Influence: The Muslim Brotherhood in America

Should Family Affiliations with Foreign Islamist Movements Prevent a Security Clearance?

A former Pentagon Assistant Inspector General is the son of a prominent American Muslim Brotherhood official. Now he wants his old job back.

BY Christine Brim · | October 5, 2016

In 1980, Robert Dickson Crane converted to Islam. From that year to the present day, Crane has built a successful career as a high-level official in multiple Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas-affiliated organizations in the U.S. and Qatar. At the same time, from 1988 to 2013, his son John Ruedel Crane rose to similar prominence in the Department of Defense to the position of Assistant Inspector General and director of both the Department of Defense and NSA’s whistleblower programs. Crane’s position in the DoD Inspector General office came with high-level clearances and access to a broad scope of DoD information.  His tenure of twenty-five years within DoD also encompassed a time of multiple jihadist attacks against American targets, including the 1993 and 2001 World Trade Center attacks and the global war on terror waged in response.

In a recent phone conversation, John Crane confirmed that Robert Crane is his father and stated that, during background investigations throughout his career, he was never asked, nor did he volunteer, any information about his father’s affiliations. We don’t know if the relationship was, in fact, known and approved by the Department of Defense, the intelligence community or by political administrations during Crane’s over two-decade year career. But we can state that the relationship between Robert Crane and John Crane is being described for the first time to the general public in this investigative report.

John Crane’s management of the whistleblower offices included the years when Edward Snowden stole over 1.5 million classified documents. Crane has recently been the subject of numerous media interviews as “The Third Man” in the new book Bravehearts: Whistleblowing in the Age of Snowden, a defense of Edward Snowden’s theft of classified documents from the U.S., UK and Australia. John Crane was quietly removed from his Inspector General and whistleblower office positions in February 2013, four months before the Edward Snowden case became public knowledge.  He immediately became a consultant for the General Accountability Project (GAP), the legal counsel for Snowden. GAP was founded in 1977 by the extreme far left Institute for Policy Studies.

On September 15, 2016 the House Intelligence Committee issued a bipartisan, unanimous report summarizing their investigation of National Security Agency computer technician Edward Snowden’s theft of 1.5 million classified documents.  The Committee’s critique of Snowden was devastating: “These findings demonstrate that the public narrative popularized by Snowden and his allies is rife with falsehoods, exaggerations, and crucial omissions, a pattern that began before he stole 1.5 million sensitive documents.” As former Intelligence Committee staff Fred Fleitz has observed, “Snowden is not a whistleblower; he is a disgruntled former intelligence employee who did enormous damage to U.S. national security.”

Left-wing activists have mounted a campaign for Snowden’s vindication and pardon before Obama leaves office, including Oliver Stone’s hagiographic movie, Snowden, and Bravehearts, the book by  Nation magazine reporter Mark Hertsgaard in which John Crane figures so prominently. Crane’s allegations against the DoD in Bravehearts have been cited as a vindication of Snowden’s acts by the Intercept, the website of Snowden advocate Glenn Greenwald (“Vindication for Edward Snowden From a New Player in NSA Whistleblowing Saga”).

In February 2013, John Crane was placed on “administrative leave” from his position as DoD Assistant Inspector General, his security clearances and pay were suspended, and he was forbidden to come to the office. He has resurfaced in the public eye in 2016 as the subject of numerous articles and interviews promoting the Bravehearts book in Der Spiegel, The Guardian, Government Executive, Democracy Now!, Russia Today, New York Times, The Intercept, and of course Hertsgaard’s Nation. Crane asserts in Bravehearts and in these interviews that Edward Snowden’s theft of U.S. classified information was simply an understandable reaction to the DoD’s prior treatment of whistleblowers, which discouraged Snowden from becoming a “whistleblower” himself inside the system.

John Crane is now appealing his removal from the Department of Defense and wants to return to his job. If he undergoes any future background investigation, he would be required to complete the new (as of 2010) security clearance questionnaire SF 86, which asks about the foreign affiliations of relatives – something prior questionnaires left off:

18. Is the relative affiliated with a foreign government, military, security, defense industry, foreign movement, or intelligence service? Describe the relative’s relationship with the foreign government, military, security, defense industry, foreign movement, or intelligence service. [Emphasis added.]

