Lieberman, Collins don’t want cops to fear Islam, either

LIEBERMAN, COLLINS DON’T WANT COPS TO FEAR ISLAM, EITHER…. As regular readers know, we’ve been closely following an important story here at the Washington Monthly, helping shine a light on the often-inexcusable training law-enforcement officials receive in counter-terrorism.

The problem, as we reported in the March/April issue*, is that the federal government is spending billions of dollars in grants to teach local law enforcement how to sniff out and respond to terrorists, but with little supervision over who provides the instruction or what’s being taught. The result is self-styled counter-terrorism “experts” who tell police officers that Muslim radicals can be spotted by the “cone shape” of their beards, Islam is a “violent radical religion,” and the Prophet Muhammad was “a pedophile.”

It was encouraging, then, to see Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), the top two senators on the Homeland Security Committee, follow up on our reporting today.

Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., Tuesday sought information to ensure that federal funds for counterterrorism training are not being wasted on programs that could undermine the national effort to deter homegrown terrorism.

The Senators, in a letter to the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Attorney General, asked what guidelines and standards counterterrorism training must meet and what qualifications counterterrorism trainers must possess.

Anecdotal evidence suggesting that some local law enforcement officers are being trained by people who are unqualified or provide inaccurate — even inflammatory — information led the Senators to ask how the two departments oversee federal grants for counterterrorism training.

In their letter, Lieberman and Collins noted, “Preliminary inquiries by our staffs suggest that improper training may not be limited to mere isolated occurrences. We are concerned that at best, the quality of training is inconsistent, and at worst, is actually detrimental to our efforts to confront homegrown terrorism. Muslim Americans are central allies in our fight against violent Islamist extremism, and any training that implies otherwise is both inaccurate and counterproductive to our shared goals.”

Good for them. The point here is not just about misguided and offensive lessons for law enforcement officials; the point here is that we’re all paying a bundle for counter-terrorism training that’s likely to produce poorly-trained cops. The result is likely to be civil liberties violations and ineffective investigations.

Adam Serwer, who first flagged the Lieberman/Collins letter, concluded, “This is a really good sign that Congress is beginning to take the Islamophobia industry undermining U.S. counterterrorism efforts seriously.”

* Update: I neglected to mention that the article that ran in the March/April issue was published with support from our friends at the Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund. I regret the oversight.