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The Nuclear Card

FBI Teaches Agents: ‘Mainstream’ Muslims Are ‘Violent, Radical’

Posted on 15 September 2011 by Garibaldi

FBI Teaches Agents: ‘Mainstream’ Muslims Are ‘Violent, Radical’

by Spencer Ackerman

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, agents are shown a chart contending that the more “devout” a Muslim, the more likely he is to be “violent.” Those destructive tendencies cannot be reversed, an FBI instructional presentation adds: “Any war against non-believers is justified” under Muslim law; a “moderating process cannot happen if the Koran continues to be regarded as the unalterable word of Allah.”

These are excerpts from dozens of pages of recent FBI training material on Islam that Danger Room has acquired. In them, the Constitutionally protected religious faith of millions of Americans is portrayed as an indicator of terrorist activity.

“There may not be a ‘radical’ threat as much as it is simply a normal assertion of the orthodox ideology,” one FBI presentation notes. “The strategic themes animating these Islamic values are not fringe; they are main stream.”

The FBI isn’t just treading on thin legal ice by portraying ordinary, observant Americans as terrorists-in-waiting, former counterterrorism agents say. It’s also playing into al-Qaida’s hands.

Focusing on the religious behavior of American citizens instead of proven indicators of criminal activity like stockpiling guns or using shady financing makes it more likely that the FBI will miss the real warning signs of terrorism. And depicting Islam as inseparable from political violence is exactly the narrative al-Qaida spins — as is the related idea that America and Islam are necessarily in conflict. That’s why FBI whistleblowers provided Danger Room with these materials.

Over the past few years, American Muslim civil rights groups have raised alarm about increased FBI and police presence in Islamic community centers and mosques, fearing that their lawful behavior is being targeted under the broad brush of counterterrorism. The documents may help explain the heavy scrutiny.

They certainly aren’t the first time the FBI has portrayed Muslims in a negative light during Bureau training sessions. As Danger Room reported in July, the FBI’s Training Division has included anti-Islam books, and materials that claim Islam “transforms [a] country’s culture into 7th-century Arabian ways.” When Danger Room confronted the FBI with that material, an official statement issued to us claimed, “The presentation in question was a rudimentary version used for a limited time that has since been replaced.”

But these documents aren’t relics from an earlier era. One of these briefings, titled “Strategic Themes and Drivers in Islamic Law,” took place on March 21.

The Islam briefings are elective, not mandatory. “A disclaimer accompanied the presentation stating that the views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. government,” FBI spokesman Christopher Allen tells Danger Room.

“The training materials in question were delivered as Stage Two training to counterterrorism-designated agents,” Allen adds. “This training was largely derived from a variety of open source publications and includes the opinion of the analyst that developed the lesson block.”

Not all counterterrorism veterans consider the briefings so benign. “Teaching counterterrorism operatives about obscure aspects of Islam,” says Robert McFadden, who recently retired as one of the Navy Criminal Investigative Service’s al-Qaida-hunters, “without context, without objectivity, and without covering other non-religious drivers of dangerous behavior is no way to stop actual terrorists.”

Still, at Quantico, the alleged connection between Islam and violence isn’t just stipulated. It’s literally graphed.

An FBI presentation titled “Militancy Considerations” measures the relationship between piety and violence among the texts of the three Abrahamic faiths. As time goes on, the followers of the Torah and the Bible move from “violent” to “non-violent.” Not so for devotees of the Koran, whose “moderating process has not happened.” The line representing violent behavior from devout Muslims flatlines and continues outward, from 610 A.D. to 2010. In other words, religious Muslims have been and always will be agents of aggression.

Training at Quantico isn’t designed for intellectual bull sessions or abstract theory, according to FBI veterans. The FBI conducts its training so that both seasoned agents and new recruits can sharpen their investigative skills.

In this case, the FBI’s Allen says, the counterterrorism agents who received these briefings have “spent two to three years on the job.” The briefings are written accordingly. The stated purpose of one, about allegedly religious-sanctioned lying, is to “identify the elements of verbal deception in Islam and their impacts on Law Enforcement.” Not “terrorism.” Not even “Islamist extremism.” Islam.