In interviews with journalists or with DoD personnel, John Crane never mentioned that his father, Robert Dickson Crane, has been an official in numerous Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas-affiliated organizations in America and Qatar for the last 36 years.

Focus for a moment on the “affiliated with a foreign movement” phrase in questionnaire SF 86. The Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliated organizations are commonly recognized as a “foreign movement.” See for example the Muslim Brotherhood’s own website, Muslim Brotherhood documents submitted as court evidence, CNN, BBC, Pew Research, and numerous other sources.

But the Muslim Brotherhood is not just a foreign movement; it is a movement dedicated to Islamic supremacism and linked to terrorism. The Brotherhood has been designated a terrorist organization by Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Russia, Syria, and the United Arab Emirates. The U.S. Congress is considering a similar bill this year, the Muslim Brotherhood Terrorist Designation Act of 2015 (S.2230, H.R.3892) currently with 7 co-sponsors in the Senate and 67 co-sponsors in the House.

The Muslim Brotherhood motto is “Allah is our objective; the Prophet is our leader; the Quran is our law; Jihad is our way; dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.” They continue to be a revolutionary movement to impose strict Islamic (sharia) law in Muslim-majority countries and the world, using a mix of politics and violence. Al Qaeda emerged from the Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas, designated a terrorist organization, considers itself the local branch of the Brotherhood in Gaza.

For a DoD official with top clearances employed during the three past decades of Islamic terrorism, having a father affiliated with Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas-linked organizations should be considered a particular concern.  John Crane’s information access was extensive in his positions in the IG office, as he describes at his LinkedIn profile where he also lists “TS SCI Clearances” as one of his specialties:

As the Assistant Inspector General for Communications and Congressional Liaison at the Department of Defense, I developed, led, and implemented major operational strategies worldwide at over 50 locations within the United States and globally at offices in Europe, Southwest Asia and the Pacific Rim.

I was accountable for creating and executing the complex integrated communications strategy for sharing critical results of the Inspector General criminal and administrative investigations, audits, inspections and intelligence community oversight at both the national and international levels through media outlets, on camera interviews, background briefings and through social media….

… John was also the principal advisor to the Inspector General and responsible for Whistleblowing and Transparency and the DoD Omsbuds [sic] for Whistleblowing. In addition he was accountable for all strategic communications and public affairs to include the Freedom of Information Act/Privacy Act… John was accountable for all Congressional testimony before Congress, on topics ranging from financial management to the status of US efforts in South West Asia. He was also responsible for the content and structure of the intranet and internet.

According to Bravehearts, Crane was also responsible for “all whistle-blower allegations within the DoD, including from the NSA and other intelligence agencies.”

The DoD Inspector General office experienced problems with security during the time that John Crane was Director of Communication, according to the Washington Times. According to one report, a routine sweep of the office revealed a listening device “installed inside the wall structure leading to and from the ninth and tenth floors of the DoDIG (areas which comprise the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and the personal office space of the inspector general).” A second report stated that “a Muslim who was employed as an auditor and granted a ‘top-secret’ security clearance was not an American citizen. ‘He possesses a Social Security number tied to multiple confirmed aliases,’” according to a May 2002 memo. The employee was reported to have been given an interim clearance and to have visited numerous installations with access to sensitive information.

John Ruedel Crane’s relationship with Robert Dickson Crane has not been previously publicized.  Our research identified the family relationship between the two men first through John Crane’s grandfather, then through his mother, and finally to his father Robert Crane. In his interviews promoting his story and the Bravehearts book, John Crane has repeatedly described how he was inspired by his grandfather Gűnther Rűdel (“Gunther Ruedel” in other spelling), who briefly confronted Hitler in the 1920s. (Ruedel later became an important general under Hitler, in charge of air defenses.) In fact, John Crane’s middle name is Ruedel, as listed here in the 1980 Commencement program for his graduation from Northwestern University, also the alma mater of his parents.

In his interview with Der Spiegel, John Crane described attending a ceremony with his mother honoring Günther Rüdel. An article in the German newspaper Preußische Allgemeine Zeitung mentioned the same ceremony and named Gunther’s daughter, Sigrid Rüdel-Crane. A brief memoir by Sigrid Ruedel Crane from 1979 recounted her March 1951 marriage to “Bob Crane,” mentioned living in Bahrain, and stated that she had one son still at Northwestern University. Public records accessed through ancestry.com show that Robert D. Crane married Sigrid Ruedel on March 5, 1951.

