This should have ended under Attorney General Eric Holder's watch. WIRED's 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.[...]
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.[...]
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.
They're using sophisticated material like this, supposedly stipulating the "the alleged connection between Islam and violence."
Just go read the story. It's well worth the effort. And then go read this one by Mother Jones' Adam Weinstein, reminding us that it's not just the FBI, but "American police officers, airport screeners, and soldiers [who] have no freaking clue how to deal with the distinction between the vast majority of Muslims and the minisule minority that actively seek to do us harm."
All of which is to say that, 10 years after the US government got really preoccupied with Muslims of all stripes, from Iraqi Kurds, Sunnis, and Shiites to Afghan Pashtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras, and a couple hundred other ethnic and tribal identities (not to mention Muslim-Americans)—our civil servants are still taking a reductive, unfair, and ultimately dangerous attitude toward them. Which may explain why we let foreign governments lock them up and torture them, even if they're American citizens. And perhaps it's why the FBI relies blindly on terrorism informants who walk the fine between tracking potential terrorists and making them. If we continue to miseducate the well-intending agents and soldiers who serve at the tip of the spear, we shouldn't be surprised when that spear misses its target.
Reorienting a massive bureaucracy is hard, and that's particuarly true for intelligence and defense units which have powerful protectors and the advantage of being able to screech "national security" when threatened by reform. Nonetheless, the bad, ineffective and illegal programs and the individuals who created them under the Bush/Cheney regime after 9/11 needed to be wholly rooted out. The evidence of that just keeps on growing. Continuing the existence of these programs makes the nation more vulnerable, aside from the moral stain that just keeps on growing.