By the spring, the entire federal government will have new standards for counterterrorism training, the result of a White House push to scrap instructions that called mainstream Muslims violent and likened Islam to the Death Star.
A White House plan for counteracting homegrown terrorism released on Thursday said the new training will purge "offensive and inaccurate information" and disseminate new standards for training down to local law enforcement and even community groups.
The White House has tasked the Department of Homeland Security to provide a curriculum for what it calls "Countering Violent Extremism," or CVE, "to be integrated into existing training programs for Federal law enforcement." By the spring, Homeland Security will create an "online portal" to unite "government officials and law enforcement with communities targeted by violent extremist radicalization, which will be used to share relevant information."
Obama administration officials told reporters on background that local leaders are more likely to know before the feds about attempts at radicalization in their communities — hence both the new training and the web portal.
Danger Room reported last week that the White House ordered a government-wide scrub of counterterrorism training materials that broadly portrayed Islam and Muslims as little different from al-Qaida. An FBI intelligence official, William Gawthrop, taught that al-Qaida was "irrelevant" compared to the threat from Islam itself, and instructed at Quantico that mainstream Muslims are "violent." Similar material emerged at the Justice Department and at military education centers. Various counterterrorism experts have said such training jeopardizes the U.S. ability to defeat al-Qaida, as did Attorney General Eric Holder.
Whether Muslim communities trust the government enough to participate in that "community of interest" is an open question. For years, the FBI has secretly surveilled mosques and mapped the non-criminal activity of Muslim communities, all while giving lip service to seeking Muslim cooperation on counterterrorism. The exposure of the anti-Islam training materials left some community leaders who had worked with the FBI feeling betrayed. That's not a good sign for a White House anti-radicalization strategy that can't succeed without community support.