Newly released FBI documents, obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), suggest that the bureau illegally spied on the religious practices of Muslim Americans, under the guise of community outreach.
Some of the papers show FBI agents speaking at career days, briefing community members on FBI programs and helping them work with police to fight drug abuse.
But the files also depict agents as recording Social Security numbers and other identifying information of people after they meet, and noting their political views.
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.”
The ACLU said in a statement on ther website:
The FBI’s targeting of American Muslim religious organizations for secret intelligence gathering raises grave constitutional concerns because it is an affront to religious liberty and equal protection of the law.
The bureau’s use of outreach meetings to gather intelligence also undermines the trust and mutual understanding necessary to effective law enforcement.
Additionally, the FBI’s retention of information gathered through “mosque outreach” in its intelligence files violates federal Privacy Act prohibitions against the maintenance of records about individuals’ First Amendment-protected activity.