American Muslim groups are considering breaking ties with the FBI in light of a string of recent accusations that the government agency was sending spies into mosques across the United States to act as "agent provocateurs" and target their law-abiding citizens.
In the latest battle between the FBI and American Muslims a coalition of ten Muslim groups accused the agency of sending undercover agents into mosques, pressuring Muslims to become informants, labeling civil rights advocates as criminals and spreading misinformation.
In a statement issued by the American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections the group said "targeting Muslim Americans lead us to consider suspending ongoing outreach efforts" and said the FBI's "McCarthy-era tactics are detrimental to a free society."
Last month California's Muslim community were outraged after it was revealed that the FBI had sent a convicted criminal to pose as an agent provocateur in several of the state's mosques.
In the statement released on Tuesday the Muslim groups said one informant had told a mosque member that he would make his life a "living hell" if he did not become an informant.
California-based Muslims complained that FBI surveillance was forcing them to avoid going to mosques altogether as they feared being targeted or monitored.
"Some average Muslims interested only in praying are avoiding mosques for fear of somehow being monitored or profiled," Hussam Ayloush, the executive director of CAIR told the Los Angeles Times.
"Everybody is afraid, and it is leading to an infringement of the free practice of our religion," he added.
The group statement echoed these concerns and accused the FBI of a "campaign of smears and misinformation" and called on the government agency to reassess its positions on profiling.
The secretary general of the Islamic Circle of North America said the FBI should reach out to Muslim leaders and work with them instead of resorting to covert operations, which he labeled as "provocative."
"We are open to talk. They should come and sit with us and share their complaints if they have [any]," Naeem Baig told IslamOnline. "We are as concerned as other Americans so far the security issue is concerned."
In court documents released in February, an alleged informant said he had worked for the FBI from July 2006 to October 2007 to infiltrate the Orange County Islamic community and identify and thwart terrorist operations.
The informant, Craig Monteilh, described how he used concealed audio and video equipment to record thousands of hours of conversations with Muslims in homes, restaurants and mosques, the Los Angeles Times reported.
According to the documents Monteilh said he was cut loose because members of the mosque he had infiltrated suspected he was working for the FBI.
CAIR's executive director said the FBI began planting informants years ago and expressed fear in the statement that "counterintelligence programs are quelling lawful dissent."
Former FBI agent, Kenneth Piernick, said identifying what is true and what is not, even from a reliable informant, remained a challenge for the agency as informants tend to be egotistical, manipulative and dishonest.
"Those who are getting paid have been known to exaggerate information, or even invent it," he told the paper, adding the main reasons informants are let go is due to low-quality or unreliable information.
"In other words, he's not worth the effort," Piernick told the paper.
* To see video go to: http://evideo.alarabiya.net/ShowClip.aspx?clipid=2009.03.23.07.59.34.633