January 15, 2018

HITTING HOME:

Aspiring agents learn from mistakes of FBI's 'shameful' investigation of Martin Luther King Jr. (Del Quentin Wilber, 8/11/16, LA Times)
 
Dressed in plainclothes to blend in with tourists at the National Mall, a few dozen FBI agents in training fanned out across the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial on an unusual mission. 

Their months-long training at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va., covers target practice, boxing, surveillance and self-defense.

But these trainees were dispatched on a more personal quest at the Washington memorial: pick the most inspirational King quote among those etched into stone slabs and then share their insights during a brief, touchy-feely rap session in the shadow of the slain civil rights leader's statue. 

The field trip capped one of the newest exercises added to the training for aspiring agents and analysts. It's a daylong dive into the FBI's questionable investigation into King, including a surprisingly frank review into improper wiretapping, harassment, abuse of power and racially motivated double standards.

The training is the brainchild of FBI Director James B. Comey, who in 2014 began mandating this institutional introspection into what he called the "shameful" probe of King by former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, including delving into King's sex life and secretly trying to destroy his reputation. 

FBI trainees already received other forms of cultural-sensitivity training, such as a visit to the National Holocaust Museum to examine the role German law enforcement played in one of humanity's greatest crimes. 

But Comey felt that didn't adequately address issues of power and corruption in a way "that would hit home," said Cynthia DeWitte, a curriculum manager at the FBI academy. By directly and openly confronting the agency's own struggles against racism, Comey hoped to prevent the FBI from repeating its past mistakes.

"We wanted to provide a lesson of what happens when power is abused and the responsibility that comes with being in the FBI," DeWitte said. "We wanted this to be more than a field trip."

Posted by at January 15, 2018 4:23 PM

  

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