To: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Cc: Smietana, Bob
Subject: letter to editor from the Investigative Project on Terrorism re Sunday's story
I am writing to take great exception to reporter Bob Smietana's characterization of the work done by Steve Emerson and the Investigative Project on Terrorism in today's article, "Anti-Muslim crusaders make millions spreading fear."
First, Mr. Smietana cites one line in our 2008 tax filings to make the unsupported implication that Steve Emerson is somehow pocketing $3,349,000 in management fees from his relationship with the Investigative Project on Terrorism Foundation. He ignores the details on page 10 of the 990 form that shows $2,373,000 of that money went to pay for program expenses, such as the high costs of conducting our research, and $1,017,000 in management and salary costs for our staff of more than 15 people.
Mr. Smietana says without attribution that we are "spreading hate." On what information does he base that subjective, opinionated claim? Is it the Tennessean's practice to allow reporters to make such claims without the benefit of attributing what is clearly an opinion to a named source?
The article also says IPT is "telling donors they're in imminent danger from Muslims." Again, what is the source for this claim? IPT's clearly stated role is to identify potential terrorist threats, particularly those coming from people who hide their true leanings. Our track record is clear: From members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad working at a university think tank in Florida to Hamas supporters using a charity to support terrorism, IPT has been ahead of the curve. Many of the subjects of our work are either in prison or have been deported. That speaks to our track record.
Mr. Smietana also uses loaded terms, such as "self-styled" to refer to Steve and others. Steve has reported on these issues for more than 25 years, and his work and that of IPT has been recognized by national journalism organizations. His 1994 documentary Jihad in America received a George Polk Award. If you are to refer to anyone who reports on or studies any topic as "self-styled," wouldn't that also refer to virtually every employee of the Tennessean? Are all of your court reporters lawyers? Do your police reporters have degrees in criminal justice?
The article implies that we say there is a blanket danger from all Muslims, and anyone who reads the site would see that's not correct. We print articles by Muslims and do stories about Muslims who present a different point of view than the Council on American-Islamic Relations and other Islamist groups.
By saying our "tax-exempt status is facing questions," you imply that someone other than the Tennessean and the paper's hand-picked analysts are raising those questions. You present this as something that is already happening outside the realm of the newspaper and its talking heads. If so, what proof do you have of that?
The article also ignores what we told Mr. Smietana about the expansion of our board of directors in 2009, and that the structuring of the relationship between the foundation and SAE Productions was done to provide a layer of security for our employees. Steve has been the subject of death threats because of his work, and our organization as a whole has also been threatened. All of this was approved by our outside legal and accounting experts.
We told the IRS we were contracting out much of our work with a group that did not have tax-exempt status. That was approved. As for the for-profit or not-for-profit nature of SAE Productions, the IRS is aware of that as well. That has not been questioned. We say IPTF contracts out with SAE Productions, which files tax returns with the IRS. All of that has been disclosed.
Finally, your article has taken our limited role in the Murfreesboro story and blown it way out of proportion. We received a question from someone in Tennessee about officials at the mosque. We found that one board member had pro-Hamas writing on his MySpace page. Hamas has been designated as a terrorist organization by the federal government since 1995. The article says the Department of Homeland Security told mosque officials that they found nothing to worry about, but your sources are those officials. Also, you attempt to back up by recycling a quote from an FBI official that says they don't comment on specific allegations. In essence, you have no primary source to back up the mosque officials' claims.
Investigative Project on Terrorism