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Illusion of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in US Terrorism Prosecutions - Part 11


A Report by Human Rights Watch

July 21, 2014

VII. Law Enforcement Relations with American Muslim Communities

Since the 9/11 attacks, successive US administrations have said that they are seeking to build relationships with American Muslim community leaders and groups, as they are critical sources of information to prevent terrorist plots. They have also said that they seek to help build American Muslim communities’ sense of cohesion and trust in law enforcement, to counter violent extremism. Many of the policies and practices we have described in this report, however, run counter to these purported goals: in some communities, they have generated fear of interacting with law enforcement.

Community Outreach and Countering Violent Extremism

“If the public understands the FBI’s mission and views the FBI as cooperative and trustworthy, they are more likely to report a crime, return a telephone call or respond positively to being approached by an FBI agent,” FBI official Brett Hovington told Congress in March 2010, in explaining the FBI’s outreach with American Muslim communities.[733] The FBI and other parts of the Justice Department have promoted this vision of community-law enforcement partnerships by, for example, creating local advisory boards and meeting with local community groups.[734]

This vision was in some ways expanded with the White House’s adoption in August 2011 of a strategy paper on “Countering Violent Extremism” (CVE).[735] The stated goal of CVE is to “support and help empower American communities and their local partners in their grassroots efforts to prevent violent extremism,” including by “strengthening cooperation with local law enforcement.”[736] The Department of Homeland Security and DOJ were tasked with cultivating strong relationships with American Muslim communities throughout the country through community roundtables and presentations.[737]

The White House’s December 2011 “Strategic Implementation Plan” suggests that communities’ sense of cohesion and trust in law enforcement is critical to countering violent extremism:

Violent extremist narratives espouse a rigid division between “us” and “them”... Activities that reinforce our shared sense of belonging and productive interactions between government and the people undercut this narrative and emphasize through our actions that we are all part of the social fabric of America. As President Obama emphasized, when discussing Muslim Americans in the context of Al-Qaeda’s attempts to divide us, “we don’t differentiate between them and us. It’s just us.”[738]

Fears of Surveillance and Targeting in American Muslim Communities

Despite this rhetorical commitment against stigmatizing American Muslim communities, many of the investigatory and prosecution practices described in this report undermine the vision and goals of “Countering Violent Extremism” and community outreach by generating a fear among communities that law enforcement views them with generalized suspicion and is monitoring their ordinary behavior.[739]

“This community is under siege,” said Tom Nelson, an attorney with several clients in Portland, Oregon’s American Muslim community. “And even if they’re not under siege, they think they are.”[740] In Dallas, Texas, Khalil Meek of the Muslim Legal Foundation Association said, “the community has an absolutely healthy feeling that everything it does is monitored.”[741]

We visited seven mosques around the country. At some mosques, congregants were initially suspicious of us and appeared alarmed by any mention of terrorism or law enforcement. Some mosque leaders told us that their communities had not been impacted by high-profile prosecutions and that they maintained cordial and frank relationships with law enforcement. Yet, in many mosques, we repeatedly heard suspicions of surveillance. Some of these accounts would have smacked of exaggerated suspicion were it not for the undeniable reality of government surveillance policies.

Many mosque congregants described what they believed were signs of surveillance by local law enforcement or the FBI: unmarked cars parked outside of the mosque, unknown individuals writing down license plate numbers of cars parked at the mosque, or even showing up to hear Friday sermons and introducing themselves to other congregants and offering to help with jobs, loans or charity work.

