FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III told a congressional hearing on Thursday that the bureau is conducting a review of training programs after disclosure of materials that equated devout Muslims with a greater propensity for violent extremism.
Mr. Mueller said that one part of the training program disclosed in a press account was “inappropriate and offensive,” but that the session was a “one-off” and not likely to be repeated.
“We have undertaken a review from top to bottom of our counterterrorism training,” Mr. Mueller said. “I think these are isolated incidents, and in the course of that review, we’ve had outreach to academicians and others to assist us in reviewing the materials and assuring that that offensive content does not appear.”
The comments came in response to questions from Rep. Janice D. Schakowsky, Illinois Democrat, during a hearing before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, about leaked training materials from an FBI training session at its institute in Quantico, Va., in March.
The exchange prompted charges that Mr. Mueller was knuckling under to political correctness aimed at muzzling critics of Islam.
The materials, Mrs. Schakowsky said, stated of Muslims that “the more religious they get, the more violent they are And I understand that there’s been training [sessions] where the Prophet Muhammad has actually been called a cult leader and [where] the Islamic practice of giving to charity [has been described as] no more than, quote, ‘a funding mechanism for combat.’”
The FBI materials were first reported and posted online by ‘Wired’ Magazine’s Danger Room blog.
“In this particular instance,” said Mr. Mueller, “reports of what had been in that training came up from the students, and we took action to assure that that inappropriate, offensive content was not provided to others.”
He added that there had been “other instances [of training] that may include what would be perceived as offensive content.”
The exchange highlights a long-running dispute, both about the counterterrorism training provided by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies, but more deeply about the nature of the threat posed by the ideology of Islamic terrorism.
Mr. Mueller “is saying that this correlation [between piety and violence] is offensive because Islamic supremacist groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) tell him that it offends them,” said Robert Spencer, a writer on Islam.
Mr. Spencer is one of those whose training presentations for law enforcement - including for the FBI - have been criticized as anti-Muslim. CAIR describes itself as a civil rights organization and denies any link to terrorism.
John Guandolo, a former FBI agent and another counterterrorism trainer, called it “outrageous” that “almost the only people our leaders in national security and law enforcement are looking to for guidance about Islam” are representatives of groups like CAIR, which he said is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, a global political network that promotes Islamic law and a political view of Islam as not just a personal faith, but a code for the whole of society.
“The FBI director’s job is not to be the politically correct police, but to look at facts and evidence,” Mr. Guandolo said. “The fact is, the major threat does not come from terrorist attacks. It comes from the Muslim Brotherhood.”
A bureau spokesman said the Quantico presentation did not meet FBI standards, should not have been delivered and that the official who gave it was no longer conducting training.
“The FBI is committed to protecting Americans’ rights under the U.S. Constitution, and strong religious beliefs should never be confused with violent extremism,” said FBI spokesman William Carter in a email.
“I have a number of questions that are still unanswered,” she said, “and I am looking forward to hearing from the director about the review he ordered.”