Archive for Federal Bureau of Investigation

Mother Jones: Wondering If Your “Jihadist” Friend Is With the FBI?

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , on March 23, 2012 by loonwatch

Shahed Hussain is still trying to entrap people, there are many more like him out there (H/T: BA):

Wondering If Your “Jihadist” Friend Is With the FBI?

By Hamed Aleaziz (Mother Jones)

Shahed Hussain, a long-time FBI terrorism informant Mother Jones profiled last year, has surfaced again—but this time, Google appears to have foiled his effort to identify a new target. Khalifah al-Akili, a 34-year-old Pittsburgh man, says he was approached by Hussain and another informant in January. Al Akili told the Albany Times-Union that after Hussain “repeatedly made attempts to get close” to him, he googled them. He found Trevor Aaronson’s August 2011 Mother Jonesexpose about the FBI’s massive network of undercover terrorism informants and confronted Hussain on the phone. After al-Akili explicitly asked if he was an informant, Hussain hung up the phone. Now al-Akili awaits trial on a gun charge (but no terrorism charges).

Al-Akili says became suspicious of Hussain because he was friendly, dropping in at al-Akili’s house and, after al-Akili lied that he had a sick family member, dropping off a get-well card.

Hussain’s involvement in two previous FBI counterterrorism cases led to convictions: James Cromitie, a 45-year-old former Walmart stocker from Newburgh, New York, was sentenced to 25 years in the headline-making Bronx synagogue plot. Yassin Aref and Mohammed Hossain of Albany, New York, an imam and pizza shop owner respectively, were each sentenced to 15 years for, among other charges, conspiracy to provide support to a terrorist organization with which Hussain claimed to have connections.

Hussain became an informant in 2002 after the FBI caught him helping people cheat on DMV tests. For his work in the Cromitie case, Hussain earned almost $100,000. Mother Jones contributor Trevor Aaronsoninvestigated the FBI’s informant-led cases, including those involving Hussain, for more than a year; he found that in a number of cases, “the government provides the plot, the means, and the opportunity.”

Even with the publicity surrounding the Cromitie and Aref cases, Hussain seems to have utilized a tried and true formula in his conversations with al-Akili—claiming he was in the import business, knew people in a terrorist group, and wanted to talk jihad. “He said to me: ‘My people are involved in the jihad, I lived on the border of Afghanistan,’ trying basically to entice me. I said, ‘May Allah give peace to those people.’ He just continued to want to try to take the conversation in that direction…The people he entrapped were either extremely naive or stupid.”

In previous cases, Hussain has admitted that he would often initiate conversations about jihad when seeking out new targets. At Cromitie’s trial, Hussain described his approach: “I was finding people who would be harmful, and radicals, and identify them for the FBI.”  Aaronson’s article includes this conversation from 2008, when Hussain told Cromitie he was a part of a Pakistani terror group:

“Do you think you are a better recruiter or a better action man?” Hussain asked.

“I’m both,” Cromitie said.

“My people would be very happy to know that, brother. Honestly.”

“Who’s your people?” Cromitie asked.

“[Pakistani terror group] Jaish-e-Mohammad.”

Though there are no terror charges in the al-Akili case, the FBI says it discovered ”jihadist literature and books on U.S. military tactics,” at al-Akili’s house. The FBI claims that al-Akili was recorded talking about the fact “that he was developing somebody to possibly strap a bomb on himself” and according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the FBI maintains that al-Akili “expressed sympathy for the Afghan resistance movement in a 2005 conversation with a man he knew in prison.”

Al-Akili himself says this type of thing has happened before. “This is not the first situation that I’ve had involving the FBI attempting to entrap me…I stand out here in Pittsburgh because I do follow a more traditional role of Islam. They feel I pose a threat. I’ve never, ever said that I would do anything against America nor do I hold these beliefs,” he told theTimes Union.

Spencer Ackerman: FBI Purges Hundreds of Terrorism Documents in Islamophobia Probe

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , on February 15, 2012 by loonwatch

FBI_Islamophobia

The Islamophobic anti-Muslim hysteria that pervades the FBI is being covered up:

FBI Purges Hundreds of Terrorism Documents in Islamophobia Probe

by Spencer Ackerman (Wired.com)

An internal FBI investigation into its counterterrorism training has purged hundreds of bureau documents of instructional material about Muslims, some of which characterized them as prone to violence or terrorism.

The bureau disclosed initial findings from its months-long review during a meeting at FBI headquarters on Wednesday with several Arab and Muslim advocacy groups, attended by Director Robert Mueller. So far, the inquiry has uncovered and purged over 700 pages of documentation from approximately 300 presentations given to agents since 9/11 — some of which were similar to briefings published by Danger Room last year describing “mainstream” Muslims as “violent.” And more disclosures may be forthcoming, as the FBI continues its inquiry and responds to Freedom of Information Act requests for the documents themselves.

FBI spokesman Christopher Allen confirms to Danger Room that the bureau found some of the documents to be objectionable because they were inaccurate or over-broad, others because they were offensive. Allen explains that the documents represent “less than 1 percent” of over 160,000 documents reviewed by the inquiry, which was prompted by a Danger Room investigation in September. The FBI purged documents according to four criteria: “factual errors”; “poor taste”; employment of “stereotypes” about Arabs or Muslims; or presenting information that “lacked precision.”

