He’s called Islam “barbaric and evil.”
He’s tweeted out pictures of bearded, dark-skinned airport security officers, labeling them “jihadis” and “terrorists.”
And in Texas, ex-FBI agent John Guandolo was allowed by the state’s Commission on Law Enforcement to train police and other law enforcement officers.
Earlier this month in San Angelo, anti-Islam Guandolo conducted one of his day-long seminars, “Understanding the Jihadi Threat to America.” A flier for the program said it would put “terrorist attacks into perspective” and “identify specific jihadi threats in Texas.”
The program — which Muslim advocacy groups say promotes racial and ethnic profiling — qualified as continuing education for Texas law enforcement officers, who must take 40 hours of credit every two years. On Monday, advocacy groups, including Muslim Advocates and the Southern Poverty Law Center, sent a letter to the state agency that oversees officer training and asked it to rescind the credit hours given to officers who attended the training.
“Guandolo’s trainings are filled with lies, errors and conspiracy theories,” Juvaria Khan, a staff attorney for Muslim Advocates, said in a news release. “Anybody who cares about the rule of law in Texas should be deeply concerned that this is what the state is endorsing.”
When asked about Guandolo’s training, officials with the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement said they contract out oversight for continuing education sessions and instructors to local providers — in this case the Concho Valley Council of Governments. But because of the concerns raised over Guandolo, the commission sent a staffer out to make sure the course was valuable enough to qualify for continuing education hours. That staffer “observed no concerning material that would cause reason to deny continuing education hours for law enforcement attendees,” said Gretchen Grigsby, the commission’s director of government relations.
The Concho Valley Council of Governments also denied wrongdoing; its executive director, John Austin Stokes, said, “we as an academy did not endorse, host or sponsor in any way that training.”
Stokes said the council simply passes information about continuing education opportunities along to local law enforcement groups and is authorized to provide training hours as long as the instructor is deemed a subject matter expert. Guandolo touts himself as just that.
Guandolo started his training company — Understanding The Threat (UTT) — in 2010, following years in the counterterrorism division of the FBI, as a way to combat what he believes is an attempt by Muslim groups to overthrow the U.S. government and implement Islamic law. His company’s mission statement includes teaching people how “to identify jihadis and jihadi networks in their area, and provide them tools to disrupt and dismantle them.”
“When UTT teaches or briefs about the Islamic network in the United States, we use evidence from the largest terrorism trials in American history,” Guandolo wrote in an email to The Texas Tribune, defending what he claims are programs based on irrefutable facts. “When we discuss Islam and sharia, we use the doctrinal books of Islamic law and school textbooks that are widely used in U.S. Islamic schools.”
“Suit-wearing jihadis come after us all the time,” Guandolo said in a promotional video on his company’s website. “So sometimes people in law enforcement or government are a little hesitant to get involved because they don’t want a confrontation.”
The advocacy groups said in their Monday letter to the law enforcement commission that Guandolo is not an expert but instead bases his professional opinions on his “unrelenting anti-Muslim bias.”
The letter lists several tweets from Guandolo in the last year, including multiple tweets where he posts pictures of TSA agents and calls them terrorists or jihadis — terms he uses interchangeably. The letter also mentions a tweet from the day of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, where Guandolo surmised it was likely the work of a jihadi.
The groups say that Guandolo has sought in his work to instill prejudice against Muslims among law enforcement and communities at large.
“For close to a decade, Mr. Guandolo has repeated his baseless claim that a vast conspiracy exists among Muslim groups to ‘overthrow America and establish Islamic law,’” the letter states.
In his email to the Tribune, Guandolo claimed that the organizations who write defamatory statements about him and his company have been identified as terrorists with the same objective as Al Qaeda and ISIS.
It is unclear how many officers attended last month’s training in San Angelo, but the Southern Poverty Law Center reported before the session that more than 30 had signed up. Stokes said after evaluating the course, the regional council is not likely to offer Guandolo’s training again in the future.