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President Obama Orders Government to Clean Up Terror Training

The White House quietly ordered a widespread review of government counterterrorism training materials last month,

 

 

By Spencer Ackerman

following Danger Room’s reports that officials at the FBI, military and Justice Department taught their colleagues that “mainstream” Muslims embrace violence and compared the Islamic religion to the Death Star.

According to a Pentagon memorandum acquired by Danger Room, the White House’s National Security Staff in October requested “Departments and Agencies” to “provide their screening process for CVE trainers and speakers.” (.pdf) CVE refers to “Countering Violent Extremism,” the euphemism du jour for the war on terrorism. The memorandum says that “recent media attention” led to the review, and contains a single attachment to demonstrate that attention: “Spencer Ackerman’s Wired.com article.”

The ongoing review will examine whether counterterrorism training material throughout the government is accurate and relevant, and will make sure the briefings given to federal field offices and local cops meet the same standards as FBI headquarters or the Pentagon.

Jose Mayorga, a retired two-star general who now serves as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense, oversaw the Pentagon’s contribution to the White House review. In the memo, dated Oct. 16, Mayorga asked aides to the Joint Chiefs of Staff to collect counterterrorism training materials at the “service academies and major academic centers (e.g., Joint Special Operations University, U.S. Army Combined Arms Center and National Defense Intelligence College)” by Oct. 31, a deadline that Pentagon spokesman Robert Ditchey says has “been extended” so the department can be “comprehensive and deliberate.”  

The purpose of the review, Mayorga writes, is to “determine the criteria used to establish professional qualifications for teachers and lecturers providing instruction on countering violent Islamic extremism; with particular focus on Military Information Support Operations, Information Operations, and Military Intelligence curriculum.” Mayorga adds that information on “cultural awareness” for troops preparing to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan is also subject to the White House review.

 

Some security agencies already have their own internal reviews. After Danger Room reported on presentations at the FBI training academy at Quantico and for FBI partners in New York that taught al-Qaida was “irrelevant” compared to the threat of Islam itself, the bureau began what it describes as a thorough scrub of its counterterrorism curriculum. It enlisted the Army’s Combating Terrorism Center at West Point to purge material that conflates terrorism with mainstream Islam. Attorney General Eric Holder, whose Justice Department initiated a separate counterterrorism training review, recently told Congress that those instructional materials hurt the U.S. fight against al-Qaida.

But at least one member of Congress is worried that all of these reviews will undermine counterterrorism efforts in the name of political correctness.

In a forthcoming letter to Holder and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Rep. Sue Myrick (R-N.C.) writes that “political nature of these reviews might inadvertently weaken our law enforcement and military counter-terrorism training programs by censoring certain language that is used to objectively identify the asymmetrical threats that are present in today’s world.”

Myrick takes a dark view of Islam. In a foreword to a book titled Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld That’s Conspiring to Islamize America, she writes, “Since the 1960s there has been a concerted effort on the part of ra.... Front groups of terror now operate openly in our country, comprising a network of support for jihadists.” Last year, Myrick alleged that Hezbollah was planting operatives among illegal immigrants entering the U.S. through Mexico.

“We don’t necessarily disagree with some action being taken,” Myrick’s military affairs aide, Clark Fonda, tells Danger Room. “But we’re concerned that this could inadvertently cause a political reaction within [the Justice Department] and [the Defense Department] that could lead to the censoring of words such as ‘Islam’ or ‘Muslim’ in federal law enforcement and military counter-terrorism training documents.”

Myrick’s letter to Holder and Panetta cites the recommendations of a Senate inquiry into the Fort Hood shooting that also warns against euphemistic treatment of violent Islamic extremism. Yet the leader of that inquiry, Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), told Danger Room that the FBI’s anti-Islamic training materials represented a “lie” that “all Muslims support terrorism.”

President Obama has repeatedly tried to assure Muslims that “America is not, and never will be, at war with Islam,” a message he delivered in Turkey and Egypt. His chief counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, argued last year against calling al-Qaida’s adherents “jihadis,” because using a religious term “would play into the false perception that they are religious leader....”

These messages are complicated, if not contradicted, by the anti-Islam training that counterterrorism agents and officials at the FBI, Justice Department and Defense Department have received. “Boneheaded is a generous way to describe this training,” says counterterrorism analyst Jarret Brachman, author of Global Jihadism: Theory and Practice. “I’d lean more towards hateful, paranoid and completely counterproductive.”

Photo: White House

Spencer Ackerman is Danger Room's senior reporter, based out of Washington, D.C., covering weapons of doom and the strategies they're used to implement.
Follow @attackerman and @dangerroom on Twitter.

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