Posted by on April 04, 2012 in Blog

The FBI and the DOJ have placed themselves in a tough position. Currently they sit isolated somewhere between a disappointed American Muslim and Arab American community and a contingent of powerful Senators who want answers. The FBI's training division and subsequently the DOJ have come under intense scrutiny since September 2011 in the wake of revelations that FBI agents were taught blatantly false and bigoted things about Muslims and Arabs as part of their counter-terrorism training. The controversy prompted the recent release of a guiding principles for training document which both the FBI and DOJ made public in March. Prior to the release of their guidelines, the FBI Office of Public Affairs convened a meeting with AAI and our community partners. FBI director Robert Mueller unexpectedly attended the meeting.

In a statement issued last week, AAI criticized the FBI’s guiding principles document, calling it a “gross under-reaction” to what the Institute and its community partners believe is a systemic problem of Islamophobia within the FBI training division. In a recent meeting at the DOJ, AAI President Jim Zogby brought the very same issues expressed in the statement directly to Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole, the author of a similar guiding principles document for the DOJ which came out in the form of a two-page memorandum. In addition to the community, a group of Senators have voiced concerns about the FBI training programs and some have questioned the DOJ’s role in the controversy. In a letter to FBI director Robert Mueller, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the legislative body which has jurisdiction over the DOJ and FBI, echoed AAI’s sentiment that the FBI was not doing enough to address the issue. His letter came out soon after the FBI released their guiding principles document.

Senator Durbin was not the first legislator, however, to grill the DOJ on the training programs. In March of 2011, Senators Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME) penned a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder inquiring as to whether federal tax dollars were being used to fund the bigoted training materials. Both individuals denied the charge. In a parallel effort, Lieberman and Collins also sent a letter (unavailable on the web) directly to President Obama saying that if the administration didn’t propose guidelines for training, they would “consider drafting a legislative mandate or even imposing [training] standards by statute,” according to Talking Points Memo.

AAI’s position is that the current efforts made by the DOJ and the FBI to remedy the situation have not even scratched the surface of the problem. If the FBI does not implement the following four criteria soon, AAI will push for continued congressional oversight. AAI will be encouraging efforts by members of Congress to pressure the FBI and DOJ to follow the necessary criteria. In addition, AAI will be taking these issues directly to the Administration to push for a proper review by the DOJ of the FBI’s training programs. As AAI President Jim Zogby reiterated to Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole, four things must happen in order to close the lid on this issue:

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 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.

Download the PDF version of AAI's statement


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