Are You a Source or a Target?
With fears of a new wave of domestic terrorism rising (even though those fears are statistically way out of proportion to the millions of American Muslims), The New York Times takes a look at something that really could contribute to it: fraying relations between American Muslim community leaders and the FBI. As much as certain members of Congress enjoy the politically cost-free demonization of the American Muslim community, FBI leaders don’t have that luxury, since they depend on close community relations in order to distinguish between real threats and overblown fears. Much like how the best counterinsurgency practices in Iraq and Afghanistan depend on enabling a community to basically police itself, American Muslim leaders will either be partners in the effort — or, if treated as a bunch of targets of suspicion themselves, through intensified surveillance and arm-twisting to inform, they could withhold cooperation to everyone’s detriment.
The Queens imam arrested in September as investigators pursued the coffee vendor [Najibullah Zazi] was an informer who had helped authorities. Last month, federal prosecutors moved to seize several buildings across the country that house mosques, saying they were owned by a nonprofit group with links to Iran. As a rare federal investigation that has ensnared houses of worship, the case stoked apprehensions that the government sees Arab-Americans and Muslims as a people apart.
Treat entire communities like an undifferentiated threat and they’ll react accordingly. Michael Rolince, a former FBI counterterrorism official who gets it, tells The Times:
“There are some people in the bureau who believe, as I do, that the relationship with the Muslim community is crucial and must be developed with consistency,” Mr. Rolince said. “And there are those who don’t.”
If the FBI really believes that this is a moment of heightened domestic-terrorism dangers, then this destructive behavior comes when the bureau can least afford it.