Posted on March 28, 2012 in Reports

AAI Statement on The FBI’s Guiding Principles: Touchstone Document on Training 2012

Over the past few months, media reports have revealed that FBI agent-training programs have used bigoted materials (filled with misinformation and shocking stereotypes) that crudely depict Arab Americans and American Muslims as threatening, irrational, or otherwise abnormal. The latest of such reports highlights some deeply disturbing suggestions that were made to agents, including the agents’ ability to “bend or suspend the law to impinge on the freedom of others” under certain circumstances. Some trainings contrasted the “Western mind[‘s] even keel” with the Arabs’ inclination for “Outburst and Loss of Control.” Agents were also taught that “mainstream” Muslims were prone to violence, and that Islam made its followers want to commit “genocide.”

In response to the revelation of this problem, the FBI Office of Public Affairs convened a meeting with Arab American and American Muslim community representatives, assuring them that the problematic materials have been removed from training programs, noting that a full inquiry into the matter was underway, and pledging to release a new Guiding Principles document to ensure that future materials used are appropriate. FBI Director Robert Mueller attended this meeting, and the Guiding Principles document was subsequently released. Yet, as noted by a letter from Senator Durbin (D-IL) to FBI Director Mueller, the “FBI’s intelligence analyses of Islam and American Muslims” were excluded from the inquiry’s purview. And despite finding, by the FBI’s own account, nearly 900 pages of training documents “contained factually inaccurate or imprecise information or used stereotypes,” not one person has been disciplined.

While both the meeting and the release of new guidelines are much appreciated, they constitute a gross under-reaction to the discovery of a systemic problem of Islamophobia in the training division of the country’s top law-enforcement agency. The Guiding Principles document released by the FBI was superficial, and shows a glaring disconnect between the gravity of the situation and the level of seriousness in the FBI’s efforts to undo the damage caused by the disturbing revelations. Unverifiable assurances that all the troubling materials have been purged, coming from the same people who allowed these materials into the training programs in the first place, are not an adequate response to this problem. The proper response must be one that seriously aims to rebuild the Arab American and American Muslim communities’ trust in the FBI, and that requires:

1) Transparency

Full public disclosure of all training materials pertaining to the Arab and/or Muslim communities, along with specifications of what has been purged and what remains

2) Accountability

Identification of all individuals responsible for conceiving, contracting and incorporating the bigoted and preposterous materials into FBI training programs, and the retraining, reassignment, or dismissal of those individuals from the Bureau

3) Course Correction

The retraining of all agents who underwent training programs that included crude stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims

4) Acknowledgement

A public apology from the FBI to the American people in general, and the Arab American and American Muslim communities in particular for allowing an error of this magnitude to be made, resulting not only in the waste of tax-payers’ money, but in the damaging use of those resources

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