The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is charging that the FBI is violating federal law by secretly gathering intelligence on Muslim groups through its community outreach programs.
The ACLU said agents have been attending meeting at mosques in California and gathering information about political and religious affiliations of those attending, The Washington Post reported.
The FBI has denied the charges and said any records kept from outreach sessions are not part of investigations. The ACLU based its charges on documents turned over to them as part of a lawsuit, the Post reported.
The ACLU’s Hina Shamsi told the Post that some of the activities in the documents violate the Privacy Act. “It’s one thing for the FBI to say to a community group, ‘We’re going to come and meet you to establish ties,’ ” Shamsi told the Post. “But it’s a very dangerous way to proceed to collect intelligence under the guise of community outreach.”
An FBI spokesman said the meetings are not to gather intelligence but “to enhance public trust in the FBI in order to enlist the cooperation of the public to fight criminal activity.” He added that bureau policy requires that an “appropriate separation be maintained between outreach and operational activities,” the Post reported.
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