The United States' premier investigating agency FBI has denied allegations that it is keeping the Muslim community under vigil by monitoring mosques, saying it does not target "lawful activities" of individuals in the country.
"We do not target or monitor legal activity of Muslim groups anywhere in the nation," FBI Assistant Director John Miller said in a statement. Allegations about spying on mosques in southern California surfaced in an article published last week by The San Diego Union-Tribune, prompting members of the Muslim community in the area to seek Congressional hearings into the matter. The probe agency said it does not have a surveillance programme to monitor the activities of houses of worship. Investigations or surveillance of individuals or organisations, Mr Miller said, are "predicated" on specific standards set in the Department of Justice Attorney General Guidelines.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is the lead agency for investigating violations of federal civil rights laws and "we take that responsibility very seriously," he said. Over the last several years, the FBI has worked to strengthen its relationships with Muslim communities, resulting in many valued partnerships, he added.
"We appreciate the assistance of the community groups for bringing these concerns to our attention. We intend to continue this dialogue." In a letter to the US House and Senate Committees on the Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, American Civil Liberties Union and Islamic Shura Council of Southern California voiced concerns over possible civil rights violations due to monitoring of US citizens.