The FBI is stepping up its recruiting for agents who can speak languages like Punjabi, Arabic, Urdu, and Farsi, says the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Just a fraction of 1 percent of the 12,000 FBI agents have limited working proficiency in Arabic, a total of 40, up from 33 in October. The FBI and other government agencies in charge of protecting U.S. citizens are now venturing into mosques, temples, and community meetings in search of the next expert linguist, analyst, or field agent.
Rajbir Singh of the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund said the FBI is “actively working to demystify their operations.” The FBI’s road to increasing language and cultural proficiency among its ranks has been rocky, because of the agency’s history and culture, requirements for becoming an agent, and the fact that it must seek help among groups that are targets of FBI inquiry. “The problem is they want to catch suspected terrorists using the same traditional set of hiring practices they have always valued,” said Daniel Byman of Georgetown University’s security studies program and Center for Peace and Security Studies.