Many people told us they believed that informants were eavesdropping on their conversations. Some expressed fear that informants were targeting Muslim youth—encouraging them to split off from the main congregation, form their own groups and detach themselves from mosque elders and leaders.[742] Advocates who work with Muslim communities told us that the fear of informants posing as fellow Muslims was damaging communities’ sense of safety and internal cohesion. The fear exists for everyone, from mosque leaders “to people who just go to Friday prayer,” said Mohamed Sabur, an attorney at the organization Muslim Advocates who regularly speaks with mosque and community leaders in California and the Pacific Northwest region. “[W]hether it’s people approaching other people in mosques, or in gyms, or elsewhere…[it] leaves no space in the Muslim community where there is trust.”[743]

Investigations and prosecutions involving local religious leaders have had a chilling effect on some communities we visited. For example, at Masjid as-Salam in Albany, New York, the FBI raided the mosque in connection with the investigation of its imam, Yassin Aref (see section II). After the raid, there was “a tremendous amount of fear and anger from the Muslim community,” said mosque president, Dr. Shamshad Ahmad. There was a perception that the government was coming after “religious, simple minded people, and [people] thought that this was a blanket movement so people became scared.”[744]

Damage to American Muslim Community Institutions

The US government says it considers mainstream American Muslim community institutions to be natural bulwarks against violent extremist ideology, and says it aims to strengthen them.[745] Yet, in some communities, the government’s counterterrorism practices are driving people away from mosques and other community spaces.[746]

Many individuals described a generalized anxiety and a fear that they put themselves at risk of law enforcement surveillance and targeting whenever they engaged with Muslim and community institutions, for example, by attending mosque, contributing to charity organizations, volunteering or helping organize community events. They reported that this fear had, during some periods, driven them or their acquaintances to avoid expressing political opinions or engaging in basic religious practices such as group prayer. (However, other community members said that mosque attendance was not significantly affected by possible surveillance or other practices.)[747]

Some community members said that fears of surveillance and informant infiltration had negatively transformed the quality of the mosque—from a place of spiritual sanctuary and community togetherness to a place where they had to be on their guard, watch what they said, with whom they spoke, and even how often they attended services.[748]

Muslim Advocates attorney Sabur meets regularly with Muslim communities across the country. He told us that American Muslims are more reluctant than ever to give to charity. “Eleven years after 9/11, things are engrained in the community. Some people go to the extent to not give to any Muslim cause. They don’t want to risk being scrutinized after the fact. After all, $150 million to one organization led to a 20-year investigation.”[749] (Referring to the investigation of the Holy Land Foundation—see section III).

Damage to Community-Law Enforcement Trust

Some American Muslims are reluctant to engage with law enforcement because they believe it could lead to their being arbitrarily targeted—either to become an informant, or to be prosecuted. As a result, they are wary of talking with law enforcement, which can have ramifications for their willingness to report a crime or fully cooperate in bona fide terrorism investigations.

American Muslims are most likely to engage with the FBI in two settings: in FBI “voluntary interviews” (visits to their homes, schools, and places of work) or in their own cultural or religious spaces. FBI agents have in some cases presented their attendance at mosque or cultural events, or their visits to individuals’ homes and schools, as “community outreach”—friendly and casual—but instead collected intelligence on the behaviors of law-abiding American Muslim individuals and communities.[750] This runs counter to the FBI’s own policy of separating investigation work from community outreach.[751]It has the effect of tainting all FBI community partnership efforts as insincere, and fuels the perception that the FBI views all American Muslims as inherently suspect.[752] It also drives speculation within communities that the FBI is taking advantage of their willingness to engage to perform clandestine investigations and ultimately build prosecutions against vulnerable community members.

Perhaps most damaging to community-law enforcement trust is that in parts of the country the FBI has pressured law-abiding individuals to become informants within their own communities—that is, to provide information on friends and community members. While there is no recent and large-scale study of these incidents, some American Muslims have described them as involving intimidation and harassment.

For example, the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) told us that since May 2012, it has received as many as three complaints each week from individuals the FBI allegedly approached to act as informants, typically in the Somali-American community. Saly M. Abd Alla, civil rights director at CAIR-Minnesota, recalled a recent case in which the FBI approached a 17-year-old student and offered to get him a “nice smartphone.”[753] Abd Alla added that in some cases, the FBI uses coercive tactics to get informants, for example, by threatening to stall their asylum application.

