The indoctrination of Monica Witt

I don’t believe we’ve written about Monica Witt, the former U.S. Air Force intelligence specialist accused of espionage for Iran. Witt, who now resides in Iran, out of our reach, is said to have caused significant damage to America. She is suspected, among other things, of revealing the names of double agents run by the United States.

Why did Witt become a traitor? Douglas Wise, former deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, rules out a monetary motive.

She wasn’t in it for the money; this wasn’t a fee-for-task thing. At some point, she took an ideological left turn to become aligned with the Persians.

At what point, and why, did Witt take that “ideological left turn”?

This account in the New York Times attributes the shift in part to her time in the military. According to the Times, Witt, who served in Iraq and other Middle East venues, was traumatized by “drone strikes, extrajudicial killings and atrocities against children.”

But the Times also says that Witt’s radicalization “accelerated while she was in graduate school” at George Washington University, where she gained a master’s degree in its Middle East Studies program. The Times describes that program as an “academic proving ground for aspiring diplomats and researchers near the State Department’s headquarters.”

The Times leaves it at that. It does not explore why Witt’s radicalization accelerated while at GW.

It does not point out, as the Daily Caller does, that Muslim-majority nations — plus a handful of private groups associated with them — have given $100 million to George Washington University in the form of gifts and contracts since 2011, according to Department of Education disclosures. This includes $80 million from Saudi Arabia, $14 million from Kuwait, $4.5 million from the United Arab Emirates, and $730,000 from Turkey.

Iran is not on this list, and its interests certainly don’t align with those of the biggest donor. But it’s not difficult to see why Witt’s anti-American radicalization might accelerate while she was a student in a program heavily subsidized by Islamist regimes.

The Times quotes one of Witt’s fellow GW students as saying that “everyone just kind of sat and watched” as Witt expressed strong feelings against American foreign policy in class. No one, it seems, pushed back with even a limited defense of America.

GW’s program is more apt to defend the Muslim Brotherhood. The Daily Caller notes that in 2011, Nathan Brown, who now directs the Middle East studies program, testified before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that the Brotherhood has no desire to push its agenda through forceful means. Brown went so far as to compare the Muslim Brotherhood with the Boy Scouts, though he did allow that the Brotherhood is “more ambitious.”

We’ll probably never know the degree to which George Washington University contributed to Monica Witt’s rabid anti-Americanism. It’s alarming, though, that an institution that shapes the thinking of future U.S. policy makers receives vast amounts of money from Middle East sources with interests quite different from America’s.

And GW isn’t the only such university. The Daily Caller, citing Department of Education data, says that nearly all of the schools empowered to shape understanding of the Middle East among U.S. graduate students receive significant funding from such sources. Georgetown University leads the way with $378,000,000.

We’ve written about a similar problem — Chinese funding of China studies in the U.S. through “Confucius Institutes.” Fortunately, Congress and the FBI are aware of this problem and there are attempts to deal with it.

Not so, as far as I can tell, with Middle East studies. Perhaps Monica Witt’s road to treason will change this.

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