Danger Room uncovered several such documents in the fall, including some instructing FBI counterterrorism agents that “mainstream” Muslims sympathized with terrorists; that the Prophet Mohammed was a “cult” leader; and that the more “devout” a Muslim was, the more likely he would be to commit a violent act. Some documents even purported to graph the correlation. The FBI initially said the instruction occurred “one time only.” But when Danger Room uncovered additional anti-Islam materials — in briefings that compared Islam to the Death Star; in books on the shelves of the FBI training library at Quantico; and in pages hosted on internal FBI websites — the bureau began an extensive internal review.

Salam al-Marayati, the executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, attended the FBI meeting. He came away worried that the volume of anti-Muslim training documents hands al-Qaida an unnecessary win.

“People will report criminal activity to the authorities, that’s been proven time and again,” Marayati tells Danger Room. “But if we are giving propaganda to al-Qaida, resuscitating this dying ideology that al-Qaida is promoting, by continually exposing anti-Muslim propaganda published by the government, that undermines our pluralism, which is the best defense against any transnational ideological threat.”

 

Others think that the FBI can’t stop at purging internal documents. “It’s a bit hard to avoid the conclusion there isn’t a problem of culture in the [FBI] training division,” says Maya Berry, executive director of the Arab-American Institute, whose subordinates also attended the meeting. “It’s one that appears to have some built-in biases when it comes to the Arab-American and Muslim-American communities.” Allen declined to respond.

But the FBI isn’t finished. The bureau plans to publish a “touchstone document” in the coming weeks that explains its criteria to ensure new anti-Islam documents won’t enter counterterrorism training in the future. Similarly, the Justice Department plans on March 21 to release “Cultural Competency” guidelines for dealing with Arab and Muslim communities on counterterrorism, according to Xochitl Hinojosa, a department spokeswoman.

Several civil-rights advocates said they appreciated Mueller’s personal attention. The Wednesday meeting had been scheduled by the FBI’s public-affairs arm, whose deputy assistant director, Jeff Mazanec, briefed the groups for about 40 minutes before Mueller unexpectedly joined.

“Director Mueller acknowledged the seriousness of our concerns and expressed a commitment to maintaining contact with the inter-religious community,” says Rev. C. Welton Gaddy of the Interfaith Alliance, another attendee at the meeting. Mueller “seemed to understand the hurt and pain as well as the fear, engendered by the offensive, inappropriate and insensitive materials.”

But the worst may not have passed. Allen acknowledged that the internal review, assisted by the Army’s counterterrorism specialists at West Point, hasn’t yet concluded. Several additional organizations have filed Freedom of Information Act requests for the specific offending documents; attendees came away with the impression that their disclosure will be ugly.

The White House ordered a government-wide review of counterterrorism training late last year. A Pentagon document responding to the order cited Danger Room’s series as an impetus for the effort.

Berry says she could “see the seriousness with which [the FBI] has approached this.” But she calls the problem a “systemic” one, with urgent implications for U.S. domestic counterterrorism — a concern voiced by Attorney General Eric Holder as well.

“They’ve never owned this problem. It’s not a problem of outside contractors,” she tells Danger Room. “They’re producing these kind of documents that inhibit our counterterrorism efforts. We need our communities engaged, and these have done nothing but alienate us.”

FBI’s Involvement with Anti-Muslim Islamophobes More Extensive than Previously Admitted

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , on September 26, 2011 by loonwatch

The FBI’s incompetence is becoming ever more clear. One of the anti-loons of the year, Spencer Ackerman takes them apart once again.

Books, Lectures, Websites: Fresh Evidence for FBI’s Anti-Islam Training

by Spencer Ackerman (wired.com)

Following months of denials, the FBI is now promising a “comprehensive review of all training and reference materials” after Danger Room revealed a series of Bureau presentations that tarred average Muslims as “radical” and “violent.”

But untangling the Islamophobic thread woven into the FBI’s counterterrorism training culture won’t be easy. In addition to inflammatory seminars which likened Islam to the Death Star and Mohammed to a “cult leader,” Danger Room has obtained more material showing just how wide the anti-Islam meme has spread throughout the Bureau.

The FBI library at Quantico currently stacks books from authors who claim that “Islam and democracy are totally incompatible.” The Bureau’s private intranet recently featured presentations that claimed to demonstrate the “inherently violent nature of Islam,” according to multiple sources. Earlier this year, the Bureau’s Washington Field Office welcomed a speaker who claimed Islamic law prevents Muslims from being truly loyal Americans. And as recently as last week, the online orientation material for the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces included claims that Sunni Islam seeks “domination of the world,” according to a law enforcement source.

“I don’t think anyone with half a brain would paint 1.2 billion people of any ethnic or religious persuasion with a single brushstroke,” Mike Rolince, an FBI counterterrorism veteran who started Boston’s JTTF, tells Danger Room. “Who did they run that curriculum by — either an internal or outside expert — to get some balance?”

The FBI declined to respond directly to such questions from Danger Room. But what’s clear is that the anti-Islam sentiment in the FBI’s training and orientation isn’t the marginal problem that the Bureau portrayed in its previous public statements and press releases. It’s not a historical problem, it’s ongoing. And it will require substantial effort to root out. Not even a July warning from the office of a powerful senator was able to spur the Bureau to purge itself of its anti-Islam material.

One example is found in the mandatory orientation material for the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces, or JTTFs. Those task forces are a nationwide partnership between the FBI, intelligence analysts and state and local police. As of late last week, according to a law enforcement source familiar with the program, new members or those needing a belated orientation saw this description of Sunnism — the largest branch of Islam — as part of their online training course:

Sunni Muslims have been prolific in spawning numerous and varied fundamentalist extremist terrorist organizations. Sunni core doctrine and end state have remained the same and they continue to strive for Sunni Islamic domination of the world to prove a key Quranic assertion that no system of government or religion on earth can match the Quran’s purity and effectiveness for paving the road to God.