Journalists, local NGOs and national advocacy groups have also reported numerous cases where the FBI used pending immigration-related applications, immigration violations or placement on a “no-fly” list as leverage to pressure individuals to become informants.[754] Some advocates have raised concerns that the FBI is particularly targeting youth to become informants.[755] Such tactics are not unique to the terrorism context, and are a long-standing practice in drug cases involving immigrant communities.[756] The FBI has denied these allegations, arguing that it is prohibited from using threats or coercion.[757] Some reports suggest the FBI does not use direct threats, but retaliates against individuals who refuse to become informants.[758]

Grand jury investigations, which can have consequences that reach far beyond the individuals who are ultimately indicted, have also contributed to mistrust. For example, some of the mistrust in the Muslim community in Minnesota stems from a lengthy grand jury investigation into several Somali-American youth believed to have traveled to Somalia to fight with Al-Shabaab, a Somali militant group with ties to Al-Qaeda.[759] The case against Amina Ali and Hawa Hassan (see section IV) stemmed in part from that grand jury investigation.

The Holy Land Foundation case included a list of 245 unindicted co-conspirators, including mainstream Muslim organizations such as CAIR. [760] Although the list of unindicted co-conspirators was confidential, it was leaked to the public. [761] The naming of the co-conspirators had wide-ranging consequences. The FBI, which previously worked closely with CAIR, dropped its formal association.[762]

In this context of distrust, some members of communities may view leaders and others who cooperate with the FBI as disconnected from their concerns. Ashraf Nubani, a Muslim lawyer based in Virginia who often speaks to national Muslim audiences at religious and cultural meetings across the country, said some community members might see Muslim leaders “hosting Iftar dinners” with government guests as “Uncle Toms” when the FBI later holds up the arrest of a teenager as “catching a big terrorist.”[763]

In the worst cases, communities come to view Muslim leaders who cooperate with the FBI as unable or unwilling to protect them.[764] Sahar Aziz, a former civil rights advisor at DHS, warned that government use of community outreach to gather intelligence about Muslim communities, among other factors, is driving genuine leaders away, leaving the government to engage with “purported leaders of no repute within the communities and willing to tell the government whatever it wants to hear.”[765]

Necessary Alternatives

Many community members and advocates—including some who maintained close, cooperative relationships with local law enforcement and FBI field offices—told us they were bewildered at the government’s choice to use surveillance and informants in mosques to track a community member believed to pose a terrorist threat, instead of approaching community leaders about it.

They questioned the government’s devotion of resources to investigation and prosecution, instead of to supporting community and religious institutions to detect and address pathways to crime, for example, through funding counseling and social services.

Some community advocates expressed frustration at the lack of government investment in community support. A few weeks after the government indicted 19-year-old Adel Daoud, who had been a student at a local Islamic school when undercover FBI agents began communicating online with him about planning a terrorist attack, we spoke with a Muslim community-based advocate in Chicago: “These kids don’t wake up one day and decide ‘I’m going to blow society up,’” she said, pointing out that they may have problems and start exploring extremist websites, just as they might turn to drugs. The advocate told us she had approached various government agencies about funding for social services. “You cannot direct your attacks and assaults on this community and not invest in infrastructure for this community.”[766]

Corey Saylor of CAIR echoed calls for a counseling- and social service-based approach:

Many of these kids are salvageable when they first come to the attention of law enforcement. We could send an imam in and snap the kid back straight. That would be better than an informant walking him down the path, providing the means. I have no sympathy for someone who thinks they're pushing the button. But it never should have gotten there. Intervention can work. There are examples. When they’re introduced to a mentor, a friend who has influence, instead of surfing around on the Internet—instead of violent extremists and undercover law enforcement. Some of these kids can be saved.[767]

There are significant reasons to be cautious about involving law enforcement in such interventions.[768] Yet the FBI’s activities cut off any possibility of such an approach and contribute to a climate of fear, undermining the efforts of other federal agencies that engage with American Muslim communities.

