New Surveillance Rules Threaten FBI Relationship With Muslim Groups « The Washington Independent
Muslim groups are rethinking their previous commitments to work with the FBI in light of growing concerns that mosques and other Islamic centers are under surveillance or being infilatrated — without any evidence they’ve participated in a crime, The Associated Press reports.
That decision should come as little surprise to the Justice Department, given that, as I reported in April, a last-minute rule adopted by the Bush administration in December gives the FBI unprecedented powers to conduct surveillance of targets without any basis for suspicion of criminal activity. That wasn’t likely to sit well with Muslim groups, who believe they’re often the targets of such surveillance. (Because the Department of Justice doesn’t reveal how it uses the FBI authority, it’s impossible to confirm or deny those claims.)
Under the new Attorney General Guidelines — adopted by former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, and which the Obama administration has not revoked — the FBI may use physical surveillance; interview a person’s neighbors, landlord, colleagues or friends; retrieve personal data from commercial databases; and recruit and assign informants to spy at political, religious or other meetings — all without evidence that the target of the investigation has done anything wrong.
A coalition of Islamic groups is now calling for Muslims to stop cooperating with the FBI’s efforts to work with Muslim communities to target potential terrorists.
In addition to the change in FBI guidelines allowing increased surveillance, the groups are upset that the FBI recently suspended ties with the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the government’s case against the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development.
The coalition, represented by the American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections, has requested a meeting with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to discuss the matter.
“We have to decide what we’re doing as a country. If it’s not a war on Islam, then these practices must be stopped,” Agha Saeed, who chairs the coalition, told the AP. “We’re not asking for special treatment, just equal treatment.”