Local Muslims Say They Were Visited By FBI

Dec 14, 2016

In October, the local chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations or CAIR sent an advisory to members saying if the FBI contacted them, a lawyer would be available to assist.

In the weeks before the election, several Muslims around Cincinnati said they had been questioned by the FBI. They contacted the local chapter of CAIR for guidance.

"You know these people weren't visited because they were suspected of doing anything," said local CAIR executive director Karen Dabdoub. "It was simply because they were Muslim, and there was some vague threat about ISIS saying they were going to try to disrupt the election or something like that."

Dabdoub says she understands the need to prevent a terrorist attack, but questions investigators methods.

"You're federal law enforcement and you knock on somebody's door or appear at their place of employment, it's very frightening and disruptive to individuals who haven't done anything and aren't suspected of doing anything wrong."

Dabdoub won't reveal who the FBI visited because she wants protect their identities.

She says some felt they were being coerced into spying on their friends and neighbors.

A spokesman for the ACLU of Ohio says they've heard the story before. Gary Daniels says the tactics have been used since 9/11.

"There's a fair amount of people from the Muslim community that come from other countries and those countries don't have quite the same, let's say, robust constitutional protections that we do in the United States. So when you come from another country no matter who you are, what religion you practice or don't practice, where you're from, what you might be used to is how law enforcement conducts itself in your home country."

Bureau spokesman Todd Lindgren declined to be interviewed, but did say in an e-mail, "The FBI does not engage in this type of activity."

Ed Bridgeman worked for the Hamilton County Sheriff, Cincinnati Police and was UC Police Chief before becoming associate professor of criminal justice at UC-Clermont
Credit provided

Ed Bridgeman says that's likely true. The UC Clermont associate professor of criminal justice says most of the FBI's informants are volunteers, or are facing criminal charges of their own, hoping to cut a deal. Bridgeman says picking names out of a phone book just isn't a cost effective way of gathering intelligence.

"I think people in general like to attribute not just the FBI but the federal government in general with the men-in-black. They're out there doing spooky and nefarious things. Frankly, they just don't have time."

Bridgeman says random visits to ask Muslim-Americans about terrorism don't work as well as what police in Los Angeles and New York have done.

"Their programs were more outreach. Get into the mosque areas, get into those communities, and then get to know the people. And then you know who to talk to."

That's something Karen Dabdoub agrees with. She says CAIR encourages cooperation with law enforcement and Muslim-Americans largely agree with the idea that if you know something, you should say something.

"I think what it does is it puts a chill on a community when they feel targeted because of their religion or whatever else it might be. And it makes people afraid for no good reason."

Dabdoub says ultimately, CAIR want Muslims and non-Muslims to know they have the right to have an attorney present if law enforcement comes knocking.