On September 29, when directly questioned based on our research, John Ruedel Crane confirmed in a phone conversation that he is the son of Robert Dickson Crane. Robert Crane did not respond to a request for comment.

cranesJohn Ruedel Crane (L); Robert Dickson Crane (R)


Robert Dickson Crane started his career as a Republican lawyer, not as a Muslim Brotherhood activist. According to Islamic Resource Bank, in the 1960s, Robert Dickson Crane was a co-founder of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and a foreign policy advisor to Richard Nixon.

The Encyclopedia of Muslim American History recounts Crane’s career in some detail, noting that he was appointed by Richard Nixon as Deputy Director for National Security Planning, “a post he held for one day until he was fired by Henry Kissinger, who, according to Crane, disagreed with his foreign policy views.” Rejected by the foreign policy establishment, Crane left for the Middle East and worked as an advisor to the government of Bahrain through the 1970s.

In 1980 Crane “became Muslim after seeing Sudanese leader Hasan al-Turabi preach and pray at an Islamic affairs conference in New Hampshire” (a variation on the conversion anecdote here). That Robert Crane would credit Hasan al-Turabi for his conversion is both surprising and concerning. Hasan al-Turabi became a leader of the Sudanese Muslim Brotherhood starting in the 1960s, was best known for inviting Osama Bin Laden to shelter his entire operation in Sudan from 1991-1996 and according to Human Rights Watch, imposed brutal sharia law as head of the National Islamic Front (the Muslim Brotherhood party) and in high office as Minister of Justice starting in 1979.

In 1980, the same year that his father converted to Islam, John Crane graduated from Northwestern University and immediately started two years of study of Arabic at the Arabic Language Unit at the American University of Cairo, from 1980 to 1982.

In 1981 Robert Crane again had a brief chance at success within the U.S. foreign policy establishment, when Ronald Reagan nominated him as ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, where, according to the Encyclopedia of Muslim American History, “it was thought that Crane’s excellent relations with Gulf Arab states might be of use as the United States sought allies, including Muslim activist groups.” However, then-Secretary of State Alexander Haig objected to Crane’s nomination and Crane was never confirmed. Crane’s bio at the Islamic Research Foundation International provides a similar history of Haig’s intervention to block Crane’s nomination.

Haig’s intervention was Robert Crane’s second public rejection; the first, by Kissinger in 1969, kept him from a post as Deputy Director for National Security Planning. This second rejection in 1981 prevented confirmation of his nomination as an ambassador to the UAE. From that point on, Robert Crane focused single-mindedly on establishing himself within the expanding group of Muslim Brotherhood organizations in America. “Since 1980, Dr. Crane has been a full-time Muslim activist,” states his biography at the North American Association of Islamic and Muslim Studies (formerly the Association of Muslim Social Scientists of North America), where he has frequently presented at conferences.

He stayed in the Washington, DC region. According to his biography at the Islamic Resource Bank from 1983 to 1986 he was Director of Da’wa (proselytizing) at the Islamic Center on Massachusetts Avenue in Washington DC. From 1985 to 1987 he was Director of Publications at the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), based in the Virginia suburbs right outside DC. The IIIT is the primary think tank for the Muslim Brotherhood in America. The decision to create IIIT, including the American branch, was made at a major Islamist conference in Lugano, Switzerland in 1977. FBI records from 1987 and 1988 show that the IIIT leadership at that time were “members and leaders of the IKHWAN.” (The Ikhwan is the Arabic term for the Muslim Brotherhood; their website, for example, is ikhwanweb.com.) A 2003 government affidavit, USA vs Safa Group, links IIIT to groups and individuals involved in terrorist finance.

From 1992 to 1994, according to his biography at the Institute for Islamic Studies, Robert Crane served as director of the Legal Department at the American Muslim Council (AMC). AMC was founded in 1990 by Abdurahman Alamoudi. AMC’s influence in both the Clinton and Bush administrations would continue until 2004, when Alamoudi pleaded guilty to terrorism finance charges and received a 23 year sentence.

