FBI conducts 'sweep' of Muslims in 8 states ahead of election day
Officials with the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), a civil rights organization for Muslims in the US, said that over the weekend, FBI agents visited the homes of Muslim-Americans in California, Florida, Kansas, Michigan, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington to ask if the individuals knew certain Al-Qaeda leaders killed in a recent US airstrike and if they knew anyone planning to harm Americans domestically or abroad, among other questions, according to CAIR reports and the Washington Post.
"The FBI actions . . . to conduct a sweep of American Muslim leaders the weekend before the election is completely outrageous and . . . borderline unconstitutional," Hassan Shibly, executive director of CAIR-Florida, told the Post. "That’s the equivalent of the FBI visiting churchgoing Christians because someone overseas was threatening to blow up an abortion clinic. It’s that preposterous and outrageous."
The FBI "sweep" over the weekend came immediately after anonymous US officials told CBS News that US intelligence had warned law enforcement around the nation — specifically in Texas, Virginia, and New York — that a possible Al-Qaeda-related attack could occur on the eve of American elections on November 8.
Most of the targeted Muslim-Americans were from Pakistani or Afghan descent, CAIR-Florida said in a press release.
"It was made apparent to us that the FBI has a list of a couple hundred people they are wanting to visit and ask a series of eight generic questions intended to drum up information about the attacks," Alia Salem, director of CAIR in North Texas, told the Dallas Morning News.
FBI officials in Dallas would not comment on the matter, the Morning News reported.
"Muslims, along with fellow Americans, are committed to doing their job in helping to make our community safer," Salem said. "That includes reporting suspicious activity. But for the Muslim community to be targeted as if we are guilty is inappropriate. If [law enforcement] wants to communicate with specific individuals, there should be no hindrance in doing that with an attorney."
FBI agents gave business cards with contact information to the interviewees, Shibly told the Post. He said he contacted the agents involved, who told him the series of questions came from FBI headquarters in Washington, DC.
None of the people interviewed were suspected of criminal activity nor were they under investigation, Shibly added.
"When FBI agents show up at your door, people are terrified," Shibly said. "It does more damage."
CAIR offices throughout the US warned Muslims over social media of the interviews and how to exercise their rights if the FBI arrives on their doorstep. The organization encouraged any Muslim who does receive a visit from the FBI to contact a CAIR office.