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Untangling the Bizarre CIA Links to the Ground Zero Mosque

Mark Ames
NY Observer
Sept 12, 2010

So far, the debate over the proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero has unfolded along predictable lines, with the man at the center of the project, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, drawing attacks from the right painting him as a terrorist sympathizer with ties to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood

But meanwhile, links between the group behind the controversial mosque, the CIA and U.S. military establishment have gone unacknowledged.

For instance, one of the earliest backers of the nonprofit group, the Cordoba Initiative, that is spearheading the Ground Zero mosque, is a 52-year-old Scarsdale, New York, native named R. Leslie Deak. In addition to serving on the group’s board of advisors since its founding in 2004 by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, Deak was its principal funder, donating $98,000 to the nonprofit between 2006 and 2008. This figure appears to represent organization’s total operating budget—though, oddly, the group reported receipts of just a third of that total during the same time period. 

Deak describes himself as a “Practicing Muslim with background in Christianity and Judaism, [with] in-depth personal and business experiences in the Middle East, living and working six months per year in Egypt.” Born into a Christian home, Deak became an Orthodox Jew and married a Jewish woman before converting to Islam when he married his current wife, Moshira Soliman, with whom he now lives in Rye. 

Leslie Deak’s resume also notes his role as “business consultant” for Patriot Defense Group, LLC, a private defense contractor with offices in Winter Park, Florida, and in Tucson. The only names listed on the firm’s website are those of its three “strategic advisers.” These include retired four-star General Bryan “Doug” Brown, commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command until 2007, where he headed “all special operations forces, both active duty and reserve, leading the Global War On Terrorism,” and James Pavitt, former deputy director for operations at the Central Intelligence Agency, where he “managed the CIA’s globally deployed personnel and nearly half of its multi-billion dollar budget” and “served as head of America’s Clandestine Service, the CIA’s operational response to the attacks of September 11, 2001.” 

Besides Pavitt, Brown and a third advisor, banker Alexander Cappello, the Patriot Defense Group is so secretive it doesn’t even name its management team, instead describing its anonymous CEO as a former Special Forces and State Department veteran, the group’s managing director as a former CIA officer experienced in counter-terrorism in hostile environments and the group’s corporate intelligence head as a “23-year veteran of the U.S. Secret Service who worked on the personal security details of former Presidents Bush and Clinton.”

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