In 5 years since killing of Dearborn imam, what have we learned?

OCT 29, 2014, 8:55 AM

In 5 years since killing of Dearborn imam, what have we learned?

October 28, 2014 marked the 5th anniversary of the fatal shooting of Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah in Dearborn by FBI agents during a sting operation.

Although neither Abdullah nor any of his congregants were charged with terrorism related crimes during that sting, the prior infiltration of his mosque by FBI informants was shaped through the narrow focus of viewing the Muslim community through the lens of national security.

The sequence of events which led to the death of Abdullah continues to remind many of the history and negative ramifications of law enforcement viewing entire communities as perpetual threats or de facto fifth columns.

During the leadership of J. Edgar Hoover and his infamous Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO), the FBI as well as the CIA and military intelligence wiretapped, used informants and kept extensive dossiers on religious leaders and political activists in the black community, some of them being Muslims. Malcolm X, Warith Deen Mohammed, my late teacher, and boxing legend and Michigan resident Muhammad Ali were all monitored and even arrested during this era, in part, due to their religious views. CONINTELPRO eventually spread to collect data on Latino, Native American and white political activists. Actors and musicians were not even spared.

We know through leaked documents that the current national security apparatus has a suspected terrorist watchlist, over 1.5 million names being on it, in which Dearborn, per capita, has more persons on this list than any other city in America. This is despite the fact that not a single terrorist attack has ever been committed by a Dearborn Muslim, be it domestically or internationally.

We also know that the National Security Administration (NSA) has been engaged in unprecedented snooping on American citizens that would even make George Orwell shake his head. The invasive monitoring started with Muslims. No one, save a few diehard civil libertarians, raised their voices. Now we’re all under surveillance.

Benjamin Franklin famously waxed, “Those who give up their liberty for more security neither deserve liberty nor security.” The obtuse surveillance state, including the thousands of paid FBI informants that have been sent into ethnic communities and houses of worship around the country, especially in Metro Detroit, is an ongoing national shame. We’ve failed to learn the lessons of the Joe McCarthy and COINTELPRO eras, which ended in the time for President Richard Nixon’s infamous Watergate scandal.

Our national security is important; however, the targeting of entire communities expending hundreds of millions of dollars is not only a threat to the liberty in which Benjamin Franklin envisioned, but is also a waste of tax dollars and not keeping us any safer.

I hope that as we have conversations about threats to the homeland, we do so with prudence, not based upon the politics of fear, which has in the past caused chilling effects on 1st Amendment expression, unjust incarcerations and even unnecessary deaths.


NSA spying on prominent American Muslims should trouble us all

JUL 10, 2014, 10:30 AM

NSA spying on prominent American Muslims should trouble us all

Journalists Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain just released a story based on the Snowden leaks that the National Security Agency (NSA), in conjunction with the FBI, has been spying on thousands of law-abiding Americans, including a former Senior Policy Advisor for Homeland Security under the Bush administration, a criminal defense attorney and a prominent civil rights leader.

This piece, differing from other stories about pervasive NSA surveillance, shows for the first time five American faces who were targeted, all five being American Muslims. One of them, Nihad Awad, is the Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which I am of course affiliated with.

I’d like to point out three issues regarding these new revelations that should disturb all Americans.

First, all five men appear to have been targeted for their political positions or activism in the Muslim community, not due to credible national security concerns, which is supposed to be the NSA’s scope.

Keep in mind that after years of intrusive surveillance, the government did not bring even a single criminal charge against any of those five. Hence, the Greenwald – Hussain story described them as being Americans who continue to maintain “highly public, outwardly exemplary lives.” If there were any doubts before, this can happened to any American, since it happened to them.

Second, the leaked documents also show that racism is clearly in play in how some senior intelligence analysts view the Muslim community. This is clear given NSA officials used an example to instruct agents on how to properly record Muslims under surveillance in their files under the title of “Mohammed Raghead.”

In response, a White House spokesperson said that the usage of the slur is “unacceptable and inconsistent with the country’s core values.”

Condemning the use of slurs and seeking to eliminate their usage in official government programs is fine and dandy. My major concern pertains to the pervasive spying of the American Muslim community and its leadership, which is informed upon in part due to bias, not just using slurs in official government databases.

Last, such surveillance has a basic chilling effect on citizens’ religious practice and political engagement.

As in the era of former FBI head J. Edgar Hoover during the 1960s and early 1970s, activists’ intimate communications are being captured by government.

History shows that our intelligence services have used embarrassing moments in the leaders’ personal lives as a form of blackmail.

This tactic was used against Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. pertaining to his extra-marital relations. More recently, an informant in California named Craig Monteilh used pillow talk with Muslim women on behalf of the FBI.

People may fear not getting involved in religious organizations or in forms of political dissent out of fear that a personal indiscretion could be used against them by their own government. This did not happen in the case of the five Muslims in the highlight in the story, but easily could have given different circumstances.

The KGB-style surveillance informed by the political and religious persuasions of American citizens must end. I hope that these recent revelations with spark more discussions by the public and in Congressional hearings, which leads to true NSA and FBI surveillance reform.

