Improving U.S. counter-terror training

Long-time readers may recall that the Washington Monthly has been helping shine a light on the often-inexcusable training law-enforcement officials receive in counter-terrorism.

As we and the Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund reported in March, 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.”

Spencer Ackerman moved the ball forward soon after, reporting on counter-terrorism training sessions at the FBI training academy at Quantico and for FBI partners in New York that told law enforcement officials that al Qaeda was “irrelevant” compared to the threat of Islam itself.

The misguided and offensive practices generated bipartisan criticism on Capitol Hill, and Spencer reports today that the Obama White House is correcting the problem.

The White House quietly ordered a widespread review of government counterterrorism training materials last month, 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.” CVE refers to “Countering Violent Extremism,” the euphemism du jour for the war on terrorism.

Spencer added that the 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 meets the same standards as FBI headquarters or the Pentagon.”

For everyone’s sake, this is a very positive development.