ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The question came from a 19-year-old audience member: How does the FBI view the use of torture in conducting investigations?
It was just the kind of thing Paul Moskal wanted to clear the air about when he agreed to field questions at a Town Hall-style meeting arranged by a Muslim-American television station.
“The FBI doesn't use torture as one of its interrogation methods," Moskal, a special agent in the Buffalo field office, assured the questioner, Hassan Shibly. The agency is charged with protecting the civil rights of Americans and visitors to the country, he said.
Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the FBI has conducted many of these question-and-answer sessions with Muslim and Arab audiences, with the goal of clarifying the agency's mission and addressing the communities' concerns.
Thursday's forum, moderated by Adnan Mirza, director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, promised to have a much wider audience than the usual dozens at mosques and universities where they are normally held. This was destined for a national television audience, said Muzzammil Hassan, chief executive of Bridges TV, where it was being taped for a May 15 airing.
In the past few weeks, the English-language, Muslim-American lifestyle network has gone from being a premium pay channel to a basic-cable offering on several cable and satellite systems. That has broadened its reach from 10,000 to more than 1 million U.S. homes.
"This became a more important forum for the FBI and CAIR to reach a broader audience," Hassan said at his suburban Buffalo studio.
Hassan said he began the network to bridge understanding between East and West.