[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) [official websites] have targeted American Muslims in abusive sting operations based on ethnic and religious identity, pushing people into terrorism, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Columbia Law School's Human Rights Institute [advocacy websites] reported [materials] Monday. The report examines [HRW report] 27 cases, following them from investigation through trial. "In some cases," according to HRW, "the FBI may have created terrorists out of law-abiding individuals by suggesting the idea of taking terrorist action or encouraging the target to act." Andrea Prasow [official profile], deputy Washington director at HRW and one of the report's authors, stated that although Americans have been told that their government is keeping them safe by preventing and prosecuting terrorism inside the US, the reality is that many defendants would not have committed terrorist acts without encouragement, pressure or, at times, even payment from law enforcement to do so. In many cases people with intellectual disabilities were targeted. According to some members of Muslim communities, fears of government surveillance and informants now force them to watch what they say, who they say it to and how often they attend services. US Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] has defended [AP report] the undercover operations, calling them "essential in fighting terrorism."
This focus on alleged al Qaeda operatives with strong US connections is not new. The HRW report follows shortly after an announcement [JURIST report] from Holder that the DOJ will revive a formerly defunct task force to combat domestic terrorism. A US district judge in February allowed [JURIST report] lawyers representing Osama Bin Laden's son-in-law, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith [JURIST news archive], to pose written questions to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed [BBC backgrounder], the self-proclaimed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. A judge from the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania [official website] in January sentenced [JURIST report] American-born "Jihad Jane" to 10 years in prison for her failed al Qaeda ordered assassination attempt. In August the Associated Press released a report [JURIST report] claiming that the New York Police Department (NYPD) [official website] has secretly conducted terrorism investigations on at least a dozen mosques without evidence of criminal activity since the September 11 attacks.