Update: FBI’s mosque undercover program
My last post was about Muslim interns infiltrating Washington. But there is the other side to this story: the government placing spies in mosques.
This weekend, RNS has a piece about the FBI’s use of undercover informants at mosques. The story isn’t exactly new: it broke earlier in the year, when the FBI arrested Ahmadullah Niazi, an Afghanistan native, whose brother-in-law is Osama bin Laden’s alleged security coordinator.
The FBI was targeting mosques in Orange Country, and according to a L.A. Times article, even luring members to gyms, where an informant would work out with them, collect information and then feed it to the FBI.
The AP quotes the FBI on the matter:
“What matters to the FBI is preventing a massive attack that might be planned by some people … using the mosque … as a shield because they believe they’re safe there,” said Robert Blitzer, the FBI’s former counterterrorism chief.
The RNS story focuses in on the interfaith connection, citing that the FBI surveillance guidelines, covered in a 270-page manual known as the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide, should be a concern to all religious groups — not just Muslims.
“It allows for the monitoring and the collection of data on individuals, based on their race, ethnicity, as well on what jobs they might hold,” said Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates, a San Francisco-based advocacy group.
“People of all faith communities should be concerned because it gives the power to the FBI to be able to infiltrate any religious community,” Khera said.
I’ve seen plenty of examples of officials treating immigrants poorly in Los Angeles, especially when the facts of the case aren’t clear cut. The language barrier and the inevitable condescension that follows is enough to make one cringe.
But does the mosque profiling constitute solid FBI work or discrimination?