FBI Training Materials: Mainstream Muslims Are Violent, Radical


September 15, 2011

As part of her investigation into Top Secret America back in December, Dana Priest reported that some of the trainers hired by local law enforcement agencies to teach their officers about Islam are “self-described experts whose extremist views are considered inaccurate and harmful by the FBI.”

But FBI training materials recently made public suggest the bureau may have the very same problem.

Yesterday Spencer Ackerman published a lengthy look at teaching materials used by the FBI, including documents that describe mainstream American Muslims as likely terrorist sympathizers, Islamic charities as a “funding mechanism for combat” and Prophet Mohammed as a “cult leader.”  One of the documents is from a briefing delivered as recently as March 21.

Ackerman warns that that not only is the FBI “treading on thin legal ice,” but may also be giving terrorists the ammunition they want.  He writes:

Focusing on the religious behavior of American citizens instead of proven indicators of criminal activity like stockpiling guns or using shady financing makes it more likely that the FBI will miss the real warning signs of terrorism. And depicting Islam as inseparable from political violence is exactly the narrative al-Qaida spins — as is the related idea that America and Islam are necessarily in conflict. That’s why FBI whistleblowers provided [us] with these materials.

FBI spokesperson Chistopher Allen told Ackerman, “A disclaimer accompanied the presentation stating that the views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. government.”  Ackerman reports that it is unclear what sort of a vetting process the FBI used for the trainings.

On Monday, Homeland Security Committee leaders Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME) wrote a letter [PDF] to President Obama’s counterterrorism advisor John Brennan citing the lack of an adequate vetting process for counterterrosim trainers for law enforcement and condemning training that was determined to be “spewing inaccurate or even bigoted information” about Islam.  They warned that if the administration cannot develop criteria for counterterrorism training curriculum, they will “consider drafting a legislative mandate or even imposing standards by statute.”

Update: Yesterday FBI spokesperson Christopher Allen responded to Ackerman’s article, telling the Associated Press that the bureau “should have kept a closer watch on the content” of a particular training lecture, and that since that lecture, “policy changes have been under way to better ensure that all training is consistent with FBI standards.” Yesterday a representative for Sen. Lieberman also told Ackerman he “looks forward to hearing from administration officials about how these training materials came to be.”


The New Yorker‘s Amy Davidson asks, “What Does the FBI Know about Islam?”

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