To fix its troubled counterterrorism training, the FBI is calling in the cavalry.
The Bureau has turned to the Army’s Combating Terrorism Center at West Point to scour the FBI’s training materials, after Danger Room revealed that Bureau specialists were teaching agents that “mainstream” Muslims were likely to be “violent” and radical.” The West Point request represents a frank admission from the FBI that it requires outside help to reform.
The Combating Terrorism Center earns high praise from counterterrorism experts as a haven for rigorous, practical scholarship on terrorism and Islamic extremism. Its researchers consider themselves to be the opposite of analysts like William Gawthrop, the FBI intelligence analyst who compared Islam to the Death Star and Mohammed to a “cult leader.” The CTC experts’ challenge, as they themselves see it, is to undo the work of Gawthrop and his allies.
“At CTC, there’s an ethos of education,” says Brian Fishman of the New America Foundation, a former research director at the Center. “When you have that, you inherently recognize that you need to illustrate that, for example, the practice of Islam around the world isn’t monolithic.”
The CTC, as it’s known, has had a partnership with the Bureau for years; all new FBI agents go through a mandatory class prepared by the Center about international terrorism. But it’s unclear how thoroughly the Bureau will allow CTC to revamp its curriculum — especially when there has for years been powerful strain of Islamophobic sentiment running throughout the Bureau.