Willful blindness at the FBI

According to Jim Kouri of the Examiner, the FBI is revising its counterterrorism training programs by removing all references to Muslims and Arab-Americas that are offensive to groups such as the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). President Obama is said to be watching this process. Illinois Senator Dick Durbin has been leading it.

This is a troubling development. As Rep. Allen West says, “we should not allow the Muslim Brotherhood-associated groups to be influencing our national security strategy.” To do so, says West, could lead to “cultural suicide.”

There is nothing wrong, in my view, with people or organizations complaining about how they are portrayed in counterterrorism training programs. Nor is there anything wrong with the government considering such complaints.

But that consideration must be based solely on the merits, not on sensitivities. I don’t trust this administration, or for that matter its predecessor, to engage in such merit-based consideration.

Nor is it comforting that CAIR is the main source of the complaints that are being taken so seriously. Readers will recall that the United States named CAIR an unindicted co-conspirator of the Holy Land Foundation, a fundraiser for Hamas that the government shut down in the aftermath of 9/11. CAIR’s roots lie in the Muslim Brotherhood and the Muslim Brotherhood’s Hamas affiliate.

Sen. Durbin’s role is also disturbing. This is the man who compared U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq to “Nazis” and military detention centers to “Soviet gulags.” His standing to influence U.S. policy on combating terrorism should be non-existent.

What are the offensive statements apparently being expunged from the FBI’s training program? One of them, reportedly, is this: “Islam is a highly violent religion.” I think this statement is true, although a few qualifications might be in order (whether the FBI offers any, I don’t know). One might question whether counterterrorism training requires being given a position on this question. Again, though, I don’t trust this administration to answer that question.

Another purged statement is that “mainstream American Muslims are likely to be terrorist sympathizers.” The concept of “mainstream American Muslims” is a slippery one. But unless we arbitrarily define it as excluding terrorist sympathizers, I think it’s true that some mainstream American Muslims are likely to be terrorist sympathizers.

And this question has direct relevance to countering terrorism. FBI investigators need to understand that being in the American Muslim “mainstream” is not incompatible with sympathizing with terrorists.

In sum, Rep. West is not out of line when he warns:

We are making our security situation so vanilla. If we continue to be recalcitrant in identifying who the enemy is, to be less offensive to them, we put ourselves in a bad situation. You have an environment of political correctness which precludes these agents from doing their proper job and due diligence to go after the perceived threat

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