In a stunning turn of events, a high-level Muslim military aide blamed for costing an intelligence contractor his job will step down from his own Pentagon post, WND has learned.
Meanwhile, his rival, Maj. Stephen Coughlin, a leading authority on Islamic war doctrine, may stay in the Pentagon, moving from the office of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the office of the secretary of defense. However, sources say a former U.S. ambassador to Turkey is trying to block his new contract.
The top Pentagon aide, Egyptian-born Hesham H. Islam, came under a cloud of suspicion after reports raised doubt about his resume and contacts he had made with radical Muslims. He is expected to leave the government next month, officials say.
Islam and Coughlin recently quarreled over intelligence briefings Coughlin presented showing a close connection between the religion of Islam and terrorism. Coughlin's contract with the Joint Chiefs, which ends in March, was not renewed.
But as a result of the ensuing firestorm that played out in the conservative press – led by Washington Times Pentagon reporter Bill Gertz – Islam was put under a microscope, and questions were raised regarding his background.
For example, Claudia Rosett of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies wrote a column challenging key claims in Islam's official biography. Within days, a Defense Department profile of Islam was removed from the department's website.
A Pentagon spokesman said it was "taken down in an attempt to reduce the rhetoric and the emotion surrounding this issue while we try to determine the facts."
A senior U.S. official says the life story Islam presented now appears sketchy.
"His resume didn't add up, and he knows it," the official said. "He's voluntarily leaving the government in March."
At the same time, a report by terror expert Steven Emerson revealed that Islam, as special assistant to the deputy secretary of defense, has scheduled at least two meetings in the Pentagon with Syrian-tied radicals – including a leading member of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood – in direct violation of U.S. policy.
As WND previously reported, FBI officials believe Islam is involved with the U.S. branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and is helping its front groups run "influence operations" against the U.S. government.
"He's a Muslim brother," an FBI official told WND. "He's a bad actor, and he's made other unreported nefarious contacts."
Islam has worked closely in the Pentagon with Muslim chaplain Abuhena M. Saifulislam, who as WND also previously reported, received his trained at a radical Islamic school in Northern Virginia that was raided by federal authorities after 9/11.
Islam, whose son is active in the military, obtained one of the highest security clearances for classified information. Sources confirm he has sat in on Pentagon meetings in which intelligence clearance was restricted at the Top Secret/SCI (Sensitive Compartmented Information) level.
The Pentagon had no comment. And Islam, who has not been accused of any crimes, has refused interviews.
Emerson says Islam prescribed a steady diet of Muslim Brotherhood-connected outreach for his unwitting boss, deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England.
For example, England spoke at the Islamic Society of North America's 2006 convention and last year even hosted a luncheon with ISNA officials in the Pentagon. At the time, federal prosecutors had linked ISNA to the Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy in the U.S. and named the group as an unindicted co-conspirator in a major terrorism-financing case.
In one intelligence briefing, Coughlin argued that the Pentagon should end its outreach programs with ISNA, which also put him at odds with Islam.
Pentagon insiders say Eric S. Edelman, undersecretary of defense for policy, has sought to stop the awarding of a new contract to Coughlin. Edelman served as ambassador to Turkey from 2003 to 2005.