The issue of FBI informants in mosques has been a hot-button topic in recent years for the Arab American and Muslim communities, and now, according to a recent report in the Washington Post, the subject of informant recruiting could take on yet another dimension in what officials of prominent civil rights groups are calling an issue of "grave concern."
Washington Post writer Jeff Stein recently alleged that "Israeli agents have become more aggressive in targeting Muslims living in the United States as well as operating against critics" according to information received from former CIA officer Phillip Giraldi.
Stein also went on to write that there have been a number of cases reported to the FBI about Israeli Mossad officers who have approached leaders in Arab American communities and falsely represented themselves as "U.S. intelligence," Giraldi wrote in a recent American Conservative magazine article.
The report ran on Saturday, September 4, on the newspaper's website and elicited a press release in response from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) stating that the activities will have a negative impact on the trust between Arab and Muslim Americans with the U.S. Federal Government.
The ADC called on the Department of Justice, Department of State, and other appropriate agencies to thoroughly investigate any instances of people, including foreign nationals, falsely identifying themselves as U.S. government officials.
ADC National Legal Director Abed Ayoub said that the Arab American and Muslim communities have expressed concern over the reports prompting the press release.
Ayoub said that people should be aware of their rights in case they suspect anything suspicious.
"Of course we want them to know they have rights and that if they are approached by government officials or people claiming to be officials, they have the right to have an attorney present with them," he said.
Ayoub added that people don't need to answer questions if they're uncomfortable with them and that they don't need to let an agent into their home unless they present a warrant.
"We want people to use their best judgment, even when they do feel comfortable it's always important to ask for an I.D., business card, or some kind of credentials," he said.
"If you really suspect something, call the FBI field office or local agency, an FBI-trained government official will always comply and show ID and credentials."
Ayoub said that the ADC hasn't had a specific case reported to them regarding Israeli officials posing as federal officials yet but he urges those who do suspect something to call their local office or the national office depending on where it occurs.
According to Giraldi, the approaches made by Israeli agents posing as U.S. officials were "handled clumsily" which made them easy to recognize as being fraudulent.
The approaches took place in New York and New Jersey according to Giraldi as the agents sought to have American Muslims "inform on their associates and neighbors."
While Michigan was not named in the report, Council on American-Islamic Relations-Michigan Executive Director Dawud Walid believes it is a strong possibility.
"We don't have any proof that Israeli intelligence is here, however, it is safe to say that based upon the demographics they've targeted that they probably have been involved in similar activities in Detroit," he said.
"This is a very serious situation and according to CIA agents themselves, they're very troubled by the activities of Israeli intelligence within American cities."
Walid pointed out that the practice is illegal under international law and called the practice unacceptable for any country.
"As an example, it would be equally unacceptable for Iranian intelligence to try to recruit spies or send spies inside of synagogues in America, it's the same principle."
With many local Arab Americans and Muslims already feeling tensions from FBI informants entering mosques in the local community, Walid said that the report could continue to add to their nervous feelings.
"This is something that the FBI should be investigating, it's within their charter to investigate," he said. "Any foreign entity spying on Americans, that's totally unacceptable."
Calls to local FBI Special Agent in Charge Andrew Arena and the FBI's national office were not returned.
Walid also said that they have not released any specific information to CAIR-MI.
To report a suspected incident, contact the ADC legal department at 202.244.2990 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact CAIR-MI at 248.559.2247 or email@example.com.