Former FBI agent John Guandolo incited an Internet buzz this week by accusing John Brennan, President Barack Obama's nominee to lead the CIA, of secretly converting to Islam while working as the CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia from 1996 to 1999.
Guandolo's evidence was scant—largely that Brennan said during a public address that he "marveled at the majesty of the Hajj," something Guandolo says only could be done as a Muslim inside Mecca, a city that is off-limits to non-Muslims.
World Net Daily—a website that specializes in reporting on conspiracy theories—took notice of the interview, followed by more mainstream publications and blogs, including The Daily Mail, Al Arabiya, Salon, and The Blaze.
Ibrahim Hooper, the communications director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told U.S. News that he has no knowledge of Brennan converting to Islam.
In fact, Hooper pointed out, his group opposes Brennan's nomination, largely because of his role in operating the CIA drone program that targets terrorists but has also killed civilians.
Hooper predicted that the story would gain traction in the "right-wing echo chamber, [where] someone throws some spaghetti against the wall then they all pick it up and E-mail it to each other."
"You have to look at the source," said Hooper, pointing to Guandolo's role in the firing of a Muslim police officer in Ohio.
Hooper, himself an American convert to Islam, clarified to U.S. News that Muslims believe people actually "revert" to the religion.
"Everyone is born in a state of Islam and your parents make you into something else—Jewish, Christian," he said. The conversion process itself, Hooper noted, is uttering a short profession of faith, the Shahada. "From that moment on you're a Muslim," said Hooper, "of course it helps if you believe it."
The Daily Mail compared Guandolo's accusation about Brennan to the plot of the popular TV show Homeland, in which a Marine is abducted, converted, then sent back to the U.S. to wreak havoc.
Other prominent people accused of secretly being Muslim include former New York Rep. Anthony Weiner—who is Jewish—and the United Kingdom's Prince Charles, who will preside over the Church of England if he succeeds his mother to the throne.