It has now emerged that the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) formally taught their agents that they were able to “bend or suspend the law and impinge upon the freedoms of others” in their quest to find alleged terrorists and criminals.
It gets even worse when we read that they claim they have “the ability to gather information on individuals which would normally be protected under the US Constitution through the use of FISA, Title 3 monitoring, NSL reports, etc.”
According to Wired’s Danger Room, the FBI claims they simply didn’t mean it and since have removed the offending document from their counterterrorism training curriculum, characterizing it as an “imprecise” instruction.
This explanation is hardly surprising given that the Department of Defense made similar claims after it emerged that their training materials explicitly classified protesting as an act of “low-level terrorism.”
“Dismissing this statement as ‘imprecise’ is a rather unsatisfying response given the very precise lines Congress and the courts have repeatedly drawn between what is and is not permissible, even in counterterrorism cases, over the past decade,” Steve Vladeck, a national-security law professor at American University, said to Danger Room.
“It might technically be true that the FBI has certain authorities when conducting counterterrorism investigations that the Constitution otherwise forbids, but that’s good only so far as it goes,” he added.
As evidence of the fact that they really do not care about these “imprecise” instructions, the FBI has not taken a single disciplinary action against any instructor involved.
Furthermore, they did not even say that the agents who had been exposed to such ludicrous training materials would undergo re-training.
This intensive six-month-long review of counterterrorism training materials conducted by the FBI did not even result in a review of any and all intelligence reports which would have been influenced by the “imprecise” training materials.
“This is not an effective way to protect the United States,” Senator Richard Durbin, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee overseeing the FBI, told Danger Room about the inappropriate FBI counterterrorism training.
“It’s stunning that these things could be said to members of our FBI in training. It will not make them more effective in their work and won’t make America safer.”
A letter send by Senator Durbin to Robert Mueller, the Director of the FBI, showed images from one of the FBI’s instructional materials which stated, “Under certain circumstances, the FBI has the ability to bend or suspend the law to impinge on the freedom of others.”
“Time and time again when that is done, it has not made us safer,” Senator Durbin added.
Some of the training materials aren’t so much disturbing as they are somewhat hilarious, like the “Establishing relationships” slide which tells agents: “Never attempt to shake hands with an Asian” and” “Never stare at an Asian.”
On another slide entitled “Control and Temper,” agents are told that the “Western Mind” is “even keel” with “outbursts exceptional.”
However, when one is in the Arab World, agents are told that “Outbursts and lose [sic] of control expected” and “What’s wrong with frequent Jekyll and Hyde temper tantrums?”
Christopher Allen, a spokesperson for the FBI did not even attempt to dispute the authenticity of the documents, although he refused to share the full documents.
Allen also claimed that he was “unable to provide” any additional information as to their context, or even an estimate of how many FBI agents may have been exposed to the faulty materials.
In an attempt to lessen the impact of these materials, Allen claimed that “less than one percent contained factually inaccurate or imprecise information or used stereotypes.”
The FBI’s claim that they can bend or suspend the law “under certain circumstances” include circumstances which are a bit confusing, to say the least.
“Title 3 monitoring” is typical law enforcement surveillance which requires a judge’s approval, while the issuance of National Security Letters (subpoenas for records which are issued by the FBI itself, and not judges) is, quite unfortunately, completely legal. Similarly, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is a legal way for agencies like the FBI to spy on Americans.
“This certainly does not read as if a lawyer wrote it,” Robert Chesney, a national-security expert at the University of Texas’ law school told Danger Room.
“Congress has given the FBI the authority to wiretap, collect business records, and gather other forms of information for intelligence purposes, subject to certain safeguards. It is a severe misstatement to refer to the exercise of these lawful authorities as ‘bending’ or ‘suspending’ the law; that mischaracterization runs the risk of both delegitimizing these lawful tools and, simultaneously, conveying to agents the mistaken impression that there might be some more general power to disobey the law during intelligence investigations,” he added.
While I think it is quite sad that the FBI has these authorities to begin with, it makes little sense for the FBI to teach their agents that they can bend or suspend the law unless, as Chesney points out it is done to give the “impression that there might be some more general power to disobey the law during intelligence investigations.”
Indeed, it seems quite obvious to me that this is the entire point. They want law enforcement to believe that they are above the law, which in many cases they are as they have been allowed to get away with murdering and brutally assaulting the elderly.
While the FBI has allegedly removed this offending document from their curriculum, it does nothing to help the fact that unknown numbers of agents have already been exposed to the material and actually believe it to be accurate.
Furthermore, the fact that the FBI has taken no steps to rectify the situation by retraining their agents tells quite a bit about where their priorities are.
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