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Did the Barack Obama administration ditch FBI material used to train counterterrorism agents?
At a House committee hearing on worldwide terror threats, Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., claimed the former administration purged information that could "allow us to see in totality the threat that faces America."
"Just curious if you can tell me if the FBI has taken any steps to reverse the previous administration's purge of training courses and information about Islamism, jihad, Sharia, and the Muslim Brotherhood," Perry asked FBI director Christopher Wray at the Nov. 30 hearing.
Wray said he was not aware of efforts to purge training material.
"They were purged in the last administration," Perry told him.
Is that true?
Perry's office did not respond to our requests for information. We found the FBI did rescind training material during the Obama administration — but it was less than 1 percent of 160,000 pages of training documents that were found to contain information that was factually inaccurate, imprecise or used stereotypes.
The review came after media reports show that training material included claims identifying "mainstream" American Muslims as "likely to be terrorist sympathizers."
The Arab American Institute said the documents "crudely" depicted Arab Americans and American Muslims "as threatening, irrational, or otherwise abnormal."
Here’s what we know about the FBI’s review and rescinded documents.
Additional Wired reporting in September 2011 found that during a training session at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va., agents were told that "mainstream" American Muslims were "likely to be terrorist sympathizers; that the Prophet Mohammed was a ‘cult leader’; and that the Islamic practice of giving charity is no more than a ‘funding mechanism for combat’." A chart in the presentation contended that the more "devout" Muslims are, the likelier they are to be violent, Wired reported.
The FBI distanced itself from the messages in the training.
It told Wired that the presentation had a disclaimer saying the views expressed were of the author and "do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. government." An FBI press release issued a day after Wired’s report said the training segment was presented only one time and quickly discontinued.
At a November 2011 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., asked then-Attorney General Eric Holder about the training material, presenting among examples a claim that ‘‘the Arabic mind is swayed more by ideas than facts."
"It is regrettable that that information was, in fact, a part of a training program," Holder said, adding that there was an ongoing review of training material "to ensure that that kind of misinformation" was not being used, because it could undermine and negatively impact outreach efforts.
The FBI reviewed 160,000 pages of material and eventually removed hundreds of pages from its training. Less than 1 percent of the material reviewed had "factually inaccurate or imprecise information or used stereotypes," the FBI told Wired in February 2012.
A March 2012 letter from Durbin to then-FBI Director Robert Mueller expressed disappointment that the FBI would not produce a written report on the material deemed inappropriate, and that it would not be publicly shared or given to Congress. Durbin’s letter said FBI briefers shared copies of "a handful" of the material with Senate Judiciary Committee staff, but were not allowed to keep the copies.
The FBI did not confirm to PolitiFact if it eliminated such material, but referred us to public source material and 2012 congressional testimony.
At a May 2012 House Judiciary Committee hearing on oversight of the FBI, Mueller said 876 inappropriate training documents had been removed after a review of 160,000 documents and over 1,000 videos, but did not specify what the material said.
Judicial Watch, a conservative group that litigates on public corruption and other issues, said documents it obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit showed that reasons cited for the removal of material included: "Article is highly inflammatory and inaccurately argues the Muslim Brotherhood is a terrorist organization," and "author seems to conflate ‘Islamic Militancy’ with ‘terrorism’ and needs to define the difference and use it in their analysis."
"The excised material included references linking the Muslim Brotherhood to terrorism, tying al Qaeda to the 1993 World Trade Center and Khobar Towers bombings, and suggesting that ‘young male immigrants of Middle Eastern appearance … may fit the terrorist profile best’," Judicial Watch said.
Perry said the Obama administration purged "training courses and information about Islamism, jihad, Sharia, and the Muslim Brotherhood."
The FBI removed nearly 900 training documents containing information that was inaccurate, imprecise or depicted stereotypes, after a review of 160,000 pages and more than 1,000 videos. The review came after 2011 media reports about training material portraying Muslims stereotypically and prone to violence.
Though the FBI did not publicly disclose the material it rescinded, Judicial Watch said that through a lawsuit for information, it found that removed material included references to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Perry’s statement is partially accurate but leaves out important details or takes things out of context. We rate it Half True.
C-SPAN, House Homeland Security Committee hearing on Global Terror Threats, Part 1, Nov. 30, 2017
House Homeland Security Committee, World Wide Threats: Keeping America Secure in the New Age of Terror, Nov. 30, 2017
U.S. Justice Department, Memorandum for Heads of Components and United States Attorneys, March 20, 2012
Judicial Watch, U.S. Government Purges of Law Enforcement Training Material Deemed "Offensive" to Muslims, Sept. 1, 2015
The Hill, West says Muslim Brotherhood being allowed to influence strategy, April 23, 2012
Arab American Institute, AAI Statement on The FBI‘s Guiding Principles: Touchstone Document on Training 2012, March 28, 2012
Phone interview, Maya Berry, executive director Arab American Institute, Dec. 6, 2017
The Washington Post, Is the FBI unable to ‘talk about jihad’?, May 3, 2013
The Washington Post, FBI, Muslims report progress over training materials, Feb. 16, 2012
U.S. Government Accountability Office, Countering Violent Extremism, Additional Actions Could Strengthen Training Efforts, October 2012
Wired, FBI 'islam 101' Guide Depicted Muslims as 7th-century Simpletons, PowerPoint presentation, July 27, 2011
Wired, FBI Teaches Agents: 'mainstream' Muslims Are 'violent, Radical', Sept. 14, 2011
Wired, Video: FBI Trainer Says Forget ‘Irrelevant’ al-Qaida, Target Islam, Sept. 20, 2011
Wired, FBI Purges Hundreds of Terrorism Documents in Islamophobia Probe, Feb. 15, 2012
Wired, Read the FBI Memo: Agents Can 'suspend the Law', March 28, 2012
Wired, FBI Taught Agents They Could 'bend or Suspend the Law', March 28, 2012
NPR.org, Letter from Sen. Dick Durbin to then-FBI Director Robert Mueller, March 27, 2012
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