GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz on Thursday announced his 23-member foreign policy team and national security coalition, who purportedly share the common goal of "defining and confronting radical Islam." One of those members is being touted as more anti-Muslim than Donald Trump: Frank Gaffney Jr. heads the Center for Security Policy, and is accused of promoting anti-Muslim conspiracy theories, news outlets reported.
Gaffney, who served in the Department of Defense under President Ronald Reagan, was once described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as "one of America's most notorious Islamophobes."
The Center for Security Policy was referenced by Huffington Post as a "think tank of sorts well-known for promoting conspiratorial theories about the Muslim Brotherhood infiltrating the U.S. government at high levels and the Sharia system replacing American democracy."
When Trump proposed a temporary ban on all Muslim immigration, he quoted from a 2015 survey of American Muslims commissioned by the Center for Security Policy. It concluded that a quarter of U.S. Muslims supported violent jihad against the U.S.
Months ago, Cruz offered the following praise for Gaffney: "Frank is a patriot, he loves this country, and he's clear-eyed about radical Islamic terrorism."
"Gaffney's far-right view of Islam actually feeds into the mistaken prejudices of the kindler, gentler form of neo-conservatism other Cruz advisors espouse. They correctly grasp that moderate, non-literalist Muslims, in the U.S. and abroad, ought to occupy our conceptual attention and earn our prudent support," said James Poulos with The Daily Beast. "But they are too apt to believe, as Mitt Romney suggested while running for president, that Muslim societies are better off the faster they modernize, so the U.S. is better off the more we help modernize them."
Cruz has offered strong views about radical Islam himself, previously calling for carpet-bombing the Middle East to combat ISIS, said the United States should send troops to Iraq and Syria, and said something is torture only when it causes "pain equivalent to losing organs and systems."
Other members of the new Cruz team, as reported by Bloomberg, include Michael Ledeen, a former Reagan administration official involved in the Iran-contra scandal. "We're at war with a coalition of radical Islamists and radical secularists. It's not all one thing, nor is Islam all one thing," Ledeen told Bloomberg. Ledeen is a current Freedom Scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and a former scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, whose involvement with Islamophobic ideologues ThinkProgress previously documented.
Jim Talent, a former Missouri Republican senator who was a key adviser to Romney in 2008 and 2012, is signed up for the Cruz team. So is Mary Habeck, a former staffer on George W. Bush's national security council, who is an expert on jihadi organizations and has warned against demonizing the entire religion of Islam.
Elliott Abrams, a leading neoconservative who served as Deputy Special to the President and Deputy National Security Adviser under President George W. Bush, was another shocking name on Bloomberg's list of Cruz advisers.
"It's now 15 years since 9/11, and I think it's obvious that Muslim citizens in the U.S. and Muslim leaders abroad have an absolutely critical role to play in fighting jihadis and other Muslim extremists," Abrams told Bloomberg. "This is partly a battle within Islam that they are going to have fight and win. Alienating these potential allies is the kind of foolish policy that the Obama administration has engaged in when it comes to Arab states that are our allies."
Representatives of Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim rights group, urged Cruz to drop William Boykin, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general who has said the government should be allowed to ignore the U.S. Constitution to pass laws limiting Muslims' right to freedom of speech and religion.
Another adviser is Katherine Gorka, president of the Council on Global Security, a group that produces research on Islamist violence, who said in an email to Reuters that Cruz "understands the vital role that America's military strength plays across the globe but without wanting to engage the U.S. in expensive democracy-building adventures."
Victoria Coates, who has been Cruz's main adviser on national security since he came to the Senate, told Bloomberg the tension on the policy team "is by design and not an accident." She added: "Both Frank and Elliott are people I went out of my way to set up meetings with the Senator. He has met with both of them individually for years."
According to the Cruz website, the following is a complete list of his advisory team along with their affiliations:
Elliott Abrams was an assistant secretary of State in the Reagan administration and a deputy national security advisor in the George W. Bush administration; he is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Stewart Baker served as assistant secretary for policy at DHS, as general counsel of the National Security Agency, and as general counsel of the bipartisan commission that investigated intelligence failures involving WMD and Iraq.
Ilan Berman is vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council, and an expert on Iran, Russia and radical Islam.
Lt. General William G. "Jerry" Boykin is a retired US Army Delta Force and Green Beret commander and the Executive Vice President of the Family Research Council.
Fred Fleitz is senior vice president of the Center for Security Policy and a former Central Intelligence Agency analyst.
Randy Fort has served in the Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush administrations in senior positions in the intelligence community, and is currently an executive with the Raytheon Company.
Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. is the President and CEO of the Center for Security Policy. He acted as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy under President Reagan.
Nile Gardiner is a former aide to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Mike Gonzalez is a senior fellow at The Heritage Foundation, a former speechwriter for the Bush Administration and editorial writer for The Wall Street Journal.
Katharine C. Gorka is the president of the Council on Global Security.
Steven Groves is a Senior Research Fellow at The Heritage Foundation where he concentrates on the protection of American sovereignty, treaties, and international law.
Mary Habeck is a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, where she studies al-Qa'ida, ISIS, and jihadi-salafism, and an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).
Kristofer L. Harrison is a co-founder of the China Beige Book and was an official in both the Departments of Defense and State in the George W. Bush administration.
Jerry Hendrix, a retired Navy captain, is the principal director of the Stoneridge Group, a national security consultancy.
Michael Ledeen is freedom scholar at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, holds a Ph.D. in Modern European History, and is the author of more than 35 books, including the forthcoming The Field of Fight.
Clare M. Lopez is vice president for research & analysis at the Center for Security Policy.
Andy McCarthy is former Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, led the prosecution of the "Blind Sheikh" and 11 other jihadists for waging a terrorist war against the United States that included the 1993 World Trade Center bombing
Robert C. O'Brien is a partner at Larson O'Brien LLP; he was a senior foreign policy advisor to Gov. Scott Walker and Governor Mitt Romney, and was a US Representative to the UN General Assembly.
Michael Pillsbury was a Reagan campaign advisor in 1980, served as assistant undersecretary of defense for policy planning under President Reagan, and is the author of three books on China.
Charles "Cully" Stimson is the senior legal fellow and manager of National Security Law Program at The Heritage Foundation; he is a former deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs.
Jim Talent was a U.S. senator from Missouri and served on the House and Senate Armed Services Committees for twelve years; he is currently a senior fellow specializing in military preparedness at the American Enterprise Institute.
Daniel P. Vajdich is a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and was Governor Scott Walker's deputy foreign policy director and lead staffer for Europe and Eurasia on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Christian Whiton was a State Department senior advisor and deputy special envoy during the George W. Bush administration; he is the author of Smart Power: Between Diplomacy and War, and is a principal at DC International Advisory.