What’s more, the Islamic “insurgency” is all-encompassing and insidious. In addition to outright combat, its “techniques” include “immigration” and “law suits.” So if a Muslim wishes to become an American or sues the FBI for harassment, it’s all just part of the jihad.

On Tuesday, the leaders of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security, Joe Lieberman (I-Connecticut) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), warned that law enforcement lacks “meaningful standards” to prevent anti-Islam material from seeping into counterterrorism training. Some FBI veterans suspect the increased pressure on American Muslims has a lot to do with the kind of training that Quantico offers.

“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.” (Full disclosure: This reporter’s wife works for the ACLU.)

The chief of the Training Division, Assistant FBI Director Thomas Browne, came into his current job in January. His official biography lists no terrorism expertise beyond serving as a coordinator for a bureau “Domestic Terrorism Program” in Tennessee sometime in the last decade.

It is unclear what vetting process the FBI used to approve these briefings; if any Muslim scholars contributed to them; and what criteria Quantico uses to determine Islamic expertise. “The development of effective training is a constantly evolving process,” says FBI spokesman Allen. “Sometimes the training is adapted for long-term use. This particular training segment was delivered a single time and not used since.”

Several of these briefings were the work of a single author: an FBI intelligence analyst named William Gawthrop. In 2006, before he joined the Bureau, he gave an interview to the website WorldNetDaily, and discussed some of the themes that made it into his briefings, years later. The Prophet “Muhammad’s mindset is a source for terrorism,” Gawthrop told the website, which would later distinguish itself as a leader of the “birther” movement, a conspiracy theory that denies President Obama’s American citizenship.

At the time, Gawthrop’s major suggestion for waging the war on terrorism was to attack what he called “soft spots” in Islamic faith that might “induce a deteriorating cascade effect upon the target.” That is, to discredit Islam itself and cause Muslims to abandon their religion. “Critical vulnerabilities of the Koran, for example, are that it was uttered by a mortal,” he said. Alas, he lamented, he faced the bureaucratic obstacle of official Washington’s “political taboo of linking Islamic violence to the religion of Islam,” according to the website.

Back then, however, Gawthrop didn’t work for the FBI. He had recently stepped down from a position with the Defense Department’s Counterintelligence Field Activity. That agency came under withering criticism during the Bush administration for keeping a database about threats to military bases that included reports on peaceful antiwar protesters and dovish Church groups. It is unclear how Gawthrop came to work for the FBI.

Through an intermediary, Gawthrop told Danger Room that he was unavailable for comment before our deadline.

The FBI didn’t always conflate terrorism with Islam. “I never saw that,” says Ali Soufan, one of the FBI’s most distinguished counterterrorism agents and author of the new memoir The Black Banners, who retired from the bureau in 2005. “Sometimes, toward the end of my time, I started noticing it with different entities outside the FBI. You started feeling like they had a problem with Islam-as-Islam, because of the media. But that was a few people, and was usually hidden behind closed doors.”

Soufan, a Muslim, has interrogated members of al-Qaida and contributed to rolling up one of its cells in Yemen after 9/11. But by the logic of the FBI’s training materials, Soufan’s religious practices make him a potential terrorist.

McFadden, the former NCIS counterterrorist, has a lot of respect for his FBI colleagues, who he believes are ill-served by these Islam briefings. “These are earnest special agents and police officers who want to know how do their job better,” McFadden says.

Too often, McFadden says, counterterrorism training becomes simultaneously over-broad and ignorant. “Instead of looking for indicators of nefarious behavior, you have a sweeping generalization of things like, for instance, the Hawala system,” McFadden explains. “It’s a system that most of the developing world and expatriates from it use to move money around, including terrorists. But you can’t say the whole hawala system is about terrorism, just like you can’t say that Islam as a whole has anything to do with bad behavior.”

McFadden, a Catholic, believes that obsessing over obscure Koranic verses is as useful a guide to terrorist behavior as “diving into the rite of exorcism” is to understanding Catholicism.

On April 6, barely two weeks after the “Islamic Motivations for ‘Suicide’ Bombers” briefing at Quantico, FBI Director Robert Mueller defended the bureau’s budget before a congressional committee. Among his major points: the FBI needs cooperation from American Muslims to stop the next terrorist attack.

