Hassan Shibly | Special to the Tampa Tribune | 11/14/2014 [Read Original]
Regarding “Don’t stifle FBI’s terror effort” (Our Views, Nov. 7):
It is easy for editors who are not attorneys and have not
represented hundreds of victims of FBI abuse to give ill-informed legal
advice and advise the public to waive the constitutionally protected
right to have an attorney present when approached by the FBI.
America is one of the few nations in the world whose
Constitution assumes that the people should take precautions to hold the
government accountable. Exercising one’s constitutionally protected
right to have a lawyer present when approached by the FBI helps ensure
agents are behaving both constitutionally and efficiently. Meanwhile,
people who feel their rights are secured with legal counsel present will
have the confidence to be more open.
Our concern with the FBI selectively targeting the Muslim
community for interrogation and recruitment of agent provocateurs is
primarily because it has been documented that such profiling is
ineffective, a waste of resources and actually makes our nation less
safe and less free. Law enforcement must invest our limited public
resources conducting investigations based on probable cause, not
religious profiling. Having a lawyer present ensures that the FBI has a
legitimate investigative purpose for interrogating Americans and are not
acting based on politically acceptable biases that merely serve to
intimidate religious minorities and waste taxpayer dollars.
Even though the Trib failed to request any such evidence from
us, it claimed “there is no evidence local FBI agents have been
abusive.” I’ll wager that the Trib’s own police reporters would find
this assertion patently naïve. The Founders did not write the Bill of
Rights and then reject it because there was no evidence that the new
American government was going to be abusive.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has
documented how the FBI has targeted law-abiding American Muslims for
interrogation and coerced recruitment as agent provocateurs. According
to Trevor Aaronson, executive director of the Florida Center for
Investigative Journalism, such FBI tactics are similar to that used by
the Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO) against the
African-American civil rights movement decades ago and has included
engaging in blackmail, extortion and threats of harm to self, family and
friends. Coerced individuals are then forced into mosques to promote
radical violent extremism — using taxpayer dollars — to unstable and
mentally disturbed youths.
These programs are not only contrary to the protections
enshrined in the Constitution, but are ineffective and make our nation
less safe and less free. Even with the rise of Islamic State, those
engaging in acts of terrorism on U.S. soil have more often attended
churches or synagogue than mosques, and yet the FBI is not engaging in
similar tactics against the Christian or Jewish communities — nor should
Engaging in criminal plans should make one the subject of a
FBI investigation — not following a particular faith. When the FBI
wastes resources in questioning individuals who have engaged in no
wrongdoing, they may miss catching some of the overwhelming amount of
criminals and terrorists who have nothing to do with that faith.
The Trib used Sami Osmakac as an example. The Trib does not
mention that Osmakac would not have had the potential ability to harm
our community without facilitation by paid FBI agent provocateurs or
that in the same time frame several terrorist attacks were planned in
Tampa by disturbed youths who, unlike Osmakac, were not Muslim.
Selective targeting of a religious minority by the federal
government undermines the Constitution and harms America as a whole.
CAIR has documented how many FBI agents have received false training
that the entire Muslim community is a threat and that Muslims are not
entitled to First Amendment rights. In Florida and nationwide, the
Muslim community has often reported extremists espousing violence in
mosques who turned out to be paid FBI agent provocateurs. Examples such
as these abound.
Let us not forget that only last year an FBI agent who had a
documented history of beating up suspects and witnesses and falsifying
evidence, threatened several Orlando Muslims with false charges to
pressure them to become informants, and then shot in the back and killed
one of them after six hours of interrogation in their home three days
Counter-productive tactics that infringe upon the rights of
religious minorities are not necessary to keep our nation safe. American
Muslims are invested in the security of our nation and have a track
record of voluntary cooperation with law enforcement on the rare
occasion a threat