Exclusive: Trump team seeks names of
officials working to counter violent extremism
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[December 26, 2016]
By Warren Strobel and Arshad Mohammed
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President-elect
Donald Trump's transition team has asked two Cabinet departments for the
names of government officials working on programs to counter violent
extremism, according to a document seen by Reuters and U.S. officials.
The requests to the State Department and the Department of Homeland
Security involve a set of programs that seek to prevent violence by
extremists of any stripe, including recruitment by militant Islamist
groups within the United States and abroad.
Reuters could not determine why the Trump team asked for these names.
The Trump team did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trump has frequently criticized President Barack Obama for not doing
enough to battle Islamic militants and for his refusal to use the term
"radical Islam" to describe Islamic State and other militant groups.
Some career officials said they feared the incoming administration may
be looking to undo the work that the Obama administration has done on
countering violent extremism.
"They're picking a few issues to ask for people's names," said one
government official who spoke on condition of anonymity, reflecting
wider fears that those who worked on such issues could be marginalized
by the new administration.
Earlier this month, Trump representatives had asked the U.S. Energy
Department for the names of staffers who worked on climate change
policy. The White House expressed concern that it may have been an
attempt to target civil servants, including scientists and lawyers. The
Energy Department balked at providing names and a Trump spokesman
disavowed the request.
The State Department declined to comment on specific requests from the
Trump transition team. The Department of Homeland Security did not
immediately respond to emailed requests for comment.
In a Dec. 9 email seen by Reuters, Trump representatives at the State
Department sought a list of positions in the counterterrorism bureau's
office of countering violent extremism.
"Please indicate names of people serving in those roles and status
(political or career)," the email said, referring to political
appointees and career civil servants.
Three U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a similar
request had been made to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In
that case, the Trump transition team asked for the names of members of
an interagency task force on countering violent extremism that the Obama
administration established in January, the officials said.
[to top of second column]
President-elect Donald Trump talks to members of the media at
Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., December 21, 2016.
According to a Jan. 8 DHS statement, the task force falls under the
leadership of DHS and the Department of Justice, and includes
officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National
Counterterrorism Center and other government agencies.
Several of Trump's top national security advisers have cast the
fight against Islamic militants as an existential conflict between
civilizations, according to a review of their writings and public
Retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, Trump's pick for White
House national security adviser, said in a post on Twitter earlier
this year, "Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL."
Some counterterrorism experts say that such rhetoric can be used by
militant groups to recruit, and will alienate Muslim communities
whose help is needed to prevent violence.
A U.S. official said their guess was that the Trump team will likely
rebrand Obama's generic fight against violent extremism into a
specific battle against Islamic radicalization
State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Thursday
that the department would be cautious about providing names of
employees associated with specific issues, but left open the
possibility of providing names on an organizational basis.
It was unclear whether the State Department shared the names of the
officials in the office on countering violent extremism or whether
Homeland Security officials provided names.
"Without getting into the specifics of information either requested
by the transition team or provided by the Department, I can tell you
that ... I know of no requests that have been denied," a senior
State Department official said.
(Additional reporting by Yara Bayoumy; Editing by Yara Bayoumy and)
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