner party after it became clear that Hiss had been stealing State Department documents and giving them to Chambers in the form of microfilm -- the famous "Pumpkin Papers" (so-named because Chambers had hidden them in a pumpkin on his Maryland farm).

A New Deal lawyer at the dinner party was so angry with Nixon for outing Hiss he shouted:

"I don't give a damn what the facts are. Even if Hiss admits he's guilty, these investigations are dangerous and will have a terrible and disastrous effect on the country -- because the net result is to cast reflection on the United Nations and all the other progressive aspects of the Roosevelt-Truman foreign policy."

In other words, Hiss -- whose brother Donald was a law partner of Secretary of State Acheson -- was an establishment insider. A liberal. And to find anything amiss with Hiss was to cast a shadow on the credibility of liberalism itself, not to mention the Washington Establishment of the day. And in the late 1940s you never questioned the Establishment, as Nixon was essentially doing with his Hiss investigation.

People with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood or any other Islamic organization who serve in the U.S. government should be viewed in precisely the same way as people who had ideological ties to Communism and hence the Soviet Union in the late 1940s. Or, indeed, for the duration of the Cold War. To wit:

Times change, but human behavior never changes. The lies we tell ourselves can and do stay the same. And the idea that the enemy within -- in this case Islamic supremacy -- does not exist is one of those lies, as the Ft. Hood shooting amply and tragically illustrated.

What, after all, is Bachmann asking? She is not saying Huma Abedin is guilty of one thing. In her own words Bachmann says of her letter-writing colleagues that "we did not infer that she [Abedin] is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood or that she's working on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood."

Says Andy McCarthy in his NRO piece:

… Ms. Abedin is an adviser, not a policymaker. She gives advice to the secretary of state. Unless you were in the room with the two of them, you'd never be able to demonstrate what "direct impact" the adviser was having. Again, that's why people are supposed to be vetted before they get these sensitive positions and before they get access to the nation's secrets.

This was exactly one of the issues that was on the table with Alger Hiss.

Why?

Because… as with Hiss and his Secretary of State boss, as with Abedin and hers.

[U]nless you were in the room with the two of them, you'd never be able to demonstrate what "direct impact" the adviser was having.

In the case of Alger Hiss, you had exactly the same problem.

Former FDR Assistant Secretary of State Adolph Berle told the House Un-American Activities Committee investigating Hiss that

in the fall of 1944 there was a difference of opinion in the State Department that the Russians were not going to be sympathetic and cooperative…and that (Berle) was pressing for a pretty clean-cut showdown when our position was strongest…. At that time Mr. Hiss did take what you would call today the pro-Russian point of view. That was a cause for worry.

Berle goes on to say that he, Berle, "got trimmed in that fight and as a result went to Brazil" -- which is to say Berle took an ambassadorial appointment as a result of losing a bureaucratic skirmish over the U.S. stance with Russia. A skirmish he had with Alger Hiss.

Shortly thereafter, Alger Hiss was in Yalta as part of FDR's summit advisory team. Yalta, the summit now cited in history as a "sellout" to the Soviets.

Then there's a considerable second problem involving the GOP Establishment and Islamic Supremacy. A problem outlined, as mentioned, by Andy McCarthy in this piece titled "The Wages of Willful Blindness: Is It Time for Defenders of Liberty to Abandon the GOP?"

This problem? Problem number two? 

As McCarthy says, the question is "whether GOP leaders comprehend the stakes" involved in dealing with Islam. Remember here that McCarthy was the prosecutor of the "Blind Sheikh" Omar Abdel-Rahman. The architect of the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993. McCarthy, who wrote a book called Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad, decidedly knows his subject. He writes:

Here is the crucial part that you need to understand: The Blind Sheikh and his subordinates were not merely "violent extremists," seized by some sort of psychological problem. They were Islamic supremacists. Yes, their methods were barbaric; but that does not mean they were insane or irrational. Indeed, had that been the case, they would have been not guilty by reason of mental incapacity.

To the contrary, we proved that their actions were rationally motivated by Islamic supremacist ideology, an easily knowable interpretation of Islam, drawn directly from Muslim scripture, that commands its adherents to coerce societies into adopting sharia. Sharia is Islam's totalitarian framework for how societies are to be ruled.

What McCarthy is saying in detail in this second piece, is that the GOP establishment has dropped the ball in the fight against radical Islam.

What I would add here is that this is, sadly, not unusual. Exactly the same thing happened in the Cold War. The GOP Establishment turned accommodationist as the Cold War proceeded. Among other reasons, this retreat on Communism was why the moderate wing of the GOP fought first Barry Goldwater and then Ronald Reagan. Both men were "counterrevolutionaries" when it came to U.S. policy on the Soviets. As Reagan succinctly put it to his national security adviser Richard Allen, his strategy was: "We win. They lose."

What's happening with this skirmish over Huma Abedin is no (Joe) McCarthyite effort to drive an innocent woman from public life. What's being asked, again to quote Andy McCarthy, is whether "the State Department's dramatic, Brotherhood-friendly policy shifts during Ms. Abedin's tenure as a top adviser to the State Department's boss" are the result of anything whatsoever reflecting Abedin's factual family connections with the ideals of the Muslim Brotherhood. Family connections that John McCain would surely describe as the influence of Abedin's "ways" as "shaped and enriched" by her father, mother, and brother.

All Bachmann and company are asking, says McCarthy, "is completely consistent with national-security guidelines… that an investigation into those policy shifts be undertaken."

Bachmann and her colleagues were absolutely right to ask these questions.

The real questions here are two:

First: What is the role of Washington Establishment cronyism in the defense of Huma Abedin? Is John McCain the new Dean Acheson?

Second: Is the Republican Establishment repeating the same failed strategy in dealing with Islamic Supremacism that they long adopted during the Cold War when facing Communism? A losing strategy that was finally reversed by Ronald Reagan? Reagan, of course, having been viewed for decades by the Republican Establishment as an "extremist" -- to quote former GOP President Gerald Ford from march of 1980.

The furious attacks on Michele Bachmann over Huma Abedin -- by Senator McCain, Speaker Boehner and Chairman Rodgers -- certainly seem to indicate nothing but trouble ahead.

Why?

Because they are inevitably backfiring.

Raising the obvious question. With all that the question implies about both the Muslim Brotherhood -- and the Washington and Republican Establishments:

Is Huma Abedin the new Alger Hiss?

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About the Author
Jeffrey Lord is a former Reagan White House political director and author. He writes from Pennsylvania at jlpa1@aol.com.