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FBI Training Doc Said Agents Could 'Bend or Suspend the Law and Impinge Upon the Freedom of Others


"...a real risk that agents will be operating on false assumptions..."

A counterterrorism training document for Federal Bureau of Investigation agents about wiretapping read that "under some circumstances, the FBI has the ability to bend or suspend the law and impinge upon the freedom of others." This document, revealed by Wired, has already been removed by the agency for being giving "imprecise" instruction.

Wired's Danger Room reports that it had obtained a letter from Sen. Richard Durbin, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee overseeing the FBI, to FBI Director Robert Mueller referencing this questionable allowance, after the agency's six-month internal review of counterterrorism training documents. When Wired asked to see the original document, the request was initially refused by the Bureau. Shortly thereafter it was handed over, but Wired notes the spokesperson "refused to say who prepared the document; how long it was in circulation; and how many FBI agents, analysts and officials received its instruction."

This is just one of the many "disturbing" practices revealed in the training of agents in counterterrorism. Wired reports that this document, along with "hundreds" of other pages were taken out of 160,000 pages of training material reviewed due to "'imprecision'; inaccuracy; reliance on racial, ethnic or religious stereotypes; or conflating illegal behavior with constitutionally protected activities."

In a separate post, Wired noted some of these practices mentioned in training documents:

A sample of that possibly harmful training comes from a document on “Establishing Relationships,” which instructed: “Never attempt to shake hands with an Asian. Never stare at an Asian. Never try to speak to an Arab female prior to approaching the Arab male first.”

Another document, titled “Control and Temper,” contrasted the “Western Mind” with that of the “Arab World.” The “Western” mind possessed an “even keel” and “outbursts” of emotion were “exceptional.” In the “Arab World,” by contrast, “Outburst and Loss of Control [is] Expected.” A bullet point below asked, “What’s wrong with frequent Jekyll & Hyde temper tantrums?”

Wired reports with the review complete and some of the "instructional material" considered "inappropriate" removed, no disciplinary action has been prescribed nor any mandated retraining for agents. In the letter from Durbin to Mueller, Durbin called for discipline and retraining:

“If the FBI does not identify agents who received inaccurate information and take steps to retrain them, there is a real risk that agents will be operating on false assumptions about Arab Americans and American Muslims,” Durbin wrote to Mueller. “This could harm counterterrorism efforts by leading FBI agents to target individuals based on their religion or ethnicity, rather than suspicion of wrongdoing.”

Wired reported legal experts having qualms with the findings and action being taken -- or lack thereof -- as well:

“Dismissing this statement as ‘imprecise’ is a rather unsatisfying response given the very precise lines Congress and the courts have repeatedly drawn between what is and is not permissible, even in counterterrorism cases, over the past decade,” Steve Vladeck, a national-security law professor at American University, says. “It might technically be true that the FBI has certain authorities when conducting counterterrorism investigations that the Constitution otherwise forbids, but that’s good only so far as it goes.”

FBI spokesman Christopher Allen told Wired that of the 160,000 pages reviewed, less than 1 percent "contained factually inaccurate or imprecise information or used stereotypes." He did acknowledge that mistakes were made and are now being corrected. Allen implied the Bureau would be instituting a "centralized" process for review and validation of training materials so "this does not happen again."

In a statement released after its internal review process of the materials, FBI said its training "must conform to constitutional principles and adhere to the FBI’s core values." It said that the training will "clearly distinguish between constitutionally protected statements and activities designed to achieve political, social, or other objectives, and violent extremism".

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