Rights group accuses FBI of illegal domestic spying

Last Updated: Friday, December 2, 2011 - 15:17

New York: The FBI has been spying on Muslim groups in America, using their community outreach programmes
as a facade to secretly collect and share with other law
enforcement agencies personal information about people from
the community, a US rights organisation has said.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has in a
report said that the FBI has been "systematically" storing in
intelligence files, memos containing names, identifying
information, opinions, activities of community groups,
positions of group leaders and the racial, ethnic and national
origin of Muslim community group members.

"The FBI is doing this intelligence collection through
community outreach programmes programmes that are supposed
to build trust and rapport with the public without telling
community groups or their members what it is doing," the ACLU
said.

ACLU accessed FBI documents through the Freedom of
Information Act and cited in its report how federal agents
attended Ramadan Iftar dinners, events by Pakistani
organisations and used mosque outreach programmes to gather
information about the community`s political and religious
beliefs.

ACLU said FBI has turned outreach programmes into a
"secretive domestic intelligence initiative."

By using community outreach programmes to gather
intelligence, the FBI is violating the privacy of the people
and "jeopardising the trust and rapport with community groups
and the public that is essential to effective law enforcement
in a democratic society."

ACLU demanded that the FBI stop using outreach to
gather intelligence and should be honest with community
organisations about the information it gathers during
outreach meetings.

It should also purge all illegally collected
information, it said.

ACLU said the FBI used an outreach programme in 2008
to document identities of a Pakistani community organisation`s
officers, directors and advisors.

Similarly in 2007 and 2008, FBI agents attended Ramadan
Iftar dinners under the guise of the FBI`s mosque outreach
programme and recorded in case files the names of attendees,
contents of participants` conversations and presentations,
individuals` contact information.

The agency then conducted internet searches to obtain
further information about the individuals in attendance at the
dinners.

In 2007, FBI agents attended a mosque outreach
meeting in which 50 people representing 27 Muslim community
and religious organizations were participating.

It analysed the "demographics" of those in attendance
and identified each individual by name and organization.

The information was then stored in intelligence
files, shared with other law enforcement and intelligence
agencies, and potentially used to target these individuals,
their organizations or communities for further investigation,
ACLU said.

The FBI responded to ACLU`s report saying its
community outreach programme is designed to enhance public
trust in the FBI in order to enlist the cooperation of the
public to fight criminal activity, not for
intelligence-gathering purposes.

"The community outreach program also provides
information to the public in support of crime prevention
efforts and opens lines of communication to help make the FBI
more responsive to community concerns," the agency said.

PTI



First Published: Friday, December 2, 2011 - 12:51

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