FBI pulls flawed training aids related to Muslims

Mar 30, 2012, 9:47 PM

Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) – An FBI review of agent training material critical of Islam uncovered 876 offensive or inaccurate pages that had been used in 392 presentations, including a PowerPoint slide that said the bureau can sometimes bend or suspend the law.

The bureau has not released the material, but Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois described a few pages of it in a letter asking FBI Director Robert Mueller to institute five changes so that inappropriate FBI training on Islam doesn’t happen again. On Friday, the FBI confirmed the number of inaccurate or offensive pages and presentations.

The bureau also said the documents that are either offensive or inaccurate have been taken out of training presentations.

Every trainer was identified and interviewed by an FBI inspection team and the team determined that the problems were performance-related _ poor judgment or inadequate training _ rather than intentional misconduct, said FBI spokesman Michael Kortan.

As a result, instructors were counseled and in some cases removed from training positions.

Durbin said he’s disturbed that the FBI doesn’t plan to produce a written report on the six-month review. He said he wants the agents who received the bad training to be retained.

It began last September after the online publication Wired.com reported that the FBI had discontinued a lecture in which the instructor told agent trainees in Virginia that the more devout a Muslim is, the more likely he is to be violent. The analyst subsequently gave a similar lecture at an FBI-sponsored public-private partnership in New York City.

Kortan declined to address the issue of retraining.

Out of 160,000 pages of training material reviewed, just 876 pages _ less than 1 percent _ were “inconsistent with the FBI’s core values,” said Kortan. “We strongly disagree that the analysts being trained were led to believe that we actually bend or suspend the law in any way. The one reference used in the slide was poorly described.”

The trainer using the PowerPoint slide, the FBI said, was simply short-handing the additional legal authority law enforcement officials have in counter-terrorism investigations through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the criminal code.

The PowerPoint slide, which was in a section on Muslims, said that “under certain circumstances, the FBI has the ability to bend or suspend the law and impinge on freedoms of others.”

“Mistakes were made, and we are correcting those mistakes,” said Kortan. “Through this review process, we recognized that we lacked a centralized process to ensure all training materials were reviewed and validated. We are addressing that gap so this does not happen again.”

In his letter Tuesday to Mueller, Durbin said another PowerPoint slide used by instructors and entitled “Control and Temper” stated that the “Western Mind” is “even keel” while in the Arab world, outbursts and loss of control are expected, adding, “What’s wrong with frequent Jekyll and Hyde temper tantrums?”

Durbin’s letter said he wants the FBI to turn over the offending training material to the Senate Judiciary Committee and wants unclassified versions of the material to be released to the public; wants instructors responsible for the inappropriate training reassigned; and wants to retrain agents who received the bad training. Durbin also wants the bureau to undertake a review of FBI intelligence analyses of Islam, American-Muslims and Arab-Americans; and wants a detailed training curriculum on Islam that has been approved by experts on Islam.

Earlier this month, the FBI posted on its website a set of training principles which said that training must emphasize that religious expression, protest activity and the espousing of ideological beliefs “are constitutionally protected activities that must not be equated with terrorism or criminality” in the absence of other information about such offenses.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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FBI pulls flawed training aids related to Muslims