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In the first of two stories on counterterrorism training, NPR reports on one training session that turned a state employee into a suspect.

The man at the center of this story is 59-year-old Jordanian-American Omar al-Omari. He looks very much like the college professor that he is — tweed jacket, button-down shirt, thick round glasses, drinking coffee. We met at a coffee shop near downtown Columbus, Ohio, where he laid out a series of events that ended with him being accused of having links to terrorism.

"Actually, I was out of town, out of state, attending a conference and on my way back to Columbus," Omari said, "and I received a call from one of the attendees of this conference in which I was told my name was used repeatedly during the training. Apparently I was labeled as a suspect. They personalized the attacks. There was a promise to dig into my background, and basically, as an Arab-Muslim American, they thought I'm a suspect."

Apparently I was labeled as a suspect. They personalized the attacks. There was a promise to dig into my background, and basically, as an Arab-Muslim American, they thought I'm a suspect.

Omari was singled out at a three-day seminar for local police and law enforcement in the Columbus area last April. The class was part of a larger nationwide initiative to help local law enforcement not just understand terrorism, but perhaps find ways to stop it. The Obama administration has set aside millions of dollars to fund these training programs, and, not surprisingly, that money has helped create an industry in which self-styled terrorism experts contract themselves out to local police departments as terrorism tutors.

There is no certification process to vet the experts. They simply present their resumes and, often through word of mouth, they get hired. The trainers tend to be former government officials. Sometimes they have had key roles in the federal government fighting terrorism. Just as often, they have not. There's growing evidence that many of these training sessions are providing officers at the grass roots with a biased view of Muslims in America. That is what appears to have happened to Omari.

The training at the Columbus Division of Police took place over three days in mid-April 2010. The course was titled "Understanding the True Nature of the Threat to America." Broad outlines of the curriculum are posted on the trainers' website. The course includes a discussion about the Muslim Brotherhood in the United States; Islamic law as it relates to jihad; and the trainers say they will provide "specific examples of Muslim Brotherhood/Islamic Movement activity in the locale in which the presentation is given." It was in that context that Omari became a target.

One of the trainers in Ohio that day was a man named John Guandolo. He's a former FBI agent and former Marine. According to people in the training class that day and Guandolo himself, a photograph of Omari with members of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a local Muslim advocacy group, was put up on the screen. According to the people who were there, Guandolo and the other visiting trainers didn't say outright that Omari was a terrorist, but they suggested that he had links to bad people — people who were members of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and even al-Qaida.

"I stand by what I said that day about Omari," Guandolo told me, though he declined to say so on tape. "The facts are on my side.





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