There's been plenty of reporting on how the FBI uses sting operations and confidential informants to spy on Muslims, but a new ACLU report claimed on Thursday the bureau actually spies on them through its own community outreach programs. The documents posted online by the ACLU detail the FBI's outreach efforts since Sept. 11, 2011, which the Washington Post called "a major priority since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks." The Post sums up a few of the new allegations:
Some of the papers show agents speaking at career days, briefing community members on FBI programs and helping them work with police to fight drug abuse. But the files also depict agents as recording Social Security numbers and other identifying information of people after they meet, and, in at least one instance, noting their political views. It appears that the agents are conducting follow-up investigations in some instances, but heavy redactions in the documents make it impossible to determine how far any examination might have gone.
The ACLU says the Bureau's tactics are illegal under the Privacy Act, which the Post explains is "a law that bars federal agencies from maintaining information about activities protected by the First Amendment, such as freedom of speech and association." The FBI, meanwhile, told the Post it only keeps information in accordance with the law, and doesn't use the data it gathers through community outreach for investigations.
The allegation sure puts the bureau on the spot after U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder criticized it for anti-Muslim training exercises in November. At that time, Holder lauded outreach, saying anti-Muslim training could "undermine the really substantial outreach efforts that we have made" with Muslim Americans who are "essential partners in the fight against terrorism." Well, if the bad press about the training program didn't alienate the FBI's Muslim allies, the ACLU's allegations really could.