The Center for Security Policy, a think tank that routinely partners with prominent Republican politicians, including many of the current presidential contenders, is defending the arrest of 14-year-old Muslim high school student Ahmed Mohamed for bringing a homemade clock to school.

Americans across the country expressed outrage at the news that Mohamed was handcuffed by police officers in Irving, Texas, on Monday, suspended from his high school, and accused of making a bomb after the electronic components he had connected to make his own digital clock beeped during English class.

But Center for Security Policy vice president Jim Hanson argued on his organization’s podcast that the clock “looks exactly like a number of IED triggers that were produced by the Iranians and used to kill U.S. troops in the war in Iraq.” He said the clock “was half a bomb.”

Frank Gaffney, the center’s founder and president, agreed with Hanson, while suggesting that there is reason to be suspicious of “what we’re told was a clock” because “the story is not being fully explored and explained.”

Gaffney also said that the entire controversy over Mohamed’s clock appeared to be an “influence operation” by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights group that Gaffney claimed is using “professional victim-promoting” to wage a “civilization jihad” in connection with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Listen to the exchange here:

Gaffney, who was an acting assistant secretary of defense for several months in the Reagan administration, has spread a variety of Islamophobic conspiracy theories in recent years, claiming that President Obama is a secret Muslim, that Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan supports Islamic law, and that the redesign of the Missile Defense Agency’s logo revealed a “worrying pattern of official U.S. submission to Islam.” Gaffney has also fueled protests of Islamic mosques and religious organizations, playing a key role in mobilizing protests against a planned Muslim community center in Manhattan in 2010.

The center’s fringe rhetoric has not prevented it from becoming deeply entwined with the conservative establishment. It routinely hosts prominent Republican politicians for events. Earlier this month, the group co-sponsored a rally in Washington, D.C., against the nuclear accord with Iran where Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Donald Trump, and several House Republican lawmakers appeared as speakers. Over the last year, Cruz, Trump, Bobby Jindal, George Pataki, John Bolton, and Rick Santorum have appeared at presidential forums hosted by the center.

The center is also funded by some of the largest defense contractors in the world, including Boeing, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and General Electric. Jack London, the chairman of the board of CACI International, a major defense contractor that serves the National Security Agency, sits on the Center for Security Policy’s board.

Earlier this summer, the center held a banquet in New York, which I attended, to present the mayor of Irving with an award for raising an alarm about an “Islamic Sharia court” being established in her town. In reality, there was no court imposing Islamic laws on local residents — rather, as Politifact noted, “a few Muslim individuals teamed up to offer Sharia-governed, non-binding mediation services in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, including in Irving, with the declared intent of complying with state and federal laws.”

In a column posted on Thursday, Hanson, the center’s vice president, argued again that Mohamed’s clock looked like “an Iranian-made IED trigger used to kill U.S. troops in Iraq.” He concluded: “We stand with the Mayor of Irving and her police and school officials who acted appropriately.”

[UPDATE: Social media reaction to this story has been intense. See our follow-up story: #Halfabomb Explodes on Twitter After Think Tank Calls Boy’s Clock a Threat]

Photo: Attorney Linda Moreno speaks to the media with her client Ahmed Mohamed and his family during a news conference on September 16, 2015 in Irving, Texas.