Extremists Work to Influence Police Through Slanted Seminars

On a variety of fronts, hard-line interest groups are seeking to influence law enforcement officials with highly ideological training seminars that typically amount to little more than political propaganda. Several recent instances are only the latest in a trend that has been accelerating for a number of years now.

The case of the anti-immigrant powerhouse Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which planned a September “border school” for law enforcement officers in El Paso, Texas, may be especially noteworthy. In advertising to an unknown number of sheriff’s departments around the country, FAIR told officers that its school had been approved by the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program, which is run by the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). Not only that, a flier distributed by FAIR included HIDTA’s official logo, and FAIR told officers that their travel costs for the event “may be covered by your agency’s HIDTA funding.”

Not so, ONDCP spokesman Rafael Lemaitre told the Intelligence Report. He said his agency had in no way sanctioned FAIR’s program and added that the nativist group’s use of the HIDTA logo “to imply support for this conference is unacceptable” and that FAIR would be asked to stop. No funds had been approved for expenses associated with the FAIR event, Lemaitre added.

The FAIR program featured a raft of minor anti-immigrant celebrities, including Richard Valdemar, a retired sergeant from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department who in 2005 mustered on the border with armed members of the Minuteman Project, people who President George W. Bush that same year characterized as “vigilantes” whom he opposed. In a 2009 article for Police magazine, Valdemar wrote, “[M]y advice to cities, counties, states, and federal authorities is, if you don’t want vigilantes — do your friggin’ job.”

Others attempting to influence law enforcement recently have included the John Birch Society (JBS), the group that once accused President Dwight D. Eisenhower of being a Communist agent. The JBS has been making presentations to police departments and others about the supposed dangers of a United Nations global sustainability plan (in fact, the plan is toothless, with no requirements at all) and the Southern Poverty Law Center. (Full disclosure: the SPLC trains law enforcement officials in such matters as domestic terrorism and hate crimes.)

But the most prolific propaganda, of late, has come from the Islamophobes.

In July, the Gawker website reported that an FBI training manual listed books by Robert Spencer, a prominent anti-Muslim figure in America, as recommended reading for field agents hoping to further their understanding on Islam. Spencer co-founded Stop Islamization of America and has written a dozen books on the topics of Islam and the Koran. Specifically, the FBI recommended Spencer’s The Truth about Muhammad and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam.

Similarly, Wired magazine reported on anti-Muslim materials in an elective course — “Perspectives on Islam and Islamic Radicalism” — at the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Va. The materials promoted “total war” against Muslims and raised the prospects of “taking war to a civilian population” and destroying Mecca and Medina. The course had been taught since 2004 by Lt. Col. Matthew Dooley, who told his students that the Geneva Convention, which established the legal rules of warfare, was “no longer relevant” and that the concept of a “moderate Muslim” was laughable. After a review, the course was cancelled.

“It’s even worse than Abu Ghraib,” Mikey Weinstein, president of the nonprofit Military Religious Freedom Foundation, told NBC News at the time, referring to the mistreatment of Muslim prisoners at a U.S. prison in Iraq. “What they are talking about is essentially genocide.”