FBI invited vicious homophobes from Westboro Baptist to speak at training of agents

NOTE FROM JOHN: I’m not sure I agree that this is beyond the pale – see my note at the end of this post.

WTF?

The FBI said Wednesday that members of an anti-gay fundamentalist group participated in the bureau’s training of police officers and FBI agents – a move the bureau says it will take steps to remedy in the future.

The bureau extended the invitations to Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., for training this spring at two bureau facilities in Virginia: Quantico and Manassas.

Westboro has stirred widespread outrage with raucous demonstrations at the funerals of U.S. military service members. The group contends God is punishing the military for the nation’s tolerance of homosexuality.

Our tax dollars at work.

According to the article, the FBI is going to require additional layers of review before speakers are selected to speak to FBI agents in order to train them. Even though the agency attempts to clarify they were in no way expressing any kind of approval for the group, it certainly is a boneheaded move — and I’m sure Westboro is going to smugly exploit it in an attempt to legitimize their lunacy.

And, I just don’t think the military families who had their family member’s funeral protested by Westboro Baptist is going to like this news very much, either.

NOTE FROM JOHN: I’m divided on this one because I’m not convinced the FBI didn’t invite these people specifically because the thinks they’re crazy. I talked to Joe about this this morning. He says he can understand how it might be helpful for the FBI to meet crazy extremists, but he doesn’t think they should be invited on to official government facilities. He fears that gives them credibility that they’ll then use for recruiting (“look how seriously the govt is taking us,” they’ll tell recruits). And fair enough. But I can imagine why the FBI doesn’t want to go walking into Camp Phelps, or the KKK headquarters, and have to worry about an ambush.

I get that it’s offensive to some. I had the same initial reaction when I saw the headline to the article. Then, on reading the article, something in my gut said “this isn’t the whole story.” I then found another article that said the following:

Timothy Phelps, Fred’s son, told Dina Temple-Raston of NPR that he was told the program was meant to teach agents “how to stay measured when they are speaking with a witness or a suspect with whom they have a strong, visceral disagreement.” He contends he didn’t realize he was going to be studied as an example of a domestic terrorist. [emphasis added]

And they invited the KKK at one point as well.

I see Joe’s point. And maybe there’s a less “official” way they could interview radical groups to train their agents. I just feel in my gut that the more FBI agents who are familiar with these kind of wackjobs, the better they can do their job and protect all of us. What do you think? Is the program too offensive, or is it in the end a good thing?

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