FBI illegally using community outreach to gather intelligence, ACLU and CAIR alleges

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today expressed concern about the “chilling effect” on constitutionally-protected activities that may result from the apparent use of FBI community outreach efforts to secretly gather intelligence on American Muslim communities, groups and individuals.

According to documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), “the FBI is using its extensive community outreach to Muslims and other groups to secretly gather intelligence in violation of federal law.”

The FBI is using its extensive community outreach to Muslims and other groups to secretly gather intelligence in violation of federal law, the American Civil Liberties Union alleged Thursday.

Citing internal bureau documents, the ACLU said agents in California are attending meetings at mosques and other events and illegally recording information about the attendees’ political and religious affiliations. FBI officials denied the allegations. They said that records kept from outreach sessions are not used for investigations.

The documents reveal new details of the FBI’s efforts to build a more trusting relationship with Muslims and other communities — a major priority since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Federal officials have said that the effort is aimed at protecting Muslims’ civil rights and smoothing lingering resentment over the law-enforcement crackdown after the attacks, along with helping the government fight terrorism.