A storm is brewing over changes the Obama administration has made to counter-terrorism training. In the fall the administration initiated a widespread review of training and trainers, which resulted in the blacklisting of many trainers, the censoring of training materials, and the requirement that all training and briefing slides now be subjected to an anonymous review process. To many it seems a backwards move. National security documents repeatedly stated the importance of training and preparedness for our military and law enforcement in order that they fully understand the nature of the enemy. This became a particularly hot issue following the Ft. Hood shooting, when U.S. officials openly acknowledged they had failed to connect the dots.
Now the question of counter-terrorism training is again hitting the national spotlight. Five members of Congress have written letters to five Inspectors General (Homeland Security, Department of State, ODNI, DoJ, and DoD) and to John Brennan, raising concern over individuals in key national security positions who "share their sympathy for Islamist causes in addition to sharing some of their associations with organizations that are advancing such agendas inside the United States." The letters allege it is these individuals who, through their undue influence, have caused the changes to counter-terrorism training (and other aspects of CT policy and practice) and that these changes in fact weaken American national security rather than strengthen it. The members who signed the letters—Michele Bachmann, Trent Franks, Louie Gohmert, Thomas Rooney, and Lynn Westmoreland—have received heavy flak for their initiative. But they have also set something powerful in motion. Their letters have sparked widespread interest from media, policy experts, and the public. The Inspectors General will hopefully respond to the requests with investigations of their own, but the non-governmental experts now have an important role to play as well. It is in part they who must sort through the massive quantities of information, find connections, piece together the pieces, to determine whether the concerns expressed by the members have merit.