Hardly a big surprise. The Washington Post reports that five years after 9/11 only thirty-three FBI agents have even minimal Arabic proficiency. Guess how many of those work in international terrorism sections? Zero. Yes, that's right. The numbers are not much better for Farsi.
What seems to be the hold-up? Apparently, the FBI cannot bring itself to hire "foreigners" - basically anyone who has relatives overseas. It's American provincialism at its worst. Among those who are routinely rejected by the FBI - I have this on anecdotal evidence - are Jews from Iraq, Yemen, North Africa, and Iran who came to the US as children or teenagers.
Great quotation from Georgetown professor Daniel Byman, head of that university's Security Studies Program:
It is easier to get a security clearance if you don't have any interaction with foreigners, which is not what you want if you want better interaction with foreigners.All of this came to light during a lawsuit filed by Special Agent Bassem Youssef. Youssef, who happens to be one of the Bureau's highest-ranked Arabic speakers, is suing the FBI and the Justice Department for "retaliation." Instead of protecting Americans by having people on staff who actually understand what al Qaeda members are saying, the FBI decided to cut Youssef out of terrorism cases post-9/11. After he complained about his treatment to a congressman, the FBI blocked Youssef's promotion.
Way to go, chumps!