The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s failure to recognize political Islam as a driver of jihadist terrorism is partly to blame for the FBI not identifying one of the Boston Marathon bombers in 2011 as a security risk, according to U.S. officials and private counterterrorism analysts.
The FBI revealed last week that it was warned by a foreign government in 2011 that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was killed Friday, was tied to “radical Islam” but the FBI was unable to confirm the links.
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“The fact is religion has been expunged from counterterrorism training,” said Sebastian Gorka, a counterterrorism specialist with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “The FBI can’t talk about Islam and they can’t talk about jihad.”
Added Patrick S. Poole, another counterterrorism specialist, about FBI policies on Islam: “I have zero doubt it affected their investigation of Tsarnaev.”
A U.S. official said FBI policies of playing down Islamic links to terrorism resulted in the FBI not identifying Tsarnaev, 26, or his brother, Dzhokar Tsarnaev, 19, who was charged with last week’s bombing, as Islamist terrorists.
Instead, the FBI is limiting its description of the two men as ethnic Chechens who became “radicalized” prior to the April 15 bombing of the Boston Marathon. Three people were killed and more than 200 injured in the attack using two homemade bombs placed in pressure cookers and remotely detonated.
“Again, the FBI has been aware of a future terrorist’s escalating religious radicalization and did nothing about it because bureau policies prohibited them from doing so,” Poole said.
Poole said FBI counterterrorism investigations were “cordoned off” in 2012 to block probes of terrorist links under a report called “FBI Guiding Principles: Touchstone Document on Training.”
The report states that if a terror suspect is a member of a group that engages in both violent and constitutionally protected activities, there should not be a presumption that a person is engaged in the organization’s illicit terrorist activity.
Allen, the FBI spokesman, said the touchstone training document “outlines the standard by which all FBI training will be compared, and applies broadly to all racial, ethnic, and religious groups.”
One U.S. government source said the FBI has canceled all but one of its counterterrorism-training courses as a result of the fiscal constraints imposed by the so-called sequestration budget cuts.
“I’m sure al Qaeda is not curtailing its training,” the source said.
We urge you to create an interagency task force, led by the White House, tasked with the following responsibilities:
1. Review all trainers and training materials at government agencies, including all FBI intelligence products used such as the FBI intranet, FBI library and JTTF training programs; US Attorney training programs; U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of Defense, and US military intranet, libraries and training materials, resources and experts;
2. Purge all federal government training materials of biased materials;
3. Implement a mandatory re-training program for FBI agents, U.S. Army officers, and all federal, state and local law enforcement who have been subjected to biased training;
4. Ensure that personnel reviews are conducted and all trainers and other government employees who promoted biased trainers and training materials are effectively disciplined;
5. Implement quality control processes to ensure that bigoted trainers and biased materials are not developed or utilized in the future; and
6. Issue guidance clearly stating that religious practice and political advocacy are protected activities under the First Amendment, not indicators of violence, and shall not be the basis for surveillance or investigation.
The interagency task force should include a fair and transparent mechanism for input from the Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities, including civil rights lawyers, religious leaders, and law enforcement experts.
John Brennan’s, then counter terror chief and now – outed Muslim convert and head of the CIA, responded quickly, as IPT detailed,
Brennan readily agreed, promising in a November 3, 2011 response to Khera written on White House stationery obtained by the Investigative Project on Terrorism, that such an interagency task force was indeed “necessary,” and agreeing to purge training programs of all materials that the Muslim groups found objectionable.
To this day, officials have declined to identify those with whom they consulted in identifying the material to be removed. During an April 2012 talk at the New York Police Department, Brennan refused to answer when asked specifically whether Muslim Advocates was among those consulted.
…in his letter to Khera, Brennan acquiesced to virtually every demand.
“We share your sense of concern over these recent unfortunate incidents, and are moving forward to ensure problems are addressed with a keen sense of urgency,” he wrote. “They do not reflect the vision that the President has put forward, nor do they represent the kind of approach that builds the partnerships that are necessary to counter violent extremism, and to protect our young people and our homeland. American’s greatest strength is its values, and we are committed to pursuing policies and approaches that draw strength from our values and our people irrespective of their race, religion or ethnic background.
While much work remains, I am confident that concrete actions are being taken to address the valid concerns you raised. Thank you again for your letter and for your leadership in addressing an isue that is crticial to ensuring the security of the United States.”