The UK’s Channel program involves local government authorities, community members and organizations from the education sector, social services, and children’s and youth services, for social services-based interventions to identify and prevent “extremism.” It was established in 2007 as part of a larger program to prevent “radicalization” and “extremism” among UK Muslims.[769] It has significant problems, including troubling reports that the UK has used these programs to gather intelligence from community organizations, effectively making the programs a “cover” for surveillance.[770] Yet Channel also illustrates the potential for community support as an alternative to prosecutions.[771] Individuals who are referred to the Channel program are not prosecuted. The program has received about 2,500 cases since it was established.[772]

In the US, there are at least a handful of cases where the government adopted a “soft intervention” approach and referred individuals to local community partners.[773] These past cases also show the feasibility of alternatives to abusive investigation and prosecutions. Yet any approach that involves the FBI and targets individuals based on their religious beliefs or political opinions raises serious concerns about respect for the freedom of expression.[774] Rights-respecting interventions could be community-driven and based on community institutions such as mosques and schools.

While federal officials increasingly recognize the importance of developing such alternatives, the reality is that counterterrorism efforts, including surveillance and the use of informants, cause such significant harm to community-law enforcement trust that they may understandably deter communities from accepting any government support. Mosque and community leaders may also be reluctant to engage with youth and other members they identify as at risk of committing a crime, out of fear that they will be tainted by association and come under government scrutiny themselves. This underscores that the success of CVE depends in large part on the government limiting the use of informants and undercover agents and ending overbroad material support prosecutions.

In addition, the government should recognize that focusing CVE on American Muslim communities is stigmatizing and unwarranted. Indeed, various ideologies and social dynamics—not only Al Qaeda inspired extremism—have resulted in domestic terrorism in recent years.[775] As a former US official explained, the current approach “risks perpetuating the ‘us-versus-them’ dichotomy that the White House is trying to overcome,” because the subtext is, “You Muslims are a potential threat and we, the government have to co-opt you.”[776]

The government should not “try to make officers into religious experts or narrow their sensory field by focusing them on only one of dozens of strains of terrorism they might encounter.”[777]

Ultimately, the best approach to terrorism prevention may be to have a truly community-driven approach that focuses on addressing a wide array of threats, rather than merely one possibility.[778]

[733] “Working with Communities to Disrupt Terror Plots,” Brett Hovington, Chief, Community Relations Unit, Office of Public Affairs, Federal Bureau of Investigation, statement before the House Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing, and Terrorism Risk Assessment, Washington, DC, March 17, 2010, transcript at (accessed July 1, 2014).

[734] One positive result is the development of culturally and religiously sensitive guidelines for the FBI’s arrest practices. Moreover, several U.S. Attorneys have publicly written or spoken out against stigmatization and vilification of Muslim communities, and sometimes they have sent powerful messages of support by investigating and prosecuting hate crimes. See Todd Jones, US Attorney for the District of Minnesota, “Arab and Muslim Engagement: Countering Violent Extremism through Community-Based Approaches,” (accessed July 1, 2014); Curtis Morgan, “Feds work to build trust with Muslim community,” Miami Herald, May 16, 2011, (accessed June 26, 2014).

[735] Executive Office of the President of the United States, “Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States,” August 1, 2011, (accessed July 1, 2014), introduction.

[736] Ibid.

[737] Sahar F. Aziz, “Protecting Rights as a Counterterrorism Tool: The Case of American Muslims,” September 10, 2012, (accessed June 20, 2014).

[738] Executive Office of the President of the United States, “Strategic Implementation Plan for Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States,” December 1, 2011, (accessed June 19, 2014), p. 8; see also, Benjamin B. Wagner, US Attorney for the Eastern District of California, “United Front is Best Against Terrorism,” Merced Sun-Star, April 9, 2011, (accessed July 1, 2014).