That paragraph is contained in orientation material, known as the Joint Terrorism Task Force Orientation v2 course, distributed online through a secure intranet for every member of the JTTFs. That’s approximately 4,400 officials, according to FBI figures, all charged with stopping terrorism. The orientation course is mandatory for every member of the task force.

The passage is especially odd because most of the orientation consists of practical, mundane information, such as the proper forms to fill out during an inquiry or FBI standards for investigations, according to the source. It consists of five sections, one of which is about Islam, Muslims and Arab culture. The supervisor of each JTTF has to certify that all his or her personnel have completed the online orientation course, and then must pass that certification up to FBI Headquarters’ Counterterrorism Division.

The FBI would neither confirm nor deny the existence of the JTTF orientation material.

The excerpt from the JTTF orientation material was provided to Danger Room by a concerned law enforcement official, who says the material contains 20 paragraphs about Islam in a similar vein. Several Bureau and law enforcement officials who spoke to Danger Room on condition of anonymity believe that such instructions are detrimental to uncovering and thwarting terrorist plots, and that the FBI continues to be less than forthright with the press and the public about the extent of its teaching that Islam is at the root of the menace of terrorism. Evidence for this continuing belief can be found in Quantico, Virginia, at the FBI’s elite training academy.
Within the sprawling campus of that academy, Quantico maintains a library befitting the FBI’s status as America’s most important law enforcement agency. It stacks thousands of books, from heavy tomes containing the U.S. criminal code to forensics reference material that could be out of CSI, across three unclassified floors. The library is open to all FBI agents, plus intelligence officials and police from across the country, for a single purpose: to provide background material for cases, guidance material for intelligence analysis and other tools meant directly to aid law enforcement. In other words, it’s not your public library.

There’s a section on religion — in which Islam, perhaps understandably, predominates. A law enforcement source provided Danger Room with a photographic catalog, compiled in late August, of approximately 100 books on Islam out of around 150 stacked at Quantico. Many of them are innocuous or contain unquestioned scholarship, ranging from authors like Fawaz Gerges of the London School of Economics, Juan Cole of the University of Michigan and Thomas Hegghammer, a terrorism expert at the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment.

But, significantly, the library also contains books by anti-Islam authors that portray the religion as devoted to murder and world domination.

There’s Militant Islam Reaches America by Daniel Pipes, who claims to have “confirmed” that President Obama was once a practicing Muslim, and whose book asks, “Why would terrorists oppress women if this did not have something to do with their Islamic outlook?” A book called Islamikaze: Manifestations of Islamic Martyrology ties “normative Islam” to “horrendous cruelty and inhumanity.” The editor of the anthology Muhammad’s Monsters has previously written that “Islam and democracy are totally incompatible, and are mutually inconclusive. The same applies to Modernity, which is perceived as a threat to Islamic civilization.”

And there is also Onward Muslim Soldiers by Robert Spencer. Spencer is one of the U.S.’ leading opponents of Islam. Along with the blogger Pamela Geller, Spencer leads a group called Stop Islamicization of America, which “promotes a conspiratorial anti-Muslim agenda under the guise of fighting radical Islam,” according to the Anti-Defamation League. Spencer’s work was cited 64 times in the political manifesto of Anders Behring Breivik, the Oslo terrorist who killed 69 people earlier this year.

When Danger Room presented the FBI in July with recently declassified material showing that its Law Enforcement Training Unit recommended one of Spencer’s other books to agents, its response was unequivocal: “The presentation in question was a rudimentary version used for a limited time that has since been replaced.” Onward Muslim Soldiers was available for checkout in the Quantico library as recently as late August.

The FBI’s dalliance with Robert Spencer is not limited to the stacks of Quantico. In July 2010, Spencer presented what he described as “two two-hour seminars on the belief-system of Islamic jihadists” to the JTTF in Tidewater, Virginia. He presented a similar lecture to the U.S. Attorney’s Anti-Terrorism Advisory Council, which is co-hosted by the FBI’s Norfolk Field Office. When a coalition of civil rights groups sent a letter protesting the FBI’s embrace of Spencer, the Special Agent in Charge of the Norfolk FBI, Alex J. Turner, replied, “Seeking broad knowledge on a wide range of topics is essential in understanding today’s terrorist environment, and helps us to defeat ignorance and strengthen relationships with the diverse communities we serve.”

Spencer was only one of an array of self-anointed experts delivering similar messages about Islam to Bureau audiences.

On January 11, the FBI’s Washington, D.C. Field Office held a seminar on Islamic extremism. In the conference room of its Judiciary Square offices, about 60 of the Field Office’s agents and intelligence analysts spent the morning hearing two presentations — one from terrorism expert Sebastian Gorka, a fellow with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, and another from a self-identified expert on Islamic law, Stephen Coughlin, a former consultant to the military’s Joint Staff. The takeaway of Coughlin’s presentation, according to an attendee: Islam is out to take over the world and there is no such thing as a loyal American Muslim.

Coughlin was described to Danger Room as presenting a far more extreme take on Islam than Gorka, who spoke separately on the subject of “Core Texts of Salafi Jihad.” But Coughlin allegedly told the agents that Muslims believe Islamic law to be all-encompassing, preventing an either/or choice to U.S. Muslims: either reject the U.S. Constitution or fall into apostasy. Sharia law, Coughlin instructed in the tone of a neutral reporter, was a threat to the agents in the room. He explored an obscure Islamic concept known as “abrogation,” the supposition that some Koranic verses supersede others, to argue that the Koran’s non-violent passages are overtaken in Muslim eyes by commands to wage war against “non-believers.”

