FBI Tools Made Politically Correct
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is doing what it can to stop students from joining ISIS. The agency has launched an interactive education website called “Don’t Be a Puppet: Pull Back the Curtain on Violent Extremism.” It uses “activities, quizzes, videos, and other materials to teach teens how to recognize violent extremist messaging and become more resistant to self-radicalization and possible recruitment.”
In January of 2016, the FBI also released “Preventing Violent Extremism in Schools,” a guide to help adults recognize and stop students from falling victim to radicalism. Both programs can be found online at FBI.gov.
When these two programs, the guide and the “Puppet” website, were first released in 2015, they were sent back to the drawing board because Muslim groups objected to references to Islam. Groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which has on several occasions been accused of having ties to terrorist organizations like Hamas, insisted on changes that eliminated references to the Islamic religion. They claimed that the programs would lead to Muslim students being bullied or profiled. So, the FBI sites that aimed to stop radicalization were cleansed of Islamic references. References to ISIS and al-Qaeda remain, but references to Muslim extremism were expunged. There remains ample warning about domestic terrorists, like ecoterrorists, white supremacy groups, and “anti-government groups.”
Students must be informed about the means used by those who wish to recruit to their cause. Radicals find students on social media and in online gaming. The goal is to convince vulnerable people to embrace radical ideology. Then extremists convince young people to act in a manner consistent with their radical ideology.
The problem with the revisions to the FBI programs is that some students are trying to join ISIS in Syria and Iraq based on religious motivations. They aren’t running off to be tree huggers in Marin County, California. Others attracted to Muslim extremism through the internet have attacked Americans on American soil.
Such is the case with a University of California, Merced student who stabbed four people with a knife on campus in November of 2015. In April, the Department of Justice finally released a statement saying that Faisal Mohammad, 18, seemed to have “self-radicalized and drawn inspiration from terrorist propaganda.” He found that information on the internet. “The Justice Department said the FBI found pro-ISIS propaganda on his laptop and evidence that he visited extremist websites in the weeks before the attack. Investigators also found a photocopied ISIS flag along with a knife and list of supplies after he was killed.” Faisal was shot and killed by police; his victims survived. (NBCnews.com, 3-18-16)
Three Denver, Colorado teenaged girls skipped school in October of 2014. Their parents reported the girls’ passports were missing, along with a few thousand dollars. None of them had run away before, and their families were perplexed. The girls, ages 15, 16, and 17, were eventually intercepted at the Frankfurt airport in Germany and turned over to FBI agents. U.S. officials reported that the three teens “had planned to join militants with ISIS in the Islamic State in Iraq or Syria.” Their parents said the incident “hit them out of the blue.” But all three girls researched their plan online, “visiting websites where extremists discuss how to get to Syria.” (CNN, 10-22-14)
Jaelyn Young, 19, and her fiancé, Muhammad Dakhlalla, 22, were arrested on suspicion of trying to travel from Mississippi to Syria to join the Islamic State in August of 2015. He was a recent college graduate, from a family of immigrants who seem to epitomize Muslim assimilation into American society. She was raised a Christian and was a recent convert to Islam, a cheerleader, an honor student, and the daughter of a police officer. Both visited radical Islamic websites on the internet. The FBI was alerted to Jaelyn after she posted positive responses about the young Muslim man who fatally shot five American service men in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in July of 2015. She posted the Arabic words meaning “praise to God,” and “the numbers of supporters are growing.” The couple was stopped before their plan came to fruition. When captured, they “confessed that they were on their way to join the Islamic State.” (New York Times, 8-14-15)
In April, both pleaded guilty to “attempting and conspiring to knowingly provide material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization.” They await sentencing, which could include up to 20 years in prison.
On October 4, 2014, three siblings left their home in Chicago with their passports and airline tickets to Turkey. After graduating from a Chicago Islamic high school in 2013, the eldest of the three enrolled at Benedictine University, a Roman Catholic school where he was studying engineering and computer science. He and his 17-year-old sister and 16-year-old brother intended to join ISIS in Syria. The parents of the these three are Indian immigrants who became U.S. citizens. They are of the Muslim faith, and they believed they had raised their children to “love their country and their religion.” (Washington Post, 12-8-14)
The FBI’s intent is to help schools, parents, and others to recognize students on “a violent trajectory” and to “facilitate a student’s disengagement from a violent ideology.” The FBI recognizes, “Violent extremists primarily target adolescents due to developmental vulnerabilities.”
There are several ways that extremist get their ideas into students’ heads. Online magazines, message boards, and websites that promote radical ideologies are often sophisticated. In this regard the FBI specifically mentions al-Qaeda’s Inspire magazine. The FBI says, “We assess that online gaming is sometimes used to communicate, train, or plan terrorist activities.”
The FBI stresses that quick recognition of students’ going off the deep end is critical. The agency says, “Based upon investigative data, a very small period of time exists between a youth embracing extremist ideologies to acting in furtherance of the ideology. Therefore, acting decisively is paramount to educators.”