Poor Quality Powerpoint Presentation Used to Train FBI on Islam

FBI Confirms Book by Robert Spencer Since Dropped From Reading List

Wired magazine draws attention to an alarmingly poor Powerpoint presentation which was used to train the FBI’s Law Enforcement Communications Unit about Islam:

As recently as January 2009, the FBI thought its agents ought to know the following crucial information about Muslims:

  • They engage in a “circumcision ritual”
  • More than 9,000 of them are in the U.S. military
  • Their religion “transforms [a] country’s culture into 7th-century Arabian ways.”

Much of the presentation consists of what appears to be a random selection of assorted facts, and there’s a “recommended reading” page which lists eight titles: two are primary sources (the Koran and Sayyid Qutb’s Milestones); three are polemical anti-Islam books, including two by Robert Spencer (The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam and The Truth About Muhammad, along with Mark Gabriel’s Islam and Terrorism,); two are neutral sources (The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Understanding Islam and Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands: The Bestselling Guide to Doing Business in More Than 60 Countries); and there is also a controversial academic book, Raphael Patai’s The Arab Mind.

According to Wired:

A grainy copy of the PowerPoint was obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union’s Northern California chapter and the Asian Law Caucus, a San Francisco-based civil rights group, and provided to Danger Room. The two groups filed a Freedom of Information Act request last year inquiring about government surveillance of American Muslim communities.

“In order for FBI training to be effective it has to present useful, factual and unbiased information. This material fails on all three criteria,” said Mike German, a former FBI agent who now works for the ACLU. 

The FBI has responded by saying that the Powerpoint was a “rudimentary” version which is no longer used and that it was “a small part of a larger segment of training”. And as for Robert Spencer’s The Truth About Muhammad in the reading list:

An FBI spokesman said Spencer’s book is no longer on the reading list but was not sure about the others. “We encourage our agents to seek out a variety of viewpoints. That does not mean we endorse or adopt the view of any particular author,” the bureau’s statement continues. 

The authorship of the Powerpoint presentation remains unknown, although Wired notes the existence of the Higgins Counterterrorism Research Center, which “claims to have provided counterterrorism instruction to ‘FBI Counterterrorism Special Agents,’ various police departments countrywide and even Blackwater.”

Poor quality training on Islam and counter-terrorism is an issue which has come under increasing scrutiny of late. NPR ran a piece earlier this month, shortly after CNN investigated Walid Shoebat’s presence at a counter-terrorism training event in South Dakota.  Political Research Associates published report on the subject in November, a critical article appeared in the Washington Post in December, and there was a lengthy article in the Washington Monthly in March which prompted an expression of concern from Joe Lieberman, in his capacity as Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman, and from Ranking Member Susan Collins.

(H/T: Loonwatch)