It’s a line Coughlin has long pushed. During a presentation at the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2010 — in which he shared a stage with Spencer and Geller — Coughlin asserted that the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the geopolitical organization of Muslim nations, has a “ten-year plan” to make “defamation of Islam a crime” worldwide. One of his briefing slides read, “The SILENCE in the mainstream media on this DIRECT ASSAULT is DEAFENING! — not just on speech — but on thought itself!!” Coughlin’s 2007 master’s thesis at the National Defense Intelligence College claimed that President George W. Bush’s reassurance that the U.S. was not at war with Islam had a “a chilling effect on those tasked to define the enemy’s doctrine by effectively placing a policy bar on the unconstrained analysis of Islamic doctrine as a basis for this threat.” (.pdf) In 2008, his Joint Staff contract wasn’t renewed after a staffer for Gordon England, then the deputy secretary of defense, raised concerns about his work. (Through a spokesman, England declined to comment.)

Coughlin did not respond to requests for comment.

The presentation to the Washington Field Office wasn’t mandated by FBI Headquarters. It was set up on the initiative of a well-intentioned agent. But not everyone was comfortable with the presentation. Some walked out in boredom or disgust, according to the source.  Others made fun of it.

But some voiced worries that the presentation sent an implicit message to agents that they should be targeting Muslims in the name of stopping terrorism. And in the past few years, the FBI has accelerated its monitoring of mosques, community centers, businesses and other organizations run by Muslims. Several observers suspect that the persistence of training materials that casts Islam in a threatening light helps explain the increased surveillance. Others — including many counterterrorism professionals within the FBI who say they are disgusted by the bigoted material they’ve received — fear that the presentations will drive a wedge between the Bureau and the U.S. Muslim communities whose assistance it needs to prevent terrorism.

“Inappropriately enlarging the characterization of the threat to include all of Islam,” says Rick “Ozzie” Nelson, a former official with the National Counterterrorism Center, “may inadvertently increase al Qaida’s ideological resonance and could facilitate recruitment of would-be terrorists.”

Books in a library and presentations in a field office will only reach the agents who visit the library or work in the field office. A Joint Terrorism Task Force orientation will only reach JTTF members. But every FBI agent can access the bureau’s intranet. And until Danger Room’s expose, that network hosted material purporting to demonstrate “the inherently violent nature of Islam.”

Two law enforcement sources with access to the intranet — sections of which are classified — described to Danger Room its page on “Islamic Law.” FBI intranet users type in “Islamic Law” or “Islam” into a Google-like search function. Up pops what’s called a Subject Matter Expert page, or SME, pronounced “Smee.” Usually, an agent seeking a SME will be searching for material directly relevant to an ongoing investigation or a timely intelligence product. But the SME for “Islamic Law” recently featured uploaded documents stretching all the way back to the 19th century, with titles like “The Personal Law of The Mahommedans.”

One such document is a text from 1915, titled “Mohammed Or Christ: An Account Of The Rapid Spread of Islam In All Parts of The Globe, The Methods Employed to Obtain Proselytes, Its Immense Press, Its Strongholds, & Suggested Means to be Adopted to Counteract the Evil.” That explicitly religious and archaic tome instructs that its purpose is “to set forth the appeal of that [Muslim] world for the Gospel. It is a decisive hour!”

Another is a Regent University master’s thesis called “Devoutly Violent or Nominally Peaceful? The Justification for Violence in Islam.” It asks: “[S]eeing as the foremost goal of Islam (which literally means ’submission’) is to subject the entire world to Shari’a law and Allah’s guidance, can a devout Muslim who witnesses to a Christian (who rejects his invitation to Islam) really not become violent? … In conclusion, this thesis demonstrates the inherently violent nature of Islam.”

In the image above, formerly available on the FBI’s “Islamic Law” SME, a thermometer represents a correlation between the Muslim population of a country and its “violence level.” As Muslims accumulate in a given place, they incline toward “grievance fabrication,” then “chronic terror attacks,” and even “state-run ethnic cleansing.” The final stage is “peace” — in an all-Muslim state.

Two law enforcement sources told Danger Room that after our coverage of the FBI’s training materials ran, the “Islamic Law” SME and similar FBI intranet sites were scrubbed of such material. Danger Room was able to acquire some of these documents before they were removed.

Other materials reinforced the message delivered on the FBI’s internal network. A 2006 FBI intelligence assessment judged that “conversion” to Islam or intensifying Islamic faith (.PDF) could be early-warning signs of terrorism — a judgment that would apply to millions of American citizens. That assessment is still in official use, according to the FBI, even though one of its public responses to our expose was a public assurance that “Strong religious beliefs should never be confused with violent extremism. Views that are contrary should not and will not be taught to FBI employees.”

Asked to reconcile that statement with the 2006 assessment, FBI spokesman Christopher Allen replied, “The assessment you cite includes a series of indicators of radicalization. These indicators do not conflict with our statement that strong religious beliefs should never be confused with violent extremism.”
http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1
The FBI is now in damage-control mode. On Thursday afternoon, the FBI held a conference call with Muslim civil rights groups to apologize for its offensive training materials and admit that they were more extensive than it previously acknowledged. The FBI did not make any commitments on which outside experts or organizations it would consult for an updated training curriculum. But according to one participant, the FBI representative on the call said that many people within the Bureau disapproved of the anti-Islamic rhetoric. The FBI’s Allen declined to comment.

