From the NY Times:
A few weeks ago, I took the F.B.I.â€™s temperature again. At the end of a long interview, I asked Willie Hulon, chief of the bureauâ€™s new national security branch, whether he thought that it was important for a man in his position to know the difference between Sunnis and Shiites. â€œYes, sure, itâ€™s right to know the difference,â€ he said. â€œItâ€™s important to know who your targets are.â€
That was a big advance over 2005. So next I asked him if he could tell me the difference. He was flummoxed. â€œThe basics goes back to their beliefs and who they were following,â€ he said. â€œAnd the conflicts between the Sunnis and the Shia and the difference between who they were following.â€
O.K., I asked, trying to help, what about today? Which one is Iran â€” Sunni or Shiite? He thought for a second. â€œIran and Hezbollah,â€ I prompted. â€œWhich are they?â€
He took a stab: â€œSunni.â€
Al Qaeda? â€œSunni.â€
AND to his credit, Mr. Hulon, a distinguished agent who is up nights worrying about Al Qaeda while we safely sleep, did at least know that the vicious struggle between Islamâ€™s Abel and Cain was driving Iraq into civil war. But then we pay him to know things like that, the same as some members of Congress.
Take Representative Terry Everett, a seven-term Alabama Republican who is vice chairman of the House intelligence subcommittee on technical and tactical intelligence.
â€œDo you know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite?â€ I asked him a few weeks ago.
Mr. Everett responded with a low chuckle. He thought for a moment: â€œOneâ€™s in one location, anotherâ€™s in another location. No, to be honest with you, I donâ€™t know. I thought it was differences in their religion, different families or something.â€