Documents recently leaked to Wired's Spencer Ackerman show that the FBI does not offer its counterterrorism agents a very nuanced take on Islam. The briefings, which come from the organization's Quantico, Virginia, training grounds, include an illustrated chart showing a direct relationship between a Muslim's devoutness and his potential for violence, along with musings such as this: “There may not be a ‘radical’ threat as much as it is simply a normal assertion of the orthodox ideology ... The strategic themes animating these Islamic values are not fringe; they are main stream."
Why did FBI whistleblowers leak the documents? Wired reports they were concerned that:
Focusing on the religious behavior of American citizens instead of proven indicators of criminal activity like stockpiling guns or using shady financing makes it more likely that the FBI will miss the real warning signs of terrorism. And depicting Islam as inseparable from political violence is exactly the narrative al-Qaida spins — as is the related idea that America and Islam are necessarily in conflict.
Many of the documents obtained by Wired — including a graph that suggests devout Jews and Christians have mellowed out on the violence over the centuries while Muslims are just as violent as they were in the year 622 — were authored by FBI intelligence analyst William Gawthrop. In 2006, before he joined the Bureau, he told birther enthusiast site WorldNetDaily that “Muhammad’s mindset is a source for terrorism."
The FBI's response: “The presentation in question was a rudimentary version used for a limited time that has since been replaced.”
This post has been updated with additional material.