[739] Our research, conducted in communities perhaps most likely to be fearful because of the publicized arrests and prosecutions of local Muslims, corroborates other reports by media and NGOs documenting fear of law enforcement. See, e.g., Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition (MACLC), Creating Law Enforcement Accountability and Responsibility (CLEAR) project and Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), “Mapping Muslims: NYPD Spying and its Impact on American Muslims,” March 11, 2013, (accessed June 30, 2014), p. 29; Paul Vitello and Kirk Semple, “Muslims Say F.B.I. Tactics Sow Anger and Fear,” New York Times, December 18, 2009, (accessed June 26, 2014); Alejandro J. Beutel, “Muslim Americans and US Law Enforcement: Not Enemies, But Vital Partners,” Christian Science Monitor, December 30, 2009, (accessed June 26, 2014); Nick Meyer, “US Attorney General Holder Addresses Detroit Community, Arabs, Muslims,” New America Media, November 24, 2009, (accessed June 26, 2014); Jerry Markon, “Tension Grows Between Calif. Muslims, FBI after informant infiltrates mosque,” Washington Post, December 5, 2010, (accessed June 26, 2014); Teresa Watanabe and Paloma Esquivel, “L.A. area Muslims say FBI surveillance has a chilling effect on their speech and religious practices,” Los Angeles Times, March 1, 2009, (accessed June 26, 2014); Jacqueline L. Salmon, “Muslim American Leaders at Odds Over FBI Contact,” Washington Post, March 28, 2009, (accessed June 26, 2014).

[740] Human Rights Watch interview with Tom Nelson, Portland, Oregon, August 13, 2012

[741] Columbia Law School's Human Rights Institute interview with Khalid Meek, Richardson, Texas, July 26, 2012.

[742] Muslim leaders have also described fears about the targeting of youth in media articles. See Alejandro J. Beutel, “Muslim Americans and U.S. Law Enforcement: Not Enemies, But Vital Partners,” Christian Science Monitor, December 30, 2009, (accessed June 26, 2014).

[743] Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute email correspondence with Mohamed Sabur, Muslim Advocates, November 8, 2012.

[744] Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute interview with Shamshad Ahmad, president of Masjid as-Salam, Albany, New York, June 20, 2012. In another example, at Oregon’s largest mosque, Masjed As-Saber, the FBI has reportedly put at least five men affiliated with the mosque, including its longtime religious leader, on a no-fly list. “There’s this sense of nervousness…No one knows who’s secretly the FBI,” one congregant said. Helen Jung, “Masjed As-Saber, Oregon Mosque Under FBI Scrutiny,” Religion News Service, June 17, 2012, (accessed June 26, 2014).

[745] According to “Preventing Violent Extremism,” “Countering radicalization to violence is frequently best achieved by engaging and empowering individuals and groups at the local level to build resilience against violent extremism. Law enforcement plays an essential role in keeping us safe, but so too does engagement and partnership with communities.” Executive Office of the President of the United States, “Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States” August 1, 2011, (accessed June 19, 2014), p. 2.

[746] Ibid

[747] Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute interview with Mariam Abu Ali, July 13, 2012; Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute interview with Khalid Meek, Richardson, Texas July 26, 2012; Human Rights Watch and Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute interview with Daoud Ali, October 5, 2012; Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute interview with Fatima Sarwar, Chicago, Illinois, October 8, 2012.

[748] Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute interview with Leila Yaghi, Raleigh, North Carolina, October 14, 2012; Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute interview with Fatima Sarwar, Chicago, Illinois, October 8, 2012; Human Rights Watch and Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute interview with Imam Shaker Elsayed, July 13, 2012; Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute interview with Shamshad Ahmed, Albany, New York, July 21, 2012. Charity and community groups have also reported having a harder time recruiting volunteers due to the climate of fear. American Civil Liberties Union, Blocking Faith, Freezing Charity: Chilling Muslim Charitable Giving in the “War on Terrorism Financing (New York: ACLU, June 2009), (accessed June 30, 2014), p. 69; Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute phone interview with Jennifer Turner, ACLU Human Rights Program, August 22, 2012.

[749] Columbia Law School's Human Rights Institute email correspondence with Mohamed Sabur, Muslim Advocates, November 8, 2012.

