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FBI Targeted US Muslims in Pre-Election Mass Surveillance Sweep

By Staff writer, For Telesurtv, On 20 January 2017, Read Original
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A total of 109 Muslim people contacted the Council of American-Islamic Relations to report being paid a visit by the FBI before the election.

In the days before U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s victory, the FBI was conducting a surveillance sweep across Muslim communities in the United States.

Ahmed was one of them.

A doctor of Pakistani heritage who didn't have so much as a parking ticket to his name, he was surprised — then scared — to see the FBI on his doorstep one day.

The agents said they had intelligence of a terrorist attack that might occur on Election Day following the death of al-Qaida leader Farouq Qahtani Qatari, and then proceeded to probe Ahmed about his family, hobbies, donations and more.

“I didn’t know my rights,” Ahmed, speaking under an alias name, told the Guardian, “that I could tell them to reschedule it or I could refuse to talk to them.”

Ahmed was just one of 109 people who contacted the Washington-based Council of American Islamic Relations to say the FBI had paid them a visit before the election.

Ahmed Shibly, CAIR-Florida’s chief executive director, said the majority of calls received were from predominantly Pakistani or Afghan Muslims, many who are doctors, and they came from all over the country.

“We basically discovered that it was a nationwide sweep,” Shibly told The Guardian. “Simply based on their faith and ethnicity.”

Mike German, a former FBI agent and fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, said the incidents strike him as alarming.

“The idea that the FBI would do that days before an election is a bit shocking,” German told The Guardian. “Particularly when the information they’re providing is that there’s a potential threat to the election so that would suggest going to vote would be dangerous and that they’re specifically targeting groups by their religious beliefs, I think is quite inappropriate.”

“When an FBI agent does an investigation, they’re looking for very specific pieces of the puzzle they think that the witness they’re interviewing possesses,” German added. “But that doesn’t seem like what was going on here.”

German was cautionary about the Trump administration’s ability to conduct mass, blanket operations like these.

“With some of the campaign rhetoric that pandered to racism against Mexican immigrants and the Muslim community, I would be concerned that the lax FBI guidelines would empower any agents who held those sentiments to conduct intrusive investigations,” he said. “It’s a great concern to any of us working on (these) issues.”

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