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Aside from the man who appointed him, the most dangerous incompetent in our government today is James Clapper, the director of national intelligence.

Mr. Clapper, you’ll recall, was the guy with the deer-in-the-headlights expression on his face when ABC’s Diane Sawyer asked him about the arrest in London of 12 terror suspects in London Dec. 21.  It was plain Mr. Clapper knew nothing about them, though the arrests had been the lead story on the news for many hours.

A spokesperson for Mr. Clapper said he wasn’t briefed on the arrests “because it didn’t appear to have a homeland nexus, and there was no immediate action by the DNI required.”

If Mr. Clapper watched television, listened to the radio, or surfed the Web, he wouldn’t have needed a briefing from his subordinates to know something big was happening in his bailiwick.

Testifying before the House Intelligence Committee last Thursday (2/10), Mr. Clapper said:  “The term Muslim Brotherhood is an umbrella term for a variety of movements.  In the case of Egypt, a very heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence and has decried al Qaida as a perversion of Islam.”

When informed of what the DNI had said, Richard Engel, NBC’s chief foreign correspondent, said this was “a wild mis-reading of this organization.”

Indeed.  The Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan) was founded in Egypt in 1928 by a schoolteacher, Hasan al Banna, to promote worldwide domination by Islam.  At first a flop (after ten years, the Ikhwan had only 800 members), the Muslim Brotherhood became a regional force after receiving massive aid from Nazi Germany.  By the end of World War II, it had a million members.

The Muslim Brotherhood was outlawed in Egypt in 1954 by President Gamal Abdel Nasser, a secular socialist who favored the Soviet Union, and who got annoyed with the Ikhwan when it tried to assassinate him. 

The Ikhwan have been the bete noire of the Egyptian establishment ever since, despite the shift in the establishment’s alliance from East to West.  That shift was made by Anwar Sadat, who succeeded Nasser as president in 1970.  Sadat was assassinated by members of the Ikhwan in 1981, for having made peace with Israel.  He was replaced by Hosni Mubarak.

After Nasser outlawed them, many Ikhwan found refuge in Saudi Arabia, the only other part of the Muslim world at the time where their radical view of Islam was popular.  Osama bin Laden’s teachers were Ikhwan.  Al Qaida’s number two, the Egyptian Ayman al Zawahiri, is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

These facts are easily obtained by anyone with access to the Web. And thanks to MEMRI (Middle East Media Research Institute), which translates what Arabs say to each other into English, we know the Muslim Brotherhood’s leaders today are as devoted to establishment of a world-wide Caliphate as their predecessors were.  But apparently his staff has yet to brief Mr. Clapper on the Web’s existence.

Though the goals of al Qaida and the Ikhwan are the same, there’s been a divergence in tactics.  The Muslim Brotherhood is willing — as were the Nazis and Communists when they were weak — to work in coalitions until they are strong enough to seize power.

Tactical flexibility does not make the Ikhwan less evil.  It does make the Muslim Brothers more dangerous.

When Islamists conceal their true goals, good intelligence is essential.  Which is why John Podhoretz of Commentary magazine described Mr. Clapper’s testimony as “one of the most reckless and irresponsible statements ever made publicly by an American official at a critical and delicate moment.”

“There are two possibilities, and they are both appalling,” said Judith Levy.  “One is that Clapper knew everything he was saying was a gross distortion of reality but said it anyway, thereby deliberately misleading the American people and giving aid and comfort to a group whose interests are completely antithetical to those of the United States.  The other is that Clapper is genuinely ignorant of the agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood, a thought that is just about as unnerving as can be imagined.”

In either case, Mr. Clapper is unfit for the job he holds.  But he’s only the tip of the iceberg.

“Keep in mind that Clapper’s remarks are not his personal opinions,” said Michael Ledeen.  “They are the collective judgment of the Intelligence Community.  So we’re presumably listening to the same dangerous nonsense that the spooks are giving to our top policymakers.”