The AMC’s ties to designated terrorist individuals and organizations, including Hamas and Musa Abu Marzuq (Marzook), the political bureau chief for Hamas, were described in the Wall Street Journal in 1996 by investigative reporter Steve Emerson. Through the AMC, Crane apparently reconnected with the Sudanese Muslim Brotherhood leader Hasan Al-Turabi, reportedly the inspiration for his conversion to Islam. The Wall Street Journal reported that

In addition, the AMC has established a special relationship with the Sudanese government of Hasan Al-Turabi, who has made his country an international training ground for Islamic terrorists. In 1992, AMC boasted in its newsletter that the group had ‘planned a highly successful visit for Hasan Al-Turabi from the Sudan.’ In April 1994, almost a year after Sudan was officially designated a terrorist regime by the State Department, the AMC, together with another Hamas front group known as the Council on American Islamic Relations, co-hosted a press conference for the Sudanese foreign minister in the U.S.

Turabi’s 1992 press conference in the United States was also described in a 1997 Senate hearing on Sudan and terrorism.

Crane’s 1992-1994 tenure as Legal Director at AMC overlapped the years (1991-1996) that Turabi’s government in Sudan sheltered Osama Bin Laden and the expanding al-Qaeda network through which Bin Laden was funding terrorism worldwide. Turabi’s sermons had inspired Crane to convert in 1980; now in the 90’s, Crane’s AMC was supporting Turabi, and Turabi was supporting al-Qaeda.

Also during the time that Robert Crane was Legal Director at the AMC, the AMC director Abdurahman Alamoudi was working with the Department of Defense on a new initiative. In 1993 the Defense Department certified Alamoudi’s American Muslim Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs Council (AMAFVAC) as one of two organizations authorized to approve and endorse Muslim chaplains. Among the chaplains endorsed by Alamoudi’s group was James Yee, who eventually would be arrested in 2003 on suspicion of espionage. The Department of Defense Inspector General office, where John Crane was now Congressional Liaison, had oversight of the military chaplain program, including the Yee case.

In 1994, the last year that Robert Crane was Legal Director for AMC, his son John Crane was promoted to Director of the Office of Communication in the DoD’s Inspector General office.

From 1996 to 2000, according to Robert Crane’s bio at Islamonline.net (the website of Yusuf al-Qaradawi, doctrinal leader of the Muslim Brotherhood), he was a board member of the United Association for Studies and Research and Managing Editor of its Middle East Affairs Journal.  According to the Wall Street Journal report, the United Association for Studies and Research (UASR) was founded in 1989 by

Musa Abu Marzuq, the Hamas political bureau chief responsible for creating the group’s death squads…United Association serves as Hamas’s support arm in the U.S. Now located in Northern Virginia, the group has published books (in Arabic) calling for the annihilation of Jews. Moreover, telephone records subpoenaed for the World Trade Center trial show that the United Association’s officials were in contact with Mohammed Saleh, a Hamas official who was convicted for his role in the World Trade Center conspiracy.

Marzuq also founded the Holy Land Foundation, which was the subject of the country’s largest terrorist financing trial.

As Managing Editor of the UASR’s Middle East Affairs Journal (a sample 1998 issue shows Robert Crane on the masthead),  he became an official advisor (or in his own words, principal advisor) to UASR’s Executive Director Ahmed Yousef.  Ahmed Yousef is a Hamas leader and senior political adviser to the former Hamas prime minister of Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh. Yousef claims to have been a Muslim Brotherhood member for 45 years and to have held senior positions in Hamas. He is the author of The Zionist Fingerprint On The Post-September 11 World: America’s Posture Toward Terrorism, Israel, And The Muslim-Arab Community, published by UASR in 2004. According to a 2008 government trial brief

The UASR involved, among others, unindicted co-conspirators Mousa Abu Marzook (a Hamas leader) and Yousef Saleh, a.k.a. Ahmed Yousef, and was designed for ideological research and development intended to promote a fundamentalist view of the Palestinian issue. The UASR was also involved in passing Hamas communiques to the United States-based Muslim Brotherhood community and relaying messages from that community back to Hamas.

From 2007 to 2009, Robert Crane continued as a Scholar-in-Residence at IIIT, where in 2009 several leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood in America celebrated his 80th birthday with a nice cake.



