The Justice Department’s Inspector General should look into allegations that the FBI used the “guise” of outreach to Muslim communities to investigate various organizations, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said in a letter Thursday.
ACLU officials wrote that the FBI “has improperly targeted American Muslims and Americans of Arab, Middle Eastern, and South Asian descent, and their religious, community, cultural, and student organizations, and that it has violated the Privacy Act by recording and disseminating as intelligence, information about these innocent Americans’ First Amendment-protected speech and activities.”
The ACLU’s allegations are based on FBI memos they received from Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
“First, the FBI targeted American Muslims and Americans of Arab, Middle Eastern, and
South Asian origin for intelligence gathering under the guise of mosque or community outreach programs at mosques, community organizations, and college campuses, based on their religion or national origin,” the ACLU letter states. “Second, through these ‘outreach’ efforts… the FBI recorded intelligence about Americans’ religious beliefs and practices, associations, opinions, and expressive activities in violation of the Privacy Act.”
The DOJ Inspector General’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
An FBI official previously told TPM that the ACLU “may misunderstand the distinction between documentation for community outreach purposes and documentation to an investigative file” and said that some of the documents the ACLU published “relate to investigations, not to community outreach.”
Late update: A spokesman said the Inspector General’s office received the letter but had no comment.