Perhaps this all may be sorted out in federal court, given that these five men have what appears to be strong legal standing to bring forth a lawsuit.

Congress must reform FBI use of informants

AUG 6, 2013, 3:14 PM


Congress must hold hearings to reform federal law enforcements’ clandestine use of informants.

A recent Freedom of Information Act request, filed by USA Today, revealed what civil liberties advocates and many criminal defense attorneys have long known – that the FBI and other federal entities have misused informants in investigating potential criminal activities. In 2011, the FBI gave informants permission to break the law over 5,600 times. That comes to 15 times per day. That does not even include informants breaking the law without informing their handlers.

Other federal agencies, including the ATF and DEA, claim that they do not know how many times permission was given for their informants to break that law. This astounding admission should worry us all.

Most informants are not patriotic citizens working with law enforcement to make our society more secure. Many are criminals who engage in further criminal activities to get their own criminal charges lowered or dismissed (usually earning money in the process). Some immigrants feel pressured to act as informants out of fear of deportation. Driven by the desire to get charges dropped, to make money, or anxiety over being deported, informants can easily drift into acting as agent-provocateurs.

One such example is career criminal Craig Monteilh, who acted as an informant in the Muslim community in Southern California. His behavior among Muslim youth provoked so much suspicion that the Muslim community contacted CAIR, which then reported him to law enforcement. The FBI, however, did nothing because Monteilh was on their payroll. He eventually blew his own cover in claiming that the FBI did not pay him all of his provocateur wages.

The ACLU and CAIR sued the FBI regarding the unconstitutionality of using informants in this manner, but a judge threw out the case after the government found that revealing how the FBI uses these criminals could cause “significant harm to national security.”

Federal law enforcement is not only concealing from Congress its protocols for informants but is also invoking national security as a means to circumvent the law. Law and order cannot be truly served in our nation by the government encouraging and hiding the deliberate breaking of the law.

These latest revelations should be a wake-up call to Congress to not only hold hearings but to also pass legislation checking federal law enforcement’s use of informants. Without breaks on such practices, we risk the FBI operating against American values – and like secret police in other nations.

NSA snooping erodes American values

My discussion on yesterday’s “Hard Knock Radio” Pacifica Radio from California with DJ Davey D.


JUN 11, 2013, 9:30 AM 

NSA snooping erodes American value


Recent revelations that the National Security Agency (NSA) and FBI have been involved in widespread collection of Verizon customers phone records – as well as communications from nine internet providers – has sent shockwaves across the country.Programs which started under the guise of counterterrorism during the Bush administration have mushroomed past simple information gathering on potential threats to mass collection of data on citizens.

“You can’t have 100 percent security, and then have 100 percent privacy,”  says President Obama, a defender and advancer of such programs, in defending broad government snooping. He also used the word “inconvenience” regarding the government having access to our private e-mails, pictures and Skype conversations.

The primary characteristic that separates free societies from totalitarian ones is that citizens need not worry if their governments are monitoring their every move without predication of criminal behavior.

The framers of the Constitution had foresight in this matter.

The Fourth Amendment was written to protect us from unreasonable searches and seizures unless probable causes exist.  It’s this principle of freedom that differentiates our legal framework from other nations.  Sadly, we are witnessing a steady erosion of these freedoms in the name of security.

Congressman Mike Rogers, R-Michigan, says a single attack was thwarted due to this obtuse collection of phone records.  I wish Rogers would share this information, so we can access the validity of this statement.  The fundamental question is: Are we as Americans willing to live in the land of the Orwellian in the name of feeling more secure?  East Germany was a very secure country from extremist attacks, and North Korea is likewise today.  No one that I know, however, is willing to live in such conditions for the sake of feeling secure.

Congressman Justin Amash, R-Michigan, wrote a bipartisan Congressional member letter to the heads of the NSA and FBI seeking questions regarding this broad information gathering given that the legal statute for such is confined to foreign intelligence purposes, not domestic.  Amash and other Congressmen should push for hearings into the scope and legality of such activities by the NSA and FBI.

“Those who give up their liberty for more security neither deserve liberty nor security,”  Benjamin Franklin famously stated.

We have real threats that face our nation, but the erosion of our freedoms is a greater threat to our national soul than any enemy, foreign or domestic.

I hope that our discussions on this issue in the coming weeks can be focused on the nature of contemporary government surveillance and the costs both fiscally and constitutionally to our republic.  Long conversations about NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden – and if certain papers should have released info on NSA and FBI mass data collection – are distractions from the real issues.


11 Members of Congress Demand Civil Rights Audit of Border Patrol

Today from the Craig Fahle Show:

Director of Alliance for Immigrants Rights and Reform Ryan Bates, Christian Ramirez, Human Rights Director at Alliance San Diego and the Executive Director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Dawud Walid will join Craig to discuss the Civil Rights Audit that was requested by eleven members of Congress.

The Civil Rights Audit for FBI Customs Enforcement and ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) is relating to accusations of religious profiling and mistreatment. The investigation is the result of nearly two years of complaints.

Click here to listen.