MESA, AZ - John Guandolo, a disgraced FBI agent turned anti-terrorism trainer, is defending his controversial seminars for police officers as he prepares for a Valley visit Wednesday.
"They [officers] understand that there's a real threat that exists in the United States and that it is a significant threat," Guandolo told ABC15 via Skype. "There's a massive network here in the United States, and it includes groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix."
CAIR-AZ takes issue with Guandolo's teachings, calling them anti-Muslim and dangerous conspiracy theories. The council gathered thousands of online signatures on a moveon.org petition. They are urging local law enforcement leaders to pull the plug on Guandolo's three-day program this week.
"This is representing hate. It's representing vitriol, and it's representing divisiveness in American society," CAIR-AZ Executive Director Imraan Siddiqi said.
The Arizona Police Association is hosting Guandolo's visit. A Maricopa County Attorney's Office spokeswoman said APA received $28,000 in grants last year to pay for training, but the county attorney did not know who would conduct the training.
The Mesa Police Department is allowing the training to take place as scheduled at police headquarters. In an email, Interim Chief Michael Dvorak said Guandolo won't be allowed to return after this week, and officers will have "other training opportunities" on combating terrorism in the future.
"We need to work together as - not only the Muslim community - but all communities to find the right people to train their police departments," Siddiqqi said.
Guandolo won't back down from his theories on jihadists, saying his teaching are leading to terrorism arrests.
"It can't be debunked with facts, only by name calling," Guandolo said. "That's what [his critics] do. They try to smear me and smear my organization."