The bold headline on the Washington Post article reads: “FBI Agents Still Lacking Arabic Skills” and the subhead informs us that “33 of 12,000 Have Some Proficiency”. Words intended to shock us or inform us?

The article itself is admittedly very informative but rather evasive and critical of the FBI’s so far unsuccessful attempt to either recruit more special agents who speak “Arabic, Urdu, Farsi and other languages of the Middle East and South Asia” or to train current special agents in these languages; a criticism that is perhaps justified but one that should also be moderated by the thought that the FBI’s standards for hiring agents have not, apparently, been overly influenced by a candidate’s language abilities. That is as it should be.

Following is an excerpt from the Princeton Review, describing the qualifications and duties of an FBI agent:

“Strong deductive skills, flexibility, and irreproachable moral character are key traits for those who want to succeed in the FBI. The sensitive nature of the work requires a person with sound judgment and discretion. The application process is one of the most rigorous and selective in the nation. Agents research and gather evidence on suspected criminals. Duties include surveillance, transcription, research, coordination with local authorities, and report-writing. Those in the scientific division work in labs and in the field collecting and analyzing evidence and working with private labs.”

Those “missing” foreign language skills of regular FBI special agents are well-compensated for by a large staff of linguists who are not FBI special agents but who are readily available to assist the special agents. The Washington Post article informs us, at the very end, in a footnote no less, that the FBI has, in fact, added 199 Arabic linguists to their ranks in the past five years.

Perhaps we should first give the FBI some well-deserved credit and praise for keeping us safe here at home before we start picking at their staffing policies.

Links:

The Washington Post article: FBI Agents Still Lacking Arabic Skills

The Princeton Review: Career: FBI Agent; A Day in the Life

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