By Michael Winter
A review of the FBI’s counterterrorism training shows agents were taught they could “bend or suspend the law” in some investigations, Wired reports, citing a bureau document.
The magazine’s Danger Room blog also writes that FBI training materials warned agents not to shake hands with Asians and said Arabs were prone to “Jekyll & Hyde temper tantrums.”
These are just some of the disturbing results of the FBI’s six-month review into how the Bureau trained its counterterrorism agents. That review, now complete, did not result in a single disciplinary action for any instructor. Nor did it mandate the retraining of any FBI agent exposed to what the Bureau concedes was inappropriate material. Nor did it look at any intelligence reports that might have been influenced by the training.
The FBI announced Friday that it had completed its review but that it would not reveal the results.
On Tuesday, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., a member of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee overseeing the FBI, wrote to Director Robert Mueller to protest “the FBI’s plans not to disclose the results of the inquiry; not to discipline those responsible for the offending documents; to exclude ‘FBI intelligence analyses of Islam and American Muslims’ from the inquiry’s purview; and not to retrain agents who were exposed to the shoddy instructional material,” Danger Room writes.
Durbin shared with Danger Room an FBI Power Point that stated, “Under certain circumstances, the FBI has the ability to bend or suspend the law to impinge on the freedom of others.” He included it with his letter to Mueller.
An FBI spokesman did not dispute the document’s authenticity but would not share the full documents with Danger Room.
The review was prompted by the blog’s series “revealing the Bureau taught agents that ‘mainstream’ Muslims were ‘violent’; that Islam made its followers want to commit “genocide”; and that an FBI intelligence analyst compared Islam to the Death Star from Star Wars. The agency suspended the training in September.
In February, it said it had deleted more than 700 documents and 300 presentations that stereotyped Islam or were inaccurate.
“It’s stunning that these things could be said to members of our FBI in training. It will not make them more effective in their work and won’t make America safer,” Durbin said.
On Friday, the agency released what it called “The FBI’s Guiding Principles,” featuring a “Touchstone Document on Training 2012.”
Here’s the preamble:
At various times in our history, including in our post-September 11, 2001 environment, the United States of America has confronted terrorists.1 Many terrorists seek to justify their crimes by claiming to be fulfilling their political, religious, or social beliefs. It is imperative for the FBI to familiarize personnel with these belief systems so we can understand what motivates violent extremists, and, equally important, to uphold the constitutional system of government we are sworn to protect. The FBI must distinguish between protected thought and speech and illegal action that may be taken in whole or in part based on such ideology. In other words, thoughts alone are never illegal and extremist speech rarely is unless it incites imminent lawless activity or constitutes a true threat. To achieve its goals, the FBI’s training must be accurate, based on current intelligence, and adhere to the FBI’s core values, including rigorous obedience to the United States Constitution, fairness, and respect for the dignity of all those we protect.
Public service is a public trust. The public has committed to the FBI’s care the safety of our nation and the defense of our Constitution. To sustain this trust and to meet our resulting obligations, we must adhere strictly to our core values. The FBI is rightfully held by the public to the highest ethical and professional standards. Consistent with these principles, FBI investigative activity is to be performed with care to protect individual rights and to ensure that investigations are confined to matters of legitimate law enforcement and national security interest.
Separately Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union released FBI documents it said showed the bureau’s San Francisco office used its “mosque outreach” efforts to collect intelligence on religious activities protected by the Constitution.
The U.S. Privacy Act prohibits the FBI from compiling records on how people practice religion without a clear law enforcement purpose.
The San Jose Mercury News has details about the FBI surveillance.