Father of Chechen man shot by FBI trying to get answers in Florida

The father of a Chechen man shot by an FBI agent in Orlando is in Florida, where he is trying to get answers about his son’s death.

 

Hassan Shibly, executive director of the Florida Council on American Islamic Relations in Tampa, told the Orlando Sentinel his organization planned to meet Tuesday with Abdulbaki Todashev — who traveled to the U.S. from Russia.

 

His son, 27-year-old Ibragim Todashev, was killed May 22 while he was being questioned by a Boston-based FBI agent, Massachusetts state troopers, and other law-enforcement officers.

Shibly said CAIR officials and Abdulbaki Todashev planned to discuss what options the family has, including taking legal action against the FBI.

 

“We’re exploring those options right now,” Shibly said.

 

The FBI has released little information about the Orlando shooting or explained publicly what transpired that night.

 

Ibragim Todashev was “primarily” being questioned about a September 2011 triple slaying in Waltham, Mass., but he was also being questioned about his friendship with Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

Initially, the FBI said Todashev initiated a “violent confrontation” during the questioning at a condo near Universal Studios.

“During the confrontation, the individual was killed and the agent sustained non-life threatening injuries,” the FBI said shortly after the shooting.

Shibly told the Sentinel that CAIR’s investigation into the shooting turned up very “troubling” information.

He said Todashev’s friends have said they were questioned by the FBI in the days before the fatal shooting, and threats were made suggesting if the friends did not spy on local mosques they would risk having their immigration statuses changed.

Meanwhile, the ACLU said Abdulbaki Todashev has also requested to meet with organization representatives while he is visiting the U.S. The ACLU asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the Ibragim Todashev shooting, but the agency declined late last month, stating it would be inappropriate because it is a federal case.

 

Radically Wrong: Misstated Threats – Terrorism isn’t an American-Muslim Problem

Despite evidence to the contrary, the government continues to embrace a theory that adopting radical ideas is a first step toward terrorist violence. Based on this discredited model, “preventive” policies are being pursued, resulting in discrimination, suspicionless surveillance of entire communities, and selective law enforcement against belief communities and political activists. The following is the second installment in the ACLU blog series “Radically Wrong,” which highlights counterterrorism policies that are not only ineffective, but also undermine our constitutional rights.

None. Zero. That’s the number of fatalities or injuries from terrorist acts by American Muslims over the last two years, according to a recent report from the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security. Here are some other numbers from the report worth noting: In the United States in 2012, there were nine “terrorist plots” by American Muslims—only one of which led to violence. Of those nine plots, only 14 suspects were indicted. Separately, six suspects were indicted for support of terrorism.

Terrorism is not a “Muslim” phenomenon. Indeed, last year, the author of the report called terrorism by American Muslims “a minuscule threat to public safety.” Yet far too many policymakers assume the opposite is true, and too many policies are predicated on the false and bigoted assumption that Muslims are more likely to engage in terrorism than other Americans. The numbers above show how false the premise is. So why are we willing to undermine civil liberties, target an entire religious community, and devote countless resources to this “minuscule threat?”

Muslim cabbie sues for right to wear religious garb

ST. LOUIS — A Muslim taxicab driver is suing the city of St. Louis, the Metropolitan Taxicab Commission and a private security company, saying he has been harassed and arrested because he insists on wearing religious garb.

Raja Awais Naeem, who works for Harris Cab and manages a shuttle service called A-1 Shuttle, says his religious beliefs require him to wear modest, loose-fitting clothing and a hat called a kufi. But that garb has run afoul of the taxicab commission’s dress code for cabbies, Naeem claims in the suit filed Thursday (Dec. 13) in St. Louis Circuit Court.

Naeem, originally from Pakistan but now a U.S. citizen, said he has been told he must adhere to the commission’s rules requiring a white shirt, black pants and no kufi. Baseball caps are allowed, as long as they have no logo other than the taxi certificate holder.

He claims he has been harassed and had his taxi license suspended when he continued wearing clothing he says is required by Islam, including the kufi, a loose shirt called a kurta and loose-fitting pants called shalwar. Naeem said the clothing maintains modesty by concealing the figure.

In his lawsuit, Naeem says he was written a citation by a Whelan Security guard in June 2011 for wearing “foreign country religious dress.” Other times he had his taxi license suspended or was told he would be arrested for trespassing if he worked in his religious clothing, he said.

“I don’t understand how you can justify somebody wearing his religious clothes getting arrested,” Naeem said in a news conference on the courthouse steps, where he was joined by other cabbies and his lawyer from the ACLU.

His suit seeks an injunction to allow religious dress for cabdrivers, and civil damages including attorney’s fees and other costs.

 

Former Disney worker expected to sue over head scarf dispute

The ACLU is representing a Muslim woman who says she was harassed and told she could not wear her head scarf as a hostess at a Disney hotel cafe in Anaheim.

A former Disney employee is expected to announce Monday a federal lawsuit against the entertainment giant, saying she was harassed and unfairly removed from her hostess job after refusing to remove her head scarf while at work.

Imane Boudlal, who is Muslim, said she had worked at Storyteller’s Cafe in Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa in Anaheim for two years when she began wearing her hijab to work in August 2010. Boudlal said she was told wearing her scarf was a violation of company policy, and she would either have to remove it, cover it with a hat or take a job working out of public sight.

