Wednesday, October 11

FBI Agents Still Lacking Arabic Skills

This Washington Post article lays out a disturbing lack of skill in U.S. security—and not just because it hurts their ability to catch the "bad guys," but also because it means they might not have a very good idea of what's going on in Arabic-speaking communities:
Five years after Arab terrorists attacked the United States, only 33 FBI agents have even a limited proficiency in Arabic, and none of them work in the sections of the bureau that coordinate investigations of international terrorism, according to new FBI statistics.

The numbers reflect the FBI's continued struggle to attract employees who speak Arabic, Urdu, Farsi and other languages of the Middle East and South Asia...
Can't they just send agents to school to learn these languages?

The situation makes it so that simply using a foreign language is like having an unbreakable code:
A study released last week, for example, found that three terrorists housed at a federal prison in Colorado were able to send more than 90 letters to fellow extremists overseas, in part because the prison did not have enough qualified language translators to understand what was happening.
But since we're in for a long, long war, apparently the government thinks this language issue can wait until the next generation of FBI agents grows up:
The Bush administration early this year unveiled a "National Security Language Initiative" aimed at encouraging more instruction in "critical" languages in elementary schools, secondary schools and universities.


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