Obama administration counter-terrorism officials have trained domestic Homeland Security law enforcement officers to focus on the behavior of people entering the United States, rather than their political, ideological or religious background.
The training directives from top Homeland Security officials raise questions about the effectiveness of the screening process for Syrian refugees.
Officials process a refugee’s biographic information such as name and date of birth, along with biometric data like fingerprints. This information is crosschecked over different U.S. databases and agencies.
U.S. officials overseas then conduct a series of in-person interviews in the next phase. The interviews are done by Department of Homeland Security officers who are trained to question refugee applicants and examine the credibility of their responses.
But that training requires that the officials collect intelligence based on “behavioral indicators” while downplaying “religious affiliation.”
DHS’s civil rights division released a “Countering Violent Extremism Training” best practices document for federal, state, and local government and law enforcement officials in October 2011.
The document calls for training programs that are not “overbroad, equating an entire religion, nation, region, or culture with evil or violence, For example, it is incorrect and damaging to assert that all Muslims have terrorist ties.”
Instead, the training encourages to “ensure that it uses examples to demonstrate that terrorists span ethnicity, race, gender, and religion.”
Since 2012, the FBI’s guiding principles training manual in the Touchstone Document has stated:
Training must emphasize that no investigative or intelligence collection activity may be based solely on race, ethnicity, national origin, or religious affiliation. Specifically, training must focus on behavioral indicators that have a potential nexus to terrorist or criminal activity, while making clear that religious expression, protest activity, and the espousing of political or ideological beliefs are constitutionally protected activities that must not be equated with terrorism or criminality absent other indicia of such offenses.
“On September 28, 2011, I issued a memorandum to all heads of components and United States Attorneys to ‘carefully review all training material and presentations provided by their personnel, particularly training related to combating terrorism, countering violent extremism, and other training that may relate to ongoing outreach efforts in Arab, Muslim, Sikh, South Asian
and other communities,'” Deputy Attorney General James Cole wrote in a memorandum to all heads of components and U.S. Attorneys in March 2012.
Cole continued, “Carefully review all training material and presentations provided by their personnel, particularly training related to combating terrorism, countering violent extremism, and other training that may relate to ongoing outreach efforts in Arab, Muslim, Sikh, South Asian and other communities.”
The FBI training manual principles extends to other members of federal law enforcement, including those who guard the nation’s borders and ports of entry.
“The FBI 2012 Guiding Principles Touchstone Document was just one in series of official policy directives that gradually, but severely, restricted the efforts of federal law enforcement officers to accurately and effectively assess whether an individual entering the county had any potential nexus to terrorist or criminal activity,” a government source familiar with national security told The Daily Caller.
“These gradual but severe restrictions were coupled with a simultaneous reduction in accurate, fact-based training to address the nature of the threat we face, leaving us inadequately prepared for the challenges we face today.”
The same year, the FBI’s counter-terrorism lexicon, following a purge of terminology of past years, deleted all references to “al-Qaida,” “Muslim Brotherhood,” or “jihad.”
The Justice Department continued to alter its training policy in 2012. In March of that year, Deputy Attorney General Cole sent another memorandum to the heads of components and United States Attorneys in regards to “training guiding principles.” The memo stated in part:
Training must be consistent with the Constitution and Department values. Training must promote, and never undermine, our fundamental principles of equal justice and opportunity for all, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and our other core national values. Trainings must not disparage groups or individuals based on their race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, economic condition, political affiliation or other similar characteristics.
“The 2012 FBI directive to remove religious and political motivations from investigations and screening came at a time when the Obama administration was busy purging anything they believed might reflect poorly on Muslims, regardless of how it effected our national security,” national security consultant David Reaboi told The Daily Caller.
Reaboi explained, “Since then — and now, presumably, in screening refugees, investigators are trained not to ask about all the key identifiers that would allow them to spot Islamic terrorists or other Islamists who want to do harm to America. Because ISIS, al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood understand themselves in precisely those ways, they’re prevented from asking anything meaningful beyond, ‘are you a terrorist?'”
“‘Are you a member of the Muslim Brotherhood? What school of Islamic law do you follow? Where do you go to mosque? Do you believe someone who insults Islam deserves to be killed? Would you like to make America an Islamic country?’ All of these questions — the most important ones — are off-limits,” Reaboi said.
In fact, the FBI’s policies of tamping down Islamic connections to terrorism caused the agency to not identify Boston bombers, brothers Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Dzhokar Tsarnaev, a U.S. official told The Washington Free Beacon’s Bill Gertz in 2013.
According to Gertz, U.S. officials say that the FBI’s counter-terrorism training manual as well as its outreach program to Muslim groups and the FBI’s policy toward Islam hampered counter-terrorism investigations and training.
Similar to the handling of the Boston bombing, the FBI ignored or missed the signs of radicalized Islam in convicted Fort Hood massacre shooter, Army Maj. Nidal Hasan out of “political correctness.”
The training manual changes and lexicon purges were not enough, however.
“Ethnic, religious and racial profiling has led to the wide-spread singling out of Arabs and American Muslims by Customs and Border Patrol, the Transportation Safety Administration and the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” a September 2014 briefing report by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights reads. “Overzealous government monitoring programs have eroded the confidence of American Muslims in law enforcement and to law enforcement efforts.”
Four months later, December 2014, the Justice Department issued a policy stating:
In conducting all activities other than routine or spontaneous law enforcement activities, Federal law enforcement officers may consider race, ethnicity, gender, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity only to the extent that there is trustworthy information, relevant to the locality or time frame, that links persons possessing a particular listed characteristic to an identified criminal incident, scheme, or organization, a threat to national or homeland security, a violation of Federal immigration law, or an authorized intelligence activity.
The Daily Caller sent an inquiry to the FBI about the Touchstone document field-training manual and did not receive a response.