February 19th, 2014, 6:30 pm
Culpeper sheriff stands by anti-terror course
BY DONNIE JOHNSTON / THE FREE LANCE–STAR
Culpeper County Sheriff Scott Jenkins says he is not backing down from sending his deputies to a seminar next week, despite criticism of the former FBI agent who is running it.
Jenkins said John Guandolo’s three days of “advanced counter-terrorism” seminars scheduled for next week will go on as planned, with about 20 staffers from his department attending.
“I got a call last week asking if Guandolo was coming and when I said yes, I immediately began getting back-to-back emails bashing me,” Jenkins said this week.
A story this week by the Virginia bureau of Watchdog.org noted that the Council on American–Islamic Relations had written Jenkins, urging him to “disinvite Guandolo and distance his department from the ‘Jihadi Networks in America’ program, which is billed as ‘advanced counter-terrorism training.’” The council described Guandolo as a “notorious anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors extremist groups, also called on Jenkins to cancel the seminars by Guandolo.
In an email to the Free Lance–Star Wednesday, Josh Glasstetter of the SPLC said, “Guandolo, who resigned from the FBI ahead of a misconduct investigation, has made a career out of spreading anti-Muslim conspiracy theories. Most recently, he claimed that CIA director John Brennan is a secret Muslim agent for the Saudis.
“It’s hard to believe that Culpeper County Sheriff’s Office would knowingly get involved with such a disreputable figure.”
Jenkins said the backlash caught him by surprise. The training costs his staff only $25 each; others must pay $225.
“We were looking for ways to get training hours for our officers and somebody brought up this guy’s name,” Jenkins said. “Going out of town for training can be expensive and [Guandolo] would provide us with 24 hours of in-service training right here in town. It was a win–win situation for us.”
Jenkins said he contacted Guandolo, who came to Culpeper to finalize the deal.
“I met the guy a couple of months ago and we had a two- or three-minute conversation,” the Culpeper sheriff recalled. “Then Friday I got these emails immediately bashing me.”
Jenkins said he took the emails seriously and spent last weekend researching Guandolo, including reading his book “Raising a Jihadi Generation.” Jenkins said he also contacted Guandolo, who claimed that he has been the focus of intense criticism since a terrorist report he helped author was given to Congress.
The sheriff said Guandolo forwarded him a letter of recommendation bearing the signatures of four top former CIA officials including R. James Woolsey, who was CIA director from 1993–95.
After learning more, Jenkins said the seminars will go on as planned Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of next week at Germanna Community College’s Daniel Technology Center.
“I have no intention of backing down,” he said.
He said he is confident his employees who attend the training will be able to separate facts from any theories offered by Guandolo.
“We’ve got sense enough not to take anything we might not agree with at face value,” he said.
Jenkins added that about 30 other officers from departments all over the country have signed up for the training.
Guandolo has also agreed to do a special two-hour seminar—at no extra charge—for local elected officials and the media, Jenkins said.
In fact, the controversy has so intrigued the Culpeper sheriff that he now plans to take a closer look at the situation.
“[These groups are] so alarmed that I am going to one of his sessions myself,” he said.