Newly released FBI documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union, suggest that the bureau illegally spied on the religious practices of Muslim Americans in California, under the guise of community outreach.
Under the U.S. Privacy Act, the FBI is generally prohibited from maintaining records on how people practice their religion unless there is a clear law enforcement purpose.
ACLU lawyers said the documents, which the organization obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, showed violations of that law.
An FBI spokesman defended the information gathering as “within the scope of an authorized law enforcement activity, whether investigation or liaison, including activities designed to strengthen relationships in various communities.” Think Progress.
Mike German, the ACLU’s senior policy counsel and a former FBI agent, has said, “by exploiting the good faith of Muslim groups and their members, the FBI is undermining community support for the government’s legitimate law enforcement activities.” Reuters
Since the 2001 attacks, the FBI has stepped up its efforts to recruit sources and gather intelligence in Muslim areas, according to AP.
Police monitoring of Muslim organizations has been a concern across the country. The New York Police Department kept tabs on Muslim neighborhoods in New York and surrounding areas by sending undercover officers into mosques, meetings of college campus groups and local businesses, and keeping records of what they found.