The FBI wants to deputize the nation’s schools into its anti-terrorism posse. At this point, it’s unclear whether the program will escalate to the elaborate Rube Goldberg machinations the FBI currently employs to generate terrorism suspects (putting the “rube” back in “Rube Goldberg machinations”), but for now, it appears to be “edutainment” that applies a ridiculous metaphor with blunt force precision.

The program, according to those who saw it at F.B.I. headquarters, called “Don’t Be a Puppet,” leads the viewer through a series of games and tips intended to teach how to identify someone who may be falling prey to radical extremists. With each successful answer, scissors cut a puppet’s string, until the puppet is free.

RIP, Global Terrorism. The FBI is dismantling the forces of evil with the power of multiple choice quizzes. And it’s doing so without listening to the concerns of the inadvertent stakeholders.

The F.B.I. had told the community organizations that the program would be available online as soon as Monday. The organizations’ leaders spoke to a reporter only after learning that the F.B.I. was likely to proceed despite their concern that the program would stigmatize Arab and Muslim students, who are already susceptible to bullying.

“Teachers in classrooms should not become an extension of law enforcement,” said Arjun S. Sethi, an adjunct professor of law at the Georgetown University Law Center. Mr. Sethi, who specializes in counterterrorism and law enforcement, was invited by the F.B.I. to give feedback on the program.

“The program is based on flawed theories of radicalization, namely that individuals radicalize in the exact same way and it’s entirely discernible,” he said. “But it’s not, and the F.B.I. is basically asking teachers and students to suss these things out.”

BUT, BUT… INTERACTIVE LEARNING! Games and tips and string-cutting! How could this not be a good idea?

Maybe because it would simply encourage the sort of racial/religious profiling the DOJ heads off at local law enforcement agencies with consent decrees and many FBI agents themselves find mostly useless?

[Hoda Hawa, policy director for the Muslim Public Affairs Council] and others interviewed were particularly troubled by a question that she said asked the user to identify which of four or five posts on social media should raise alarm. Among the choices were a person posting about a plan to attend a political event, or someone with an Arabic name posting about going on “a mission” overseas. The correct answer was the posting with the Arabic name.

The “blowback” from groups the FBI consulted with pre-release did little to deter its plans to co-opt educational institutions into its puppet-making plans. It wasn’t until the New York Times reported on the program’s release that the FBI finally experienced developer’s remorse. As Homeland Security News Wire reports, the FBI has now decided to hold off on the release of the controversial program.

Facing criticism, the FBI has decided to delay the release of “Don’t Be a Puppet,” an interactive program aiming to help teachers and students identify young people who show signs of flirting with radicalism and violent extremism.

The program was scheduled for release Monday.

The FBI doesn’t appear to be nearly as concerned about the potential damage it might be doing to several million American citizens of foreign descent as it is about being perceived negatively by major media players. I guess that’s something, but the run-up to the (now delayed) release suggests the only reason the agency “accepts” feedback from affected groups is to check that box off the project management checklist.


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