[750] Multiple sources, including former and current government officials, told us that when the FBI attends or organizes events under the banner of “community outreach,” it sometimes gathers information on communities that it uses as intelligence, that is, to feed into analyses of radicalization and extremism, and as potential bases for investigations into particular individuals. Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute interview with (name and date withheld); Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute interview with (name and date withheld); see also, Sahar Aziz, “Protecting Rights as a Counterterrorism Tool: The Case of American Muslims.” Suspicions of the FBI’s misuse of community outreach that we heard from local activists and community organizations are difficult to corroborate by their nature, but there is strong documentary evidence regarding incidences in San Francisco where FBI agents who participated in community outreach events recorded notes on presentations and sermons at mosques and conversations at community and religious dinners. Though the FBI agents presented their efforts to outsiders as part of an outreach program, some of the information gathered was stored in FBI intelligence files, according to documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by the ACLU. See ACLU, “Community Outreach as Intelligence Gathering,” December 1, 2011, (accessed June 26, 2014).

[751] FBI policy requires that “the data regarding outreach contact should be kept separate from other databases where liaison information is stored.” See FBI National Press Office, “Response to ACLU Report on FBI’s Community Outreach Program,” Federal Bureau of Investigation press release, December 1, 2011, (accesed June 26, 2014).

[752] For a critical analysis, see Amna Akbar, “Policing ‘Radicalization,’” UC Irvine Law Review, vol. 3, no. 4 (December 2013).

[753] Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute phone interview with Saly M. Abd Alla, Civil Rights Director, CAIR-Minnesota, April 9, 2013.

[754] See, e.g., Trevor Aaronson, The Terror Factory (Brooklyn, New York: Ig Publishing, 2013), p. 99-100; Samreen Hooda, “Muslims On No-Fly List Now Suing FBI, Pressured to be Informants,” Huffington Post, May 17, 2012, (accessed June 26, 2104); Peter Waldman, “A Muslim’s Choice: Turn U.S. Informant or Risk Losing Visa,” Wall Street Journal, July 11, 2006, (accessed June 26, 2014); Shirin Sadeghi, “U.S. Citizen Put on No-Fly List to Pressure Him Into Becoming FBI Informant,” Truthout, June 12, 2012, (accessed June 26, 2014); Christian Farr and BJ Lutz, “Case of Marine on No-Fly List Not Isolated: CAIR,” NBC Chicago, March 22, 2011, (accessed June 26, 2014); “FBI Looking at Somali Man’s Intimidation Complaint,” Associated Press, January 30, 2013, (accessed June 26, 2014); Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Greater Los Angeles Area Chapter, “The FBI’s Use of Informants, Recruitment and Intimidation within Muslim Communities: Annotated Source List: News Articles and Cases Reported to CAIR,” March 26, 2009, (accessed June 26, 2014), p. 1.

[755] See, e.g., Alejandro J. Beutel, “Muslim Americans and U.S. Law Enforcement: Not Enemies, But Vital Partners,” Christian Science Monitor, December 30, 2009, (accessed June 26, 2014).

[756] See Colleen Melody, “Trading Information for Safety: Immigrant Informants, Federal Law-Enforcement Agents, and the Viability of Non-Deportation Agreements,” Washington Law Review, vol. 83, no. 4 (November 2008), p. 599.

[757] Aaronson, The Terror Factory, p. 100 (quoting FBI spokesperson Kathleen Wright)

[758] For example, a Somali man approached by the FBI to become an informant reported that he was threatened by them, and shortly after their initial contact visit was fired from his job. “Muslim Group Seeks DOJ Probe of FBI 'Retaliation' in Minnesota,” Council on American-Islamic Rlations (CAIR) press release, February 18, 2013, (accessed June 30, 2014).

[759] Andrea Elliott, “A Call to Jihad, Answered in America,” New York Times, July 11, 2009, (accessed June 30, 2014).

[760] Government's Trial Brief, Attachment A, United States v. Holy Land Found., 722 F.3d 677 (5th Cir. 2013) (No. 3:04-CR-0240-P).