“We are glad that this very serious issue has finally received the attention of FBI leadership,” says Farhana Khera, executive director of the San Francisco-based civil rights group Muslim Advocates, “but an internal review is insufficient at this stage. In the last year, the FBI has either defended its use of bigoted trainers or emphatically assured the public that the various trainings were one-time, isolated incidents. Each time those assurances were later revealed to be false.”

Muslim Advocates sent a letter to the Justice Department Inspector General last week seeking an investigation. It has yet to receive a reply. However, the chairs of the Senate’s homeland security and intelligence committees have separately told Danger Room they will subject the FBI’s counterterrorism training to scrutiny.

For months, in fact, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), has raised concerns that law enforcement at all levels lacks “meaningful standards” for counterterrorism training. In the course of his ongoing inquiry on the subject, Lieberman’s staff became aware of a particularly problematic individual: an FBI intelligence analyst named William Gawthrop.

In April, Gawthrop presented a three-day briefing at the FBI’s Quantico training facility to counterterrorism agents in which he equated “mainstream” Islam with terrorism. In earlier interviews, he mused about triggering a “deteriorating cascade effect” upon Islam, convincing Muslims to abandon their religion by attacking “soft spots” in the Islamic faith. And he has lectured widely about the “threat” of Islam, ostensibly as a private citizen.

Lieberman staffers were appalled by the “inappropriate materials being used by Mr. Gawthrop and notified the FBI in mid-July of their concerns,” says Leslie Phillips, Communications Director of the Homeland Security Committee.

The FBI wouldn’t directly comment on the committee’s warning, instead reiterating the Bureau’s new commitment to a wide-ranging review — one that will stretch from Quantico to the FBI’s many field offices to the J. Edgar Hoover Building, its Washington headquarters.

“The senator hopes the FBI will take appropriate action to prohibit these and any other inaccurate training materials from being used in the future,” Phillips adds.

In the meantime, Gawthrop is, as of this writing, still an FBI counterterrorism analyst. And the message he helped inculcate in the Bureau lingers.

See Also:

FBI Teaches Agents: ‘Mainstream’ Muslims Are ‘Violent, Radical’

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 19, 2011 by loonwatch

FBI Teaches Agents: ‘Mainstream’ Muslims Are ‘Violent, Radical’

by Spencer Ackerman

The FBI is teaching its counterterrorism agents that “main stream” [sic] American Muslims are likely to be terrorist sympathizers; that the Prophet Mohammed was a “cult leader”; and that the Islamic practice of giving charity is no more than a “funding mechanism for combat.”

At the Bureau’s training ground in Quantico, Virginia, agents are shown a chart contending that the more “devout” a Muslim, the more likely he is to be “violent.” Those destructive tendencies cannot be reversed, an FBI instructional presentation adds: “Any war against non-believers is justified” under Muslim law; a “moderating process cannot happen if the Koran continues to be regarded as the unalterable word of Allah.”

These are excerpts from dozens of pages of recent FBI training material on Islam that Danger Room has acquired. In them, the Constitutionally protected religious faith of millions of Americans is portrayed as an indicator of terrorist activity.

“There may not be a ‘radical’ threat as much as it is simply a normal assertion of the orthodox ideology,” one FBI presentation notes. “The strategic themes animating these Islamic values are not fringe; they are main stream.”

The FBI isn’t just treading on thin legal ice by portraying ordinary, observant Americans as terrorists-in-waiting, former counterterrorism agents say. It’s also playing into al-Qaida’s hands.

Focusing on the religious behavior of American citizens instead of proven indicators of criminal activity like stockpiling guns or using shady financing makes it more likely that the FBI will miss the real warning signs of terrorism. And depicting Islam as inseparable from political violence is exactly the narrative al-Qaida spins — as is the related idea that America and Islam are necessarily in conflict. That’s why FBI whistleblowers provided Danger Room with these materials.

Over the past few years, American Muslim civil rights groups have raised alarm about increased FBI and police presence in Islamic community centers and mosques, fearing that their lawful behavior is being targeted under the broad brush of counterterrorism. The documents may help explain the heavy scrutiny.

They certainly aren’t the first time the FBI has portrayed Muslims in a negative light during Bureau training sessions. As Danger Room reported in July, the FBI’s Training Division has included anti-Islam books, and materials that claim Islam “transforms [a] country’s culture into 7th-century Arabian ways.” When Danger Room confronted the FBI with that material, an official statement issued to us claimed, “The presentation in question was a rudimentary version used for a limited time that has since been replaced.”

But these documents aren’t relics from an earlier era. One of these briefings, titled “Strategic Themes and Drivers in Islamic Law,” took place on March 21.

The Islam briefings are elective, not mandatory. “A disclaimer accompanied the presentation stating that the views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. government,” FBI spokesman Christopher Allen tells Danger Room.

“The training materials in question were delivered as Stage Two training to counterterrorism-designated agents,” Allen adds. “This training was largely derived from a variety of open source publications and includes the opinion of the analyst that developed the lesson block.”

Not all counterterrorism veterans consider the briefings so benign. “Teaching counterterrorism operatives about obscure aspects of Islam,” says Robert McFadden, who recently retired as one of the Navy Criminal Investigative Service’s al-Qaida-hunters, “without context, without objectivity, and without covering other non-religious drivers of dangerous behavior is no way to stop actual terrorists.”

Still, at Quantico, the alleged connection between Islam and violence isn’t just stipulated. It’s literally graphed.

An FBI presentation titled “Militancy Considerations” measures the relationship between piety and violence among the texts of the three Abrahamic faiths. As time goes on, the followers of the Torah and the Bible move from “violent” to “non-violent.” Not so for devotees of the Koran, whose “moderating process has not happened.” The line representing violent behavior from devout Muslims flatlines and continues outward, from 610 A.D. to 2010. In other words, religious Muslims have been and always will be agents of aggression.

