Local Muslim organizations disagreed Tuesday with FBI Director Robert Mueller's assertion that relations between the groups and the agency are "very good."
Despite continued concerns from Muslim organizations about the FBI's use of informants and surveillance in U.S. mosques, Mueller defended the agency's investigative tactics and described the FBI's relationship with Muslim organizations as mostly positive.
Mueller's comments came days after a Michigan Muslim organization asked the Justice Department to investigate complaints that the FBI has asked mosque members to spy on Islamic leaders and worshippers, a claim that has been repeated in Orange County after an Irvine man publicly claimed he worked with the FBI as an informant at various local mosques and was asked by agents to identify Middle Eastern men in local gyms.
Answering questions from reporters, Mueller said Monday that the FBI conducted operations while following evidence or information of possible criminal activity.
"We don't investigate places; we investigate individuals," Mueller said. "To the extent that there may be evidence or other information of criminal wrongdoings, then we will ... undertake those investigations."
Mueller added. "We will continue to do it."
But local Muslim leaders disagreed with the director's comments, stating that the FBI appeared to be casting a wide net of suspicion on local mosques and Muslim organizations, straining the relationship between the law-enforcement agency and Islamic organizations.
"I don't believe that at all whatsoever," said Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California. "Either he doesn't know what's going on under his own nose in his own department or he's lying."
In February, a convicted felon named Craig Monteilh said he worked with the FBI as an informant, infiltrating local mosques and gathering information for the Orange County Joint Terrorism Task Force…
Munira Syeda, spokeswoman for CAIR, said a concern was also the use of "provocateurs."
"The debate is not about the use of informants," Syeda said. "American Muslims understand that informants are needed to fight criminal activities and apprehend those who break the law. However, the issue here involves provocateurs who are sent into peaceful places of worship to entrap law-abiding Muslims and radicalize them."
Mueller also said there would be no change in the FBI's priorities. (More)