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FBI head defends mosque investigations

[JURIST] FBI Director Robert Mueller [official profile] said Monday that the FBI will continue investigating mosques when there may be evidence or information regarding criminal wrongdoings. Mueller's defense [AP report] of such investigations followed a complaint sent to US Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] from the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan [advocacy website] alleging that the FBI has been asking members of the Islamic community to spy on religious leaders and followers. The alleged conduct might be allowable under new attorney general guidelines [text, PDF] passed last year governing FBI investigations, which rights groups say open the door to racial and religious profiling [ACLU backgrounder]. Mueller's statement comes shortly after a May 25 Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] hearing on the oversight of the FBI [materials] where the bureau director was asked if mosques had been entered by FBI agents or informants. Mueller responded by saying that the agency focuses on individuals, not institutions.

In February, a man claimed [LA Times report] that he had been commissioned by the FBI to infiltrate several Orange County mosques. The informant had provided information to the agency regarding Ahmadulla Sais Niazi, a Muslim man accused of lying about his ties to al Qaeda. Last year, the FBI responded to criticism [press release] regarding alleged investigations into mosques and the Muslim community claiming that "the FBI [does not] have a surveillance program to monitor the constitutionally protected activities of houses of worship." Although Mueller has defended the new attorney general guidelines as a "necessary step" in fighting terrorism, the proposed guidelines were amended [JURIST reports] by the Justice Department last year before they came into effect to appease Congress and civil rights groups.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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