Boudlal, now 28, refused. She has not worked at Disney since Aug. 21, 2010, said Mark Rosenbaum, an attorney from the ACLU of Southern California who is representing Boudlal.

Mosque construction continues to attract opposition across U.S.

CHICAGO — In the decade since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, animosity toward Muslims sometimes has taken the form of opposition to construction of mosques and other Islamic facilities. National debate erupted over plans for an Islamic community center that became known as the “Ground Zero mosque” in Lower Manhattan.
In the last five years, there has been “anti-mosque activity” in more than half of U.S. states, according to the ACLU. Some mosques were vandalized — a $5,000 reward is being offered in a 2011 Wichita mosque arson case — and others were targets of efforts to deny zoning permits .
Mosque opponents often raise concerns about traffic and parking, but Daniel Mach, director of the ACLU’s freedom of religion program, says they can be “sham arguments” that mask anti-Muslim sentiment.
“I hope that eventually there will be greater acceptance for all faiths, including Islam,” Mach said.
One thing is clear: The number of mosques is on the rise. In 2010, there were 2,106 mosques in the U.S., up from 1,209 in 2000, according to a study by the Hartford Institute for Religion Research and other groups. A 2011 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life estimated there are 2.75 million Muslims in the U.S.

ACLU: FBI kept details of Muslims’ religious practices in violation of privacy rules

WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday released records it obtained from the FBI that it said showed the bureau’s San Francisco division used its Muslim outreach efforts to collect intelligence on religious activities protected by the Constitution.

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.

After reviewing the ACLU documents, the FBI said the reports that contained notes about religious activity were appropriate because the agents were meeting with members of the Muslim community for law enforcement purposes.

FBI agents are required to document their contacts and their activities. In the documents released by the ACLU, religious information was included as an aside and was not the focus of the reports. But because the information was entered into FBI files at all, it was available to be searched by investigators nationwide.

FBI documents reveal profiling of N. California Muslims

SAN FRANCISCO–Reports obtained by the ACLU show agents gathered intelligence under the guise of outreach programs and shared it with other agencies. A legal expert calls the practice ‘outrageous.’

Federal agents routinely profiled Muslims in Northern California for at least four years, using community outreach efforts as a guise for compiling intelligence on local mosques, according to documents released Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union.

From 2004 to 2008, agents from the San Francisco office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation regularly attended meetings and services, particularly in the Silicon Valley area, “collected and illegally stored intelligence about American Muslims’ First Amendment-protected beliefs and religious practices … and … disseminated it to other government agencies,” the ACLU said in a written statement.

The ACLU of Northern California, the Asian Law Caucus and the San Francisco Bay Guardian filed a Freedom of Information Act request in 2010 and a lawsuit in 2011 after the groups received repeated complaints from the Muslim community about intrusive FBI activity, ACLU attorney Julia Harumi Mass said.

Many of the FBI documents released Tuesday by the ACLU are titled “Mosques Liaison Contacts.” In their original form, they contained names and phone numbers of Muslim Americans affiliated with centers of worship from San Francisco to Seaside, Calif. Those names have been redacted.

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.

Want to Sue the FBI for Spying on Your Mosque? Sorry, That’s Secret.

Obama, once a critic of the state secrets doctrine, has invoked it repeatedly. But critics say his latest use of Bush’s favorite get-out-of-court-free card is different.

The state secrets privilege—perhaps the most powerful weapon in the government’s legal arsenal—has a complicated history. For years, Democrats, including then-Sen. Barack Obama, accused the Bush administration of overusing of the privilege, which allows the government to quash cases that involve national security before a court even hears evidence. Then, after Obama took office, his Justice Department used this get-out-of-court-free card repeatedly.

Last week, the DOJ invoked the state secrets privilege yet again. But this case, civil liberties groups say, is different.

The case, Fazaga v. FBI, stems from the purported actions of Craig Monteilh, a 49-year-old convicted criminal who claims that he spent 15 months in 2006 and 2007 infiltrating mosques in Orange County, California, as part of an undercover FBI investigation known as “Operation Flex.” The Fazaga case, which the ACLU and CAIR filed in February 2011, claims that the FBI utilized Monteilh to “collect personal information on hundreds and perhaps thousands of innocent Muslim Americans in Southern California.” The ACLU says that the FBI investigation “violated the Constitution’s fundamental guarantee of government neutrality toward all religions.” For evidence, the two groups point to a somewhat problematic source: Monteilh.

ACLU seeks full Muslim surveillance records from FBI

The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California is demanding via federal court that the FBI release docusments on its surveillance of Muslim groups and mosques in the area.

Earlier this year, 46-year old father of three Craig Monteih said that he worked as an FBI informant and given the task to uncover suspected terrorist plots. Monteih came fortward saying that he feared for his life beause people may think he is a terrorist.

The ACLU of Southern California alleges that Monteih “baited religious leaders, created suspicion with his extremist rhetoric, and sent a chilling effect into an already wary community.” “Documents show that the FBI conducted extensive surveillance on lawful First Amendment activities of Muslim Americans where there appears to be no reasonable suspicion of criminal activity,” the ACLU/SC said in a statement.