Posted by on March 28, 2012 in Blog

A few months ago, Spencer Ackerman of Wired revealed the presence of disturbing materials in FBI agent trainings, including presentations that taught agents that “mainstream” Muslims were likely terrorist-sympathizers, and that being a devout Muslim makes one prone to violence. To control the damage caused by these revelations, the FBI convened a meeting with the Arab American and American Muslim community representatives, pledging to conduct a full inquiry into the problem, purge the training programs of any problematic materials, and issue new guidelines to ensure the appropriateness of future materials. That meeting was attended by FBI Director Robert Mueller.

Today, Ackerman did it again, releasing a new batch of even more disturbing materials from FBI trainings. Today’s batch reveals that agents were told they had the ability to “bend or suspend the law to impinge on the freedom of others” under certain circumstances. And it wasn’t only Muslims who were demonized with preposterous allegations of genocidal tendencies and such, but Arabs were also depicted in a racist fashion, said to be prone to “temper tantrums” and  “Outburst and Loss of Control,” in contrast with the “Western mind[‘s] even keel.” Then, there was a bunch of silly stuff, like advising agents to not shake hands with Asians or stare at them (I’m totally serious).

You know, I get that meeting with the FBI Director and receiving assurances that the bigoted and preposterous stuff has been removed is all great, but is this really a sufficient response to a problem of this magnitude? Are the unverifiable assurances of the same people who allowed these materials into the Bureau’s trainings in the first place expected to be taken at face value by the Arab American and American Muslim communities? Can the people who didn’t initially notice how inappropriate these materials are be trusted to comb through training documents and know what needs to be taken out?

Senator Durbin (D-IL), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee which oversees the FBI, has raised even more pressing questions:

Durbin wrote to FBI Director Mueller objecting to 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.

Indeed, what the FBI needs to do to restore the trust of the Arab American and American Muslim communities is to fully disclose what agents are being taught about their communities, to hold to account those responsible for allowing the ugly and preposterous materials into the trainings, and to retrain the agents whose initial training included materials that encouraged racial and religious profiling. Click here to read AAI's statement on this matter.

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