Robert Crane at the International Institute for Islamic Thought (IIIT)


From 2012 to 2014 (elsewhere 2015) according to his LinkedIn profile and an article at The American Muslim, he was Director of the Center for the Study of Islamic Thought and Muslim Societies, Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies, “charged with studying the origins, state of play, and future scenarios for the so-called Arab Spring.” The Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies, based in Doha, Qatar, is sponsored by the Muslim Brotherhood-linked Qatar Foundation.

Three of the organizations where Robert Crane worked or collaborated– the International Institute for Islamic Thought (IIIT), the Association of Muslim Social Scientists, and the United Association for Studies and Research– were all named in a May 1991 Muslim Brotherhood document submitted as evidence in the Holy Land Foundation trial. That document, titled “An Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America,” listed 29 of the Brotherhood’s “organizations of our friends” that could teach Muslims “that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house by their hands … so that … God’s religion [Islam] is made victorious over all other religions.”

Robert Dickson Crane had more than just “affiliations” with the Muslim Brotherhood movement; he had leadership roles and affiliations with individuals and organizations connected to Hamas, designated a terrorist organization by Israel in 1989 and by the U.S. in 1996. And he was reportedly an official at AMC when they invited a state sponsor of al-Qaeda to the United States.

Robert Crane’s affiliations to these organizations are well-publicized, but his family relationship to his son John Crane is not publicized at all. So it’s surprising that John Crane and Nation reporter Mark Hertsgaard chose to include a passage about his father (unnamed) in Bravehearts: Whistleblowing in the Age of Snowden. The passage is noteworthy for omitting the last forty years of Robert Dickson Crane’s life–from his move to Bahrain in the 1970s through his career co-founding and running multiple Muslim Brotherhood organizations in America. Here is the passage in entirety:

Crane’s father, an American, met his mother while studying in Germany after the war. Three children later (Crane has an older sister and an identical twin brother), the family moved to the States, where his father attended Harvard Law School. Crane grew up in the suburbs of Washington, DC, attending James Madison High School in Virginia, a regular American kid except that he spoke both German and English at home. His father was an intellectual by temperament, a Republican by politics. He worked as an intelligence analyst in the Nixon State Department and later joined the conservative Center for Strategic and International Studies.

I asked John Crane why Bravehearts did not include information about his father’s affiliations with Muslim organizations such as the American Muslim Council and the International Institute for Islamic Thought.  He first replied that “He [Hertsgaard] could only use so many words in the book.” He then added that “it was not germane to the larger inside the federal government issue.” Asked if Bravehearts author Mark Hertsgaard knew about Robert Crane’s affiliations, John Crane said that he “never spoke to him [Hertsgaard] about the contributions he [Robert Crane] has made to the larger Islamic community.” Asked if he had provided information about his father’s affiliations in any background investigations, John Crane said that “he identified him as a former government official” but regarding Robert Crane’s affiliations with Islamic organizations, “the investigators never asked about it” and he “never volunteered anything about it. The issue never came up.” For his part, Hertsgaard did not respond to a request for comment.

In his interview with Der Spiegel, Crane said he wanted to return to his old job after the resolution next year of a Justice Department investigation into his removal: “Does he hope to one day be able to return to his old office. ‘Yes, of course,’ Crane says, appearing astounded that anyone could even ask such a question. ‘My return would show that the system actually does work.’

The current Department of Justice, now hearing John Crane’s appeal, could end up requiring the Department of Defense to reinstate him as Assistant Inspector General (and head of the whistleblower office for DoD and NSA). If they do, congressional oversight committees should take an interest in his case and ask a few key questions. If Crane undergoes a new background investigation, what answer will he give regarding his father’s affiliations to a foreign movement? Will it be the factual one, or the whitewashed one he provided for Bravehearts: Whistleblowing in the Age of Snowden? Would a factual answer bar a return to his old position – or facilitate it, in a future administration that may actively support the Muslim Brotherhood?

And finally: between 1988, when he joined the Department of Defense Inspector General’s office, and 2013, when he was dismissed, what did John Crane talk about with the IIIT Director of Publications, the Managing Editor of the UASR journal, the AMC Legal Director, the supporter of Turabi, Sudan’s sponsor for Bin Laden – or in other words, with his father?


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