FBI head defends mosque investigations

[JURIST] FBI Director Robert Mueller [official profile] said Monday that the FBI will continue investigating mosques when there may be evidence or information regarding criminal wrongdoings. Mueller's defense [AP report] of such investigations followed a complaint sent to US Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] from the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan [advocacy website] alleging that the FBI has been asking members of the Islamic community to spy on religious leaders and followers. The alleged conduct might be allowable under new attorney general guidelines [text, PDF] passed last year governing FBI investigations, which rights groups say open the door to racial and religious profiling [ACLU backgrounder]. Mueller's statement comes shortly after a May 25 Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] hearing on the oversight of the FBI [materials] where the bureau director was asked if mosques had been entered by FBI agents or informants. Mueller responded by saying that the agency focuses on individuals, not institutions.

In February, a man claimed [LA Times report] that he had been commissioned by the FBI to infiltrate several Orange County mosques. The informant had provided information to the agency regarding Ahmadulla Sais Niazi, a Muslim man accused of lying about his ties to al Qaeda. Last year, the FBI responded to criticism [press release] regarding alleged investigations into mosques and the Muslim community claiming that "the FBI [does not] have a surveillance program to monitor the constitutionally protected activities of houses of worship." Although Mueller has defended the new attorney general guidelines as a "necessary step" in fighting terrorism, the proposed guidelines were amended [JURIST reports] by the Justice Department last year before they came into effect to appease Congress and civil rights groups.

 

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