Saturday, September 17, 2011

Muslim Advocates Calls for Investigation of FBI Training

By William Fisher

A prominent Muslim organization is calling for an immediate investigation into the FBI's use of “grossly inaccurate and bigoted trainers and training materials for its counterterrorism agents and other law enforcement.”

Muslim Advocates filed the complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice Inspector General.

The organization said that in materials disclosed to Wired magazine, “FBI agents were presented with slides and materials that, for example, stated that zakat, or charity, given by Muslims, is a ‘funding mechanism for combat’," and that the Prophet Muhammad was a "cult leader."

The group said this was “just the latest in a string of reports that the FBI has been using inflammatory and woefully inaccurate materials to train its agents across the country.”

The FBI has thus far either denied that the materials are being used or defended the use of bigots as welcoming a range of opinions. But Muslim Advocates said, “One cannot reasonably imagine the FBI defending the use of David Duke or a white supremacist leader as a trainer”

It added that “an investigation by the government watchdog overseeing the FBI is long overdue. That is why Muslim Advocates today filed a complaint with the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Justice. The Inspector General is tasked with investigating allegations of misconduct by employees of the Justice Department, including the FBI.”

The disclosures regarding the FBI training materials and instructors were unearthed by a journalist, Spencer Ackerman of Wired. He presented his material on a popular television program, The Rachel Maddow Show, on MSNBC, last Thursday. The content was based upon Ackerman’s acquisition of FBI counterterrorism training documents.

Ackerman writes in Wired, “The FBI is teaching its counterterrorism agents that ‘main stream’ [sic] American Muslims are likely to be terrorist sympathizers; that the Prophet Mohammed was a “cult leader”; and that the Islamic practice of giving charity is no more than a “funding mechanism for combat.”

At the Bureau’s training ground in Quantico, Virginia, he adds, “agents are shown a chart contending that the more ‘devout’ a Muslim, the more likely he is to be ‘violent’,” he said.

Maddow said that WorldNetDaily, a right-wing Internet-based journal, is providing some of the trainers who are working with the FBI. The publication has been an outspoken representative of Islamophobia.

Maddow described their FBI mission as essentially “trying to make a buck off the more gullible elements of the conservative base.”

She pointed to some of the group’s previous projects, such as their reports on the need to wage a war on Islam itself rather than on terrorists acting under their own fundamentalist interpretations.

Her guest, Wired‘s Spencer Ackerman, charged that the person behind WorldNetDaily’s reports regarding Islam has been instructing FBI counter-terrorism officers. Ackerman explains:

“What they [the FBI] did tell me is that this was training that agents who had two to three years of experience in counter-terrorism have gone through. And they said to me that this is just the opinions of this one particular author…We’re still trying to find out the extent of this training.”

When asked why someone within or close to the FBI is now offering him this information, Ackerman explained that the training has been “deeply upsetting” to counter-terrorism experts inside the FBI concerned over civil rights of Muslim Americans and the impression this sort of attitude might have on their impression of those meant to protect them and all law-abiding Americans.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) commented: “Seeing the materials FBI agents are being trained with certainly helps explain why we’ve seen so many inappropriate FBI surveillance operations broadly targeting the Muslim-American community, from infiltrating mosques with agents provocateur to racial- and ethnic-mapping programs,” Mike German, a former FBI agent now with the American Civil Liberties Union, tells Danger Room after being shown the documents. ”Biased police training can only result in biased policing.”

In another case, Muslim Advocates has filed a Friend of the Court brief supporting compensation in a computer destruction case. It is supporting Majd Kam-Almaz’s lawsuit, which demands compensation for the destruction of his laptop by the Department of Homeland Security. Mr. Kam-Almaz, a U.S. citizen, works in the area of disaster relief services, and had his business computer seized at Dulles Airport during a trip returning home from work travel.

His computer was destroyed while in the possession of border agents, causing him to lose contracts of substantial value.

Muslim Advocates’ claims that travelers across the country have experienced similar improper searches and questioning at the border, including in some cases the destruction of their cell phones and laptops. Their amicus brief argues that individuals whose electronic devices are damaged or destroyed while in the possession of government agents should be compensated for their loss.