Training at Quantico isn’t designed for intellectual bull sessions or abstract theory, according to FBI veterans. The FBI conducts its training so that both seasoned agents and new recruits can sharpen their investigative skills.

In this case, the FBI’s Allen says, the counterterrorism agents who received these briefings have “spent two to three years on the job.” The briefings are written accordingly. The stated purpose of one, about allegedly religious-sanctioned lying, is to “identify the elements of verbal deception in Islam and their impacts on Law Enforcement.” Not “terrorism.” Not even “Islamist extremism.” Islam.

What’s more, the Islamic “insurgency” is all-encompassing and insidious. In addition to outright combat, its “techniques” include “immigration” and “law suits.” So if a Muslim wishes to become an American or sues the FBI for harassment, it’s all just part of the jihad.

On Tuesday, the leaders of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security, Joe Lieberman (I-Connecticut) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), warned that law enforcement lacks “meaningful standards” to prevent anti-Islam material from seeping into counterterrorism training. Some FBI veterans suspect the increased pressure on American Muslims has a lot to do with the kind of training that Quantico offers.

“Seeing the materials FBI agents are being trained with certainly helps explain why we’ve seen so many inappropriate FBI surveillance operations broadly targeting the Muslim-American community, from infiltrating mosques with agents provocateur to racial- and ethnic-mapping programs,” Mike German, a former FBI agent now with the American Civil Liberties Union, tells Danger Room after being shown the documents. ”Biased police training can only result in biased policing.” (Full disclosure: This reporter’s wife works for the ACLU.)

The chief of the Training Division, Assistant FBI Director Thomas Browne, came into his current job in January. His official biography lists no terrorism expertise beyond serving as a coordinator for a bureau “Domestic Terrorism Program” in Tennessee sometime in the last decade.

It is unclear what vetting process the FBI used to approve these briefings; if any Muslim scholars contributed to them; and what criteria Quantico uses to determine Islamic expertise. “The development of effective training is a constantly evolving process,” says FBI spokesman Allen. “Sometimes the training is adapted for long-term use. This particular training segment was delivered a single time and not used since.”

Several of these briefings were the work of a single author: an FBI intelligence analyst named William Gawthrop. In 2006, before he joined the Bureau, he gave an interview to the website WorldNetDaily, and discussed some of the themes that made it into his briefings, years later. The Prophet “Muhammad’s mindset is a source for terrorism,” Gawthrop told the website, which would later distinguish itself as a leader of the “birther” movement, a conspiracy theory that denies President Obama’s American citizenship.

At the time, Gawthrop’s major suggestion for waging the war on terrorism was to attack what he called “soft spots” in Islamic faith that might “induce a deteriorating cascade effect upon the target.” That is, to discredit Islam itself and cause Muslims to abandon their religion. “Critical vulnerabilities of the Koran, for example, are that it was uttered by a mortal,” he said. Alas, he lamented, he faced the bureaucratic obstacle of official Washington’s “political taboo of linking Islamic violence to the religion of Islam,” according to the website.

Back then, however, Gawthrop didn’t work for the FBI. He had recently stepped down from a position with the Defense Department’s Counterintelligence Field Activity. That agency came under withering criticism during the Bush administration for keeping a database about threats to military bases that included reports on peaceful antiwar protesters and dovish Church groups. It is unclear how Gawthrop came to work for the FBI.

Through an intermediary, Gawthrop told Danger Room that he was unavailable for comment before our deadline.

The FBI didn’t always conflate terrorism with Islam. “I never saw that,” says Ali Soufan, one of the FBI’s most distinguished counterterrorism agents and author of the new memoir The Black Banners, who retired from the bureau in 2005. “Sometimes, toward the end of my time, I started noticing it with different entities outside the FBI. You started feeling like they had a problem with Islam-as-Islam, because of the media. But that was a few people, and was usually hidden behind closed doors.”

Soufan, a Muslim, has interrogated members of al-Qaida and contributed to rolling up one of its cells in Yemen after 9/11. But by the logic of the FBI’s training materials, Soufan’s religious practices make him a potential terrorist.

McFadden, the former NCIS counterterrorist, has a lot of respect for his FBI colleagues, who he believes are ill-served by these Islam briefings. “These are earnest special agents and police officers who want to know how do their job better,” McFadden says.

Too often, McFadden says, counterterrorism training becomes simultaneously over-broad and ignorant. “Instead of looking for indicators of nefarious behavior, you have a sweeping generalization of things like, for instance, the Hawala system,” McFadden explains. “It’s a system that most of the developing world and expatriates from it use to move money around, including terrorists. But you can’t say the whole hawala system is about terrorism, just like you can’t say that Islam as a whole has anything to do with bad behavior.”

McFadden, a Catholic, believes that obsessing over obscure Koranic verses is as useful a guide to terrorist behavior as “diving into the rite of exorcism” is to understanding Catholicism.

On April 6, barely two weeks after the “Islamic Motivations for ‘Suicide’ Bombers” briefing at Quantico, FBI Director Robert Mueller defended the bureau’s budget before a congressional committee. Among his major points: the FBI needs cooperation from American Muslims to stop the next terrorist attack.

“Since September 11th, every one of our 56 field offices and the leadership of those offices have had outreach to the Muslim community,” Mueller said. “We need the support of that community … our business is basically relationships.” That is exactly the opposite message sent in the training rooms of Quantico, where the next generation of FBI counterterrorism is shaped.