[761] Ibid.; “U.S. Muslim Coalition Considers Suspending Relations with FBI,” PRNewswire news release, March 17, 2009, (accessed June 30, 2014); see also, Paloma Esquivel, “Some Influential Muslim Groups Question FBI’s Actions,” Los Angeles Times, April, 20 2009, (accessed June 26, 2014).

[762] US Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General, Evaluation and Inspections Division, “Review of FBI Interactions with the Council on American-Islamic Relations,” report no. I-2013-007R (September 2013), (accessed July 11, 2014), p.1. The effects also reached beyond the US. One of the unindicted co-conspirators was a Canadian charity, the International Relief Fund for the Afflicted and Needy (Canada) (IRFAN-Canada). In a Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) audit of IRFAN that started in 2008, the CRA cited the HLF list of unindicted co-conspirators as a factor in questioning IRFAN-Canada’s previous representation that it was not aware of any credible allegation that organizations with which it worked were connected to Hamas. See Chloé Fedio, “Former charity funded terror group: federal audit,” Toronto Star, April 15, 2011, June 24, 2014).No criminal charges were ever brought and CRA concluded its first audit action against IRFAN-Canada in late December 2004 without adverse outcome. In 2008, CRA commenced a second audit of IRFAN-Canada which continued until 2011, with CRA alleging, among other things, that the charity redistributed funds collected for other issues and sent them to the West Bank and Gaza. In a letter to IRFAN-Canada’s lawyers in 2010, CRA noted that “court documents released during the successful 2008 conviction in the United States of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) on terrorist financing charges named IRFAN-Canada on a list of unindicted co-conspirators considered to be ‘entities that are and/or were part of the Global Hamas financing mechanism.’” See Letter from Charities Directorate, Canada Revenue Agency, to Carters Professional Corporation, December 14, 2010 (on file with Human Rights Watch).CRA considered this a factor in questioning IRFAN-Canada’s previous representation that it was not aware of any credible allegation that organizations with which it worked were connected to Hamas. In 2011, IRFAN-Canada lost its charitable status. On April 29, 2014, IRFAN-Canada was declared a terrorist entity; IRFAN-Canada’s appeal of the denial of its charitable status is on hold due to its recent designation. See US Department of Justice, Office of Inspector General, Evaluation and Inspections Division, “Executive Summary: Review of FBI Interactions with the Council on American-Islamic Relations,” no. I-2013-007R (September 2005), (accessed July 9, 2014), p. 1

[763] Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute interview with Ashraf Nubani, Vienna, Virginia, September 20, 2012.

[764] As a 2013 study put it: “[B]ecause individuals who are prominent in the American Muslim community, or perceived to be leaders, are often primary candidates for [FBI] interviews, there is also an assumption that community leaders are compromised.” MACLC, “Mapping Muslims: NYPD Spying and its Impact on American Muslims,” March 11, 2013, (accessed June 30, 2014), p. 29.

[765] Sahar F. Aziz, “Protecting Rights as a Counterterrorism Tool: The Case of American Muslims,” (accessed July 13, 2014); see also, “Federal Civil Rights Engagement with Arab and Muslim American Communities Polst 9/11,” Sahar F. Aziz, written testimony before the US Commission on Civil Rights, Washington, DC, November 9, 2012, testimony at (accessed June 30, 2014).

[766] Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute interview with (name withheld), Chicago, Illinois, October 10, 2013.

[767] Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute phone Interview with Corey Saylor, national legislative director for CAIR National, February 14, 2012.

[768] See Arun Kundnani, Spooked! How Not to Prevent Violent Extremism (London: Institute of Race Relations, 2009), (accessed June 30, 2014), pp. 28-34 (“What is at issue is whether professionals providing non-policing local services, such as youth workers and teachers, should be expected to routinely provide information to the counter-terrorist police not just on individuals who might be ‘at risk’ of committing a criminal offence but also on the political and religious opinions of young people, and the dynamics of the local Muslim community as a whole.”).

