Terror Watch: Row Over Barred Muslim Scholars

November 1, 2006

Author: Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball

Source: MSNBC/Newsweek


Nov. 1, 2006 - President Bush’s top emissary for public diplomacy has privately complained that recent moves by the Department of Homeland Security to block prominent Muslim clerics and scholars from entering the United States has damaged her efforts to bolster America’s image in the Islamic world.

In recent weeks, Karen Hughes, under secretary of State for public diplomacy and the president’s former communications adviser, has protested directly to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that an increase in the number of high-profile “exclusions” of Muslim figures is creating major public-relations problems for the United States overseas.

“There’s no question that some of these incidents have created serious problems for us,” Dan Smith, Hughes’s chief of staff told NEWSWEEK. “She wants to find a way to fix this consistent with national security.”

Hughes’s behind-the-scenes complaints reflect growing tensions between State and Homeland Security officials over an increasingly aggressive no-entry policy that critics say has caused a wave of criticism in the Muslim world even if it has been barely noticed inside the United States.

While Homeland Security officials claim they are vigilantly guarding the borders against possible terrorists and their sympathizers, one State Department source (who asked not to be identified because of political sensitivities) charged there has been a “kind of hysteria” on the part of Homeland Security officials in the way they have been barring individuals from entering the United States on the basis of vague and in many cases unsubstantiated allegations.