The Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office said Friday that it has decided not to partner with a citizens group sponsoring an anti-terrorism training session planned for next week, saying it has become too controversial.
The Sheriff’s Office said in a news release issued at 5 p.m. that it had heard from both supporters and opponents of former FBI agent John Guandolo and that the controversy had overshadowed the intent of the training.
Critics of Guandolo’s training say it gives a distorted and biased view of Islam that casts all Muslims as suspects.
Sheriff’s spokesman Lt. David Mattingly said Guandolo could still appear in Wichita but that the Sheriff’s Office will not be a sponsor. Mattingly said he didn’t know which citizens group was the remaining sponsor.
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The Sheriff’s Office will not be sending any officers, Sheriff Jeff Easter said in a brief phone call.
The news release said the office would find another instructor to provide the training in the future and that the U.S. Attorney’s Office had contacted the Sheriff’s Office and offered to present anti-terrorism training.
“What the sheriff decides to do is his call,” Guandolo said midday Friday. “He’s a good man. He has a good reputation. He’ll do whatever he thinks is right.”
Guandolo defended the information he provides to law enforcement. “There is no reasonable and factual counter argument” to the information, he said.
Ibrahim Hooper, national spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said the office’s withdrawal of sponsorship is “really good news. The problem is him training law enforcement officers.”
Moussa Elbayoumy, Lawrence-based chairman of CAIR Kansas, said the group doesn’t want any law enforcement officer “to be subjected to that kind of rhetoric and misinformation.”
Earlier Friday afternoon, Elbayoumy and a local Muslim leader said they had been trying to meet with Easter about their concerns over the training.
On Wednesday, the national Muslim group asked the Sheriff’s Office to cancel the training program by Guandolo because the group views him as having a view that puts all Muslims under suspicion of being connected to terrorism. The Sheriff’s Office had said it was hosting Guandolo.
Also on Wednesday, the Sheriff’s Office said it was not canceling the program and that it viewed Guandolo’s training as a way to help officers distinguish between extremists and non-extremists.
The Muslim leaders compared hosting Guandolo to sponsoring a member of the Ku Klux Klan.
Hussam Madi, spokesman for the Islamic Society of Wichita, which he said is probably the largest Muslim organization in the city, said he wants law enforcement to learn about different cultures and investigative strategies “but not from someone who … brings hateful views” and treats Muslims as “guilty till proven innocent.”
The training had been scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday at Crown Uptown Theatre in Wichita. Originally, it was expected to draw law enforcement officers from across the state at a cost of $150 per person. The Sedgwick County office had said earlier in the week that it had planned to pay for 10 sheriff’s officers to attend.
Madi said the local Muslim community views Sheriff Easter positively. Before he became sheriff, when he was a police official, Easter helped to protect the rights of Muslims when protesters blocked the driveway leading to the Islamic center near K-96 and Woodlawn, Madi said.
Guandolo said Friday that people with ties to Islamic terrorist organizations currently serve, brief and advise the secretary of state, FBI, CIA and the president. The advisers are “leaders of known Muslim Brotherhood groups” or other front groups for Islamic terrorism, Guandolo said.
He said he would define someone who poses a threat as someone who is an adherent of Sharia, or Islamic law. “There is no version of Sharia that doesn’t mandate jihad until the entire world is subordinated to Islamic law,” he said. An adherent of Sharia can’t follow the U.S. Constitution, he said.
Guandolo says he gets a lot of questions about how he views President Obama. “His policies are pro-Hamas, pro-Muslim Brotherhood,” he said. Guandolo said Hamas is designated by the government as a terrorist organization. “There are a lot of weak leaders in our government,” he said. Guandolo said that President Clinton had more than one adviser who is a terrorist.
Some members of the Sheriff’s Office saw Guandolo’s training when it was provided to a citizens group in Wichita several weeks ago, Mattingly said.
On Friday, when asked which group it was, Guandolo said it was a “miscellaneous group,” “mix of citizens,” “just a private briefing.”