FBI Faces Criticism for Plan to Turn Muslim Community Leaders Into Snitches

The FBI will soon implement a new program to pressure teachers and religious leaders into serving as informants.The FBI will soon implement a new program to pressure teachers and religious leaders into serving as informants. (Photo: Michele Neylon / Flickr)

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The FBI will soon implement a new program to pressure teachers and religious leaders into serving as informants, an advocacy group is warning.

In a statement issued late last week, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) slammed a new Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program set to be unveiled by the Bureau in the coming days — one that will rely on local leaders to snitch on troubled youth under the disguise of counseling.

The launch of the “Shared Responsibility Committees” (SRC) has been in the works since last Fall. It is the latest initiative by federal law enforcement officials to focus counterterrorist efforts primarily on Arab and Muslim youth.

“The SRC program is tantamount to outsourcing the FBI’s surveillance apparatus to trusted community and religious leaders,” said Samer Khalaf, ADC President.

“If the program is implemented, our community members will feel they can no longer trust even their doctors and religious leaders,” he added. “Rather than make our community safer, this will create mistrust and ultimately fuel division within our community.”

Under the SRC guidelines, the feds will target suspects with surveillance by enlisting the help of either a teacher, a medical health professional, or a religious leader. The participating community leader will be expected to report back to police on the conversations, to the extent that they are expected to turn over any notes and records associated with the meetings, including those from medical professionals.

Counselors will then be told to make a recommendation to law enforcement on the threat level of the subject, and if further investigation is warranted. The program stipulates that community leaders could themselves be held liable for any violence committed by an individual under investigation, if they were deemed by the SRC to not be a threat.

For its focus on Islamist extremism, the federal governments’ CVE efforts have long been criticized as too myopic, ignoring threats of right-wing, homegrown terrorists — people like Robert Lewis Dear who killed three at an abortion clinic in Colorado last December, and Dylan Roof who last June killed nine parishioners at a historically black church in Charleston in hopes of starting a race war.

During a congressional hearing last July, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) remarked on the misplaced priorities within federal CVE programs.

“If you look at who the bad people are in this country right now, they’re not Muslims, they’re not people who identify with Islamic faith,” he said. “They’re these right-wing fanatics who go to churches, who go to other institutions and do harm to people.”

Rep. Thompson noted that the police, actually, agree with him on this. “Talk to law enforcement,” he said to fellow legislators, “law enforcement will tell you they are more concerned with the growth of right-wing radicals in his country.”