Photos: Flickr/Cliff1066, ISAF

F.B.I. Agents Get Leeway to Push Privacy Bounds

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , on June 13, 2011 by loonwatch

There goes our privacy…oh wait…what privacy?

F.B.I. Agents Get Leeway to Push Privacy Bounds

By 

WASHINGTON — The Federal Bureau of Investigation is giving significant new powers to its roughly 14,000 agents, allowing them more leeway to search databases, go through household trash or use surveillance teams to scrutinize the lives of people who have attracted their attention.

The F.B.I. soon plans to issue a new edition of its manual, called the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide, according to an official who has worked on the draft document and several others who have been briefed on its contents. The new rules add to several measures taken over the past decade to give agents more latitude as they search for signs of criminal or terrorist activity.

The F.B.I. recently briefed several privacy advocates about the coming changes. Among them, Michael German, a former F.B.I. agent who is now a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, argued that it was unwise to further ease restrictions on agents’ power to use potentially intrusive techniques, especially if they lacked a firm reason to suspect someone of wrongdoing.

“Claiming additional authorities to investigate people only further raises the potential for abuse,” Mr. German said, pointing to complaints about the bureau’s surveillance of domestic political advocacy groups and mosques and to an inspector general’s findings in 2007 that the F.B.I. had frequently misused “national security letters,” which allow agents to obtain information like phone records without a court order.

Valerie E. Caproni, the F.B.I. general counsel, said the bureau had fixed the problems with the national security letters and had taken steps to make sure they would not recur. She also said the bureau, which does not need permission to alter its manual so long as the rules fit within broad guidelines issued by the attorney general, had carefully weighed the risks and the benefits of each change.

“Every one of these has been carefully looked at and considered against the backdrop of why do the employees need to be able to do it, what are the possible risks and what are the controls,” she said, portraying the modifications to the rules as “more like fine-tuning than major changes.”

Some of the most notable changes apply to the lowest category of investigations, called an “assessment.” The category, created in December 2008, allows agents to look into people and organizations “proactively” and without firm evidence for suspecting criminal or terrorist activity.

Under current rules, agents must open such an inquiry before they can search for information about a person in a commercial or law enforcement database. Under the new rules, agents will be allowed to search such databases without making a record about their decision.

Mr. German said the change would make it harder to detect and deter inappropriate use of databases for personal purposes. But Ms. Caproni said it was too cumbersome to require agents to open formal inquiries before running quick checks. She also said agents could not put information uncovered from such searches into F.B.I. files unless they later opened an assessment.

The new rules will also relax a restriction on administering lie-detector tests and searching people’s trash. Under current rules, agents cannot use such techniques until they open a “preliminary investigation,” which — unlike an assessment — requires a factual basis for suspecting someone of wrongdoing. But soon agents will be allowed to use those techniques for one kind of assessment, too: when they are evaluating a target as a potential informant.

Agents have asked for that power in part because they want the ability to use information found in a subject’s trash to put pressure on that person to assist the government in the investigation of others. But Ms. Caproni said information gathered that way could also be useful for other reasons, like determining whether the subject might pose a threat to agents.

The new manual will also remove a limitation on the use of surveillance squads, which are trained to surreptitiously follow targets. Under current rules, the squads can be used only once during an assessment, but the new rules will allow agents to use them repeatedly. Ms. Caproni said restrictions on the duration of physical surveillance would still apply, and argued that because of limited resources, supervisors would use the squads only rarely during such a low-level investigation.

The revisions also clarify what constitutes “undisclosed participation” in an organization by an F.B.I. agent or informant, which is subject to special rules — most of which have not been made public. The new manual says an agent or an informant may surreptitiously attend up to five meetings of a group before those rules would apply — unless the goal is to join the group, in which case the rules apply immediately.

At least one change would tighten, rather than relax, the rules. Currently, a special agent in charge of a field office can delegate the authority to approve sending an informant to a religious service. The new manual will require such officials to handle those decisions personally.

In addition, the manual clarifies a description of what qualifies as a “sensitive investigative matter” — investigations, at any level, that require greater oversight from supervisors because they involve public officials, members of the news media or academic scholars.

The new rules make clear, for example, that if the person with such a role is a victim or a witness rather than a target of an investigation, extra supervision is not necessary. Also excluded from extra supervision will be investigations of low- and midlevel officials for activities unrelated to their position — like drug cases as opposed to corruption, for example.

The manual clarifies the definition of who qualifies for extra protection as a legitimate member of the news media in the Internet era: prominent bloggers would count, but not people who have low-profile blogs. And it will limit academic protections only to scholars who work for institutions based in the United States.

Since the release of the 2008 manual, the assessment category has drawn scrutiny because it sets a low bar to examine a person or a group. The F.B.I. has opened thousands of such low-level investigations each month, and a vast majority has not generated information that justified opening more intensive investigations.

Ms. Caproni said the new manual would adjust the definition of assessments to make clear that they must be based on leads. But she rejected arguments that the F.B.I. should focus only on investigations that begin with a firm reason for suspecting wrongdoing.

Suit Claims FBI Told Mosque Informant To Get Dirt On Sex Lives, Drug Use Of Worshipers

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 28, 2011 by loonwatch

One commenter summed it up best, FBI means “Famous but Incompetent.”

Suit Claims FBI Told Mosque Informant To Get Dirt On Sex Lives, Drug Use Of Worshipers

(TPMuckracker)

The FBI allegedly told an informant who infiltrated a California mosque to dig up dirt on the immigration status, sexual activities, business problems and drug use of members of the community. A discrimination lawsuit filed against the Bureau this week charges that they hoped to use the information to convince those members to become FBI informants.

