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FBI Pulls Offensive Counterterrorism Training Materials

The FBI has completed a review of offensive training material and has purged 876 pages and 392 presentations, according to a briefing provided to lawmakers.

The office of Sen. Richard Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, made the briefing public when it sent a letter addressed to Robert Mueller, the director of the FBI.

According to the letter (pdf), which is dated March 27, the FBI gave the senator an opportunity to review a "handful" of the material.

One slide, writes the senator, included this sentence: "Under certain circumstances, the FBI has the ability to bend or suspend the law and impinge on freedoms of others."

Other slides told agents to "never attempt to shake hands with an Asian" and "never stare at an Asian."

Another slide says that the "Western Mind" is "even keel" and that outbursts don't happen often but in the Arab world, "outbursts and lose (sic) of control expected."

Durbin's letter, which was first reported by Wired's Danger Roomblog, sheds more light on the controversial training given to agents. NPR's Dina Temple Raston reported last March that independent trainers hired by the FBI "were presenting skewed views about Muslim-Americans and their potential links to terrorism."

Late last year, Danger Room followed up finding presentation materials that painted Muslims as a whole with the broad brush of violence and terrorism.

Durbin's letter came after a November hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in which Attorney General Eric Holder said the training in question was "flat-out wrong."

In his letter, Durbin said the FBI told him it had completed its review of the training program, but he said he was "disappointed" that the FBI doesn't seem to have any intention of providing a written report.

The FBI also told Durbin that it would not give his office copies of the presentations and documents that included offensive material.

"I am concerned that no one has been held accountable for providing this training ...," Durbin writes. "The FBI has not publicly apologized to the American-Muslim and Arab-American communities and it is my understanding that no one has been disciplined."

Concluding, Durbin asks the FBI to make unclassified material available to the public and that in the "very least, reassign the individuals responsible for providing inappropriate training."

The New York Times reports that last week, the Department of Justice released "guiding principles" for training materials. The Times reports:

"The documents said that such materials must be 'consistent with the Constitution' and agency values, including by not disparaging groups or individuals based on characteristics like race, religion, or national origin.

"The memorandums also say that supervisors must assess trainers for professionalism and to make sure that they are knowledgeable experts in the topic, and that they should review written materials being used for instruction."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.