[769] United Kingdom Secretary of State for the Home Department, Prevent Strategy (London: The Stationary Office, June 2011), (accessed July 10, 2014).

[770] See House of Commons, Communities and Local Government Committee, Preventing Violent Extremism: Sixth Report of Session 2009-10 (London: The Stationary Office Limited, 2010), (accessed June 30, 2014).

[771] The UK Association of Chief Police Officers describes Channel as using “early interventions to protect and divert people away from the risk [of committing terrorist-related activity] they face before illegality occurs.” “Channel – Protecting Vulnerable People from Being Drawn Into Terrorism,” Association of Chief Police Officers,; Channel is part of a wider government strategy for preventing violent extremism known as Prevent. “Protecting the UK against terrorism,” last modified March 26, 2013 Prevent was updated in 2011 following significant criticism. See, “Updated anti-extremism strategy,” BBC News Online, June 8, 2011, (accessed June 26, 2014).

[772] Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute interview with Arun Kundnani, New York, April 8, 2013; see also, Kundnani, Spooked!; Arun Kundnani, “Still Spooked,” IRR News Service, July 7, 2011, (accessed June 30, 2014). One danger of the Channel program is that community and organization partners may be pressured to provide information to the government not just about individuals who might be “at risk” of committing a criminal offense, but about the political and religious opinions of local communities and their members, which may be used as intelligence. The government may also use Channel to collect information from referred individuals to prosecute their friends or relatives. Furthermore, although the police purport to refer only serious cases to the Prevent program, referrals are based on activity, such as visiting extremist websites or making political statements, which may raise freedom of expression concerns.

[773]Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute interview with (name withheld), February 24, 2012; Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute phone Interview with (name withheld), February 14, 2012.

[774] Some advocates question whether the FBI would use “soft interventions” as a pretext to gather information on communities and particular individuals, for the ultimate purpose of prosecutions. And others have noted that in the absence of a clear direction from the Department of Justice to regularize what is now an ad-hoc practice, FBI agents would face overwhelming pressure from their colleagues and other government agencies to take the risk-averse approach of investigation (for the purpose of prosecution).

[775] See Executive Office of the President of the United States, “Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States” August 1, 2011, (accessed June 19, 2014), p. 2. A focus on Al-Qaeda-inspired extremism and American Muslim communities finds that since 9/11, many acts of mass violence and terrorism in the United States have not been related to Al-Qaeda. One study estimates that there have been 33 terrorism-related fatalities in the United States in the 11 years since 9/11 involving Muslims; in comparison, there were 66 deaths from mass shootings by non-Muslims in 2012 alone. See Charles Kurzman, Muslim-American Terrorism: Declining Further, (Chapel Hill, North Carolina: Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, 2013), (accessed June 30, 2014). Another study notes that between 9/11 and 2012, more than 250 Americans have been killed in attacks by far-right individuals and groups, including white supremacists and Christian fundamentalists, and describes a “dramatic rise in the number of attacks and violent plots” inspired by far-right ideologies since 2007. Arie Perliger, Challengers from the Sidelines: Understanding America’s Violent Far‐Right (West Point, NY: Combating Terrorism Center, US Military Academy, 2013), p. 3, 100.

[776] Will McCants and Clinton Watts, “U.S. Strategy for Countering Violent Extremism: An Assessment,”Foreign Policy Research Institute E-Notes (December 2012), (accessed July 6, 2014). McCants is a former State Department senior adviser for Countering Violent Extremism, and Clinton Watts is a former FBI special agent on a Joint Terrorism Task Force.

679 McCants and Watts, “U.S. Strategy for Countering Violent Extremism: An Assessment,” Foreign Policy Research Institute E-Notes.

[778] As the Homeland Security Advisory Council put it in 2010, while “community-based law enforcement efforts hold great promise in preventing violent crime that is terrorism-related, that promise will be best realized when local authorities work with community members to understand and mitigate all threats facing local communities.” Homeland Security Advisory Council, “Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Working Group,” Spring 2010, (accessed July 6, 2014).

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