Craig Monteilh, whose aggressive tactics as an informant in 2006 led worshipers at the Islamic Center of Irvine to file a restraining order against him, is now cooperating with the plaintiffs in a lawsuit that accuses FBI agents of violating the constitutional rights of hundreds of Muslims.

The lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) on behalf of three Muslim plaintiffs, claims that the FBI violated the constitutional rights of Muslims by targeting them indiscriminately because of their religion. It requests unspecified damages and a court order to return or destroy all the information that Monteilh gathered.

“The trust within the community has been broken,” Ameena Mirza Qazi, a lawyer from CAIR representing the plaintiffs told TPM in an interview. “The community feels under psychological siege at this time.”

Qazi said she hoped the lawsuit would shine a spotlight on how the FBI spies on the Muslim community. “The overall scenario is not unique to Southern California,” she said. ‘What is unique is that in this case we have confirmation of what went on, because of the informant.”

“We want a court to say that it’s wrong to target a community because of religious affiliation when there is no link to criminal activity,” she said.

The lawsuit says FBI Special Agent Kevin Armstrong and FBI Special Agent Paul Allen of talked with Monteilh about obtaining dirt on members of the Muslim community — “immigration issues, sexual activity, business problems, or crimes like drug use” — that could be used to convince them to become informants.

“Agents Armstrong and Allen instructed Monteilh to pay attention to people’s problems, to talk about and record them, including marital problems, business problems, and petty criminal issue,” the suit says.

“Agents Armstrong and Allen on several occasions talked about different individuals that they believed might be susceptible to rumors about their sexual orientation, so that they could be persuaded to become informants through the threat of such rumors being started,” the lawsuit claims.

Monteilth also “attended religion classes given in Arabic even when he did not speak Arabic, and questioned 17 and 18 year olds about religious doctrine and politics,” according to the suit.

One of the plaintiffs in the suit is a well-known Imam in the area; the other two are worshippers who were tasked with teaching Monteilh about the Islam faith.

An ex-con, Monteilh began working for the FBI in 2003. In 2006, he was asked to infiltrate the popular Islamic Center of Irvine, where he started attended prayers five times a day and donning an Islamic robe.

In May 2007, Monteilh recorded a conversation in a car with two worshipers, in which Monteilh suggested blowing up buildings. In the tape, one man agrees with Monteilh. But a few days after the conversation, the two worshipers contacted the Los Angeles chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and reported Monteilh as a potential terrorist. Other worshippers told mosque leaders that they were scared of Monteilh and felt as though he was trying to entrap them. In June 2007, the mosque obtained a restraining order against the informant.

His relationship with the FBI deteriorated shortly afterwards and, after threatening to go public, Monteilh says he signed a non-disclosure agreement in exchange for $25,000. In December 2007, Monteilh was arrested on a grand-theft charge and went to jail for 16 months.

 

Lawsuit contends FBI violated rights of hundreds of Muslim Americans

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , on February 24, 2011 by loonwatch

The ACLU and CAIR are suing the FBI.

Lawsuit contends FBI violated rights of hundreds of Muslim Americans

(LATimes)

The FBI violated the 1st Amendment rights of hundreds of Muslims by using a paid informant to target and monitor several Southern California mosques based solely on religion, according to a federal class-action lawsuit filed Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Filed on behalf of three Muslim plaintiffs, the suit accuses the FBI and seven of its employees, including Director Robert Mueller, of paying Irvine resident Craig Monteilh to go undercover, infiltrate mosques and record conversations in order to root out potential terrorists.

Over the course of 14 months beginning in 2006, the FBI used Monteilh to “indiscriminately collect” personal information on hundreds or even thousands of Muslim Americans, the lawsuit alleges.

Through this “dragnet” operation, the agency “gathered hundreds of phone numbers, thousands of e-mail addresses, hundreds of hours of video recordings that captured the interiors of mosques, homes and businesses, and … thousands of hours of audio recordings,” the lawsuit alleges.

Monteilh, who has served prison time for forgery, has previously told The Times that he was recruited by the FBI in 2004 to infiltrate drug-trafficking groups. In 2006, Monteilh said, he was asked to assume the identity of a Muslim convert and go undercover to identify extremists and gather intelligence.

The lawsuit comes a year after Monteilh filed suit personally against the FBI, accusing his law enforcement handlers of endangering his life and violating his civil rights. His claims of working for the FBI in some capacity were confirmed in 2009 when a West Covina judge unsealed court recordsthat showed the agency intervened in 2007 to terminate Monteilh’s parole on a theft charge early.

The FBI declined to comment on the case Tuesday night, citing ongoing legal proceedings. Spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said in an e-mail, however, that the FBI does not target houses of worship or religious groups but does focus on “people who are alleged to be involved in criminal activity, regardless of their affiliations, religious or otherwise.”

ACLU lawyer Peter Bibring said members of the Muslim community grew suspicious after Monteilh habitually asked probing and invasive questions about their religious beliefs, political views, loyalties and became “increasing aggressive about denouncing U.S. foreign policy.”

“Ironically, the operation ended when members of the Muslim communities of Southern California reported the informant to the police because of his violent rhetoric and ultimately obtained a restraining order against him,” the lawsuit alleged.

Bibring dismisses the idea that the FBI may have been targeting individuals already suspected of criminal activity.

“That simply doesn’t fit with the behavior that the entire community observed,” he said. Monteilh “didn’t focus on individuals or small groups of people. He probed a wide range of people.”

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages, class-action status and the destruction of all materials that Monteilh collected and handed over to the FBI.