“Since September 11th, every one of our 56 field offices and the leadership of those offices have had outreach to the Muslim community,” Mueller said. “We need the support of that community … our business is basically relationships.” That is exactly the opposite message sent in the training rooms of Quantico, where the next generation of FBI counterterrorism is shaped.

Photos: Flickr/Cliff1066, ISAF

30 Comments For This Post

  1. Jim Kirk Says:

    The FBI didn’t always conflate terrorism with Islam. “I never saw that,” says Ali Soufan, one of the FBI’s most distinguished counterterrorism agents and author of the new memoir The Black Banners, who retired from the bureau in 2005. “Sometimes, toward the end of my time, I started noticing it with different entities outside the FBI. You started feeling like they had a problem with Islam-as-Islam, because of the media. But that was a few people, and was usually hidden behind closed doors.”

    Remember that this incident is an abberation that came from groups outside the FBI. The FBI’s policy is not based upon Islamophobia or racism. Someone failed to vet these “terrorism experts.”

    Al-Qaeda and Islamophobes both want to separate American Muslims from law enforcement (although for very different reasons). While we should criticize FBI policies, we must keep in mind that the safety of the community depends upon building trusting and working relationships with law enforcement.

  2. NassirH Says:

    The graph is complete nonsense no matter how you spin it. Only a fool would look back at the last 3,400 years of history and consider Muslims the most violent of peoples, let alone claim that Christians and Jews become continuously less violent over the course of history. The Crusades (which stretched from Iraq and the Baltic to southern France and the Maghreb, and lasted centuries), Conquistadors, the numerous Protestant-Catholic wars, and so on all took place after 1000 CE.

    “Stereotypical images of war in the Middle East often conflate a huge geographical area and thousands of years into an ongoing stream of warring and violence. In fact, however, the Middle East has been no more war-torn and perhaps a lot less so than many other regions of the world. To provide some perspective, the great historian of war Quincy Wright assembled a tally of 278 wars fought throughout the world from 1484 to 1945 based on a consistent set of criteria. Of those, 187 were fought mainly in Europe and 91 were fought everywhere else.” (Firestone, Reuven. Jihād: the Origin of Holy War in Islam. New York: Oxford UP, 1999. 10. Print.)

  3. Jim Kirk Says:

    Dr. Waleed Ben Khaled Basyouni
    Date
    2005-08-09
    Category
    Islamic Politics

    Question

    If the FBI comes to me, is it halaal for me to help them as long as it is with the niyyah (intention) of preventing terrible terrorism? Could I report muslims who seem they would carry out haraam acts?

    Fatwa

    If you know that there is someone who will do any act
    of terrorism you should immediately call the police so
    it can be stopped.

    الســـــــؤال

    لو طلب مني رجال مكتب التحقيقات الفيدرالية الأمريكي التعاون معهم ، هل يجوز لي أن أساعدهم طالما الأمر يتعلق بنية منع حدوث أعمال إرهابية مرعبة ؟ هل يجوز لي أن أرشد عن أشخاص مسلمين قد يبدو أنهم سينفذون أعمال محرمة ؟

    الفتوى

    بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله ، أما بعد : فإذا كنت تعلم أن شخصاً ما سيقوم بأي عمل من أعمال الإرهاب ، يجب عليك سرعة الاتصال برجال الشرطة كي يمكن وقف مثل هذه الأعمال الشريرة . والله تعالى الموفق إلى ما فيه الخير والسلام .

    http://www.amjaonline.com/en_f_details.php?fid=22558

  4. IbnAbuTalib Says:

    The FBI might as well hire Robert Spencer as an agent.

  5. mindy1 Says:

    Gee, this will help things/sarcasm

  6. John Says:

    ***WAKE UP AMERICA *** Put a frog in boiling water and he will jump out immediately … put him in a gradually, slowly boiling pot of water he will become descensitized and stay there to death. FBI is correct ! Down with Chrislam ! And yes Muhammad was a cult ~ possesed of demons and so is “prophet jesus.” The Son of GOD JESUS has defeated the devil at the cross Rev 20:10. Remember 911 ??? Calling evil good and good evil is a warnig in the last days !!! ***WAKE UP AMERICA ***

  7. Jack Cope Says:

    “The FBI might as well hire Robert Spencer as an agent.”

    Well he boasts that he does give FBI agents training courses…

  8. NassirH Says:

    Update:

    The FBI swears it has stopped teaching agents that “mainstream” Muslims are proto-terrorists and that Mohammed is a “cult leader.” But top Senators aren’t prepared to let the FBI turn the page on its anti-Islam counterterrorism training, revealed by Danger Room on Wednesday.

    Gawthrop’s FBI training did attract a lot of attention on extremist Islamist message boards, however. The online jihadists claimed it as a vindication — essentially demonstrating Lieberman’s point. “Looks like years of sucking up to the authorities, throwing innocent Muslims under the bus and cooperating with the feds has done ‘American Muslims’ no good at all,” wrote one forum user, as spotted by jihadisphere analyst Jarret Brachman.

  9. Solid Snake Says:

    This is what Greenwald writes about….there is no conspiracy against Muslims, its right in front of our eyes…

    Oh and Sorry Godwin, but let me know when those labor camps are ready….I wanna get the top bunk…

  10. Skhan Says:

    ^awww. Why do I always have to get the bottom?!

  11. Solid Snake Says:

    ^too bad! I pick the top because when they wake us at 3 am to work they cant stomp on my face…..

  12. AJ Says:

    Jim Kirk,

    I would have assumed it’s a given that anyone would report a person who is about to commit a crime. You shouldn’t need a fatwa for that. Although I do think it’s not the people that are about to commit a crime that the FBI coaxes people to report about. It’s the devout and the religious that are automatically considered equivalent to potential terrorists as can be seen from the NYPD case.

  13. Farlowe Says:

    That graph is a total fabrication.

  14. Jim Kirk Says:

    This is what Greenwald writes about….there is no conspiracy against Muslims, its right in front of our eyes…

    This comment proves my point that posting stories like this without context gives Muslims the false impression that the US government is at “war with Islam.” These are trainers hired OUTSIDE the FBI. It doesn’t represent the entire police force. You can’t take one story and generalize it.

    I would have assumed it’s a given that anyone would report a person who is about to commit a crime. You shouldn’t need a fatwa for that.

    You would think it is a given for civilized people. But Islamist Ideologues will make takfir on you (call you an infidel) if you even hint at cooperating with “kuffar” law enforcement. So we do need a fatwa.

  15. corey Says:

    spencer is quite supportive of this while squeezing in a chance to bitch about “truth about islam coming under fire”. http://www.jihadwatch.org/2011/09/far-left-journalist-assails-fbi-training-materials-that-depict-islam-accurately-fbi-folds.html

  16. Ibrahim Says:

    @Jim Kirk, which Islamist ideologues will make takfeer of you if you hint at co-operating with law enforcement? Name five, with proof.

  17. Jim Kirk Says:

    @Ibrahim

    1. Osama Bin Laden and everyone in Al-Qaeda, obviously.

    2. Anwar Awlaki says about Muslims who cooperate with police: “Just like there is a Muslim for the sake of Allah, there is a new phenomenon of a Muslim for the sake of the disbelievers.” He had a big scuffle with Tawfique Chowdhury about this specific issue.

    3. Muhammad Saeed Qahtani says Islamic faith requires you to “ally yourself to the Muslims wherever you find them and to oppose the disbelievers even if they are your closest kin.” [Al-Wala wal-Bara Chapter 3]

    4. Saalih al-Munajjid prohibits: 1) Referring to Kuffaar for judgment, 2) Befriending or liking them, 3) Relying on them, 4) Supporting them again Muslims, etc… [Islam QA fatwa, "Clarification of the important rule: it is haraam to take kaafirs as close friends and protectors"]

    5. Omar Bakri Mohammed told the BBC that he would never cooperate with police. “I would never condemn Osama Bin Laden or any Muslims.” [BBC, "No proof bombers Muslims - Bakri"]

    There is also Hani Al-Sibai, Anjem Choudry, and a host of lesser ideologues who preach a message of separation and confrontation with the West. Is that sufficient?

  18. NassirH Says:

    @Jim Kirk, American Muslims have a history of cooperating with law enforcement. Even the bigoted Robert Spencer has basically recognized this (if only to dismiss such efforts as inadequate and demand that Muslims basically renounce their religion).

    The blame in this case belongs solely to the FBI (for failing to do its job competently) and all the Islamophobes who like to propound their bigoted views.

  19. Garo Says:

    To All Muslims everywhere,in America and across the globe:

    Please google Current TV and look for a program called “COUNTDOWN with Keith Olberman”. Since Keith has taken off for the time being,David Shuster is setting for Keith. Therefore,look for David Shuster’s most powerful condemnation of what the FBI has been doing against the Muslim community. It is a must see and listen to. Please do it and do it now. You will be glad that you have done so. Shuster’s presentaion is one of the most powerfull I have witnessed so far in the United States.

  20. HGG Says:

    http://current.com/shows/countdown/videos/david-shuster-fbi-using-anti-muslim-training-materials

  21. AJ Says:

    Jim Kirk,

    How does not taking “kaafirs as close friends and protectors” equate to not reporting Muslims “who seem they would carry out haraam acts”??

    You sure seem to have a very crooked logic.

    I was thinking that you were perhaps a FBI PR guy employed for preaching to LWers but now I am thinking you are just another mushroom variety loon.

  22. Danios Says:

    And not a single one of these extremists lives in the United States. Nice try, Irshad Manji Jim Kirk.

  23. NassirH Says:

    I don’t think Jim Kirk is like Irshad Manji, as he actually seems to respect traditional Islam. The difference between him and many Loonwatchers is that he attempts to defend the American government from certain criticisms and concurrently tries to justify some of its more controversial actions.

  24. NassirH Says:

    Also, some clown called “Gary Rumain” is spamming under Spencer Ackerman’s more recent article about this subject and spreading the lie that 300 million were killed historically by Muslims. The same loon also commented on Loonwatch some time ago.

  25. corey Says:

    @NassirH
    what an idiot I can see him losing the argument yet he is still talking shit especially pulling out the “taqiyya” card.

  26. corey Says:

    I just got a look at the idiots blog and what an asshole basically if he was born in nazi germany he would fit right in with the ss.

  27. HGG Says:

    “Also, some clown called “Gary Rumain” is spamming under Spencer Ackerman’s more recent article about this subject and spreading the lie that 300 million were killed historically by Muslims. The same loon also commented on Loonwatch some time ago.”

    “Mahound” “Koranimal” obligatory Hubal reference? Impressive. “Gary Rumain” sounds like a JihadWatch’s Greatest Hits.

  28. Jim Kirk Says:

    American Muslims have a history of cooperating with law enforcement.

    That’s right. I’d like to keep it that way by not demonizing law enforcement with the race card.

    And not a single one of these extremists lives in the United States. Nice try, Irshad Manji Jim Kirk.

    Anwar Awlaki is a US citizen. But my point wasn’t about American Muslims. We all know American Muslims are moderate, mainstream, civilized. I was expressing concern about foreign Islamist extremists who are trying to recruit naive, impressionable young Muslims. I think Glenn Greenwald’s anti-government rhetoric supports their propaganda.

    I don’t think Jim Kirk is like Irshad Manji, as he actually seems to respect traditional Islam. The difference between him and many Loonwatchers is that he attempts to defend the American government from certain criticisms and concurrently tries to justify some of its more controversial actions.

    Thank you, Nassir. That’s right. I’ve always defended Islam. But I believe an American Muslim should be a good citizen. That would involve challenging liberal exaggerations about the pervasive evils of America.

    You’ve already posted an article by an author, Justin Raimondo, who bluntly claims that America is not a force for good in the world. That is very strange coming from an American citizen who enjoys unprecedented freedom and privilege in America. Ungrateful much?

    I’d imagine that if the same thing were said about Islam, Raimondo would be appropriately profiled on this site. Why the double standard?

  29. Sulayman F. Says:

    Gary Rumain is one of those jihadwatch people it seems, he’s been viciously attacking Muslims on NPR articles, the Wired articles, even railing against NYC Muslims on gothamist. Fortunately a lot of people have called him out on it.

  30. How Islamic inventors changed the world www.1001inventions.com Says:

    If one million American Muslims held a rally outside the White House, demanding an end to this FBI withchunt, the problem would be solved.

    Even the bumbling Obama couldn’t ignore 1million American Muslims outside the White House.

    Come on, people arrange it.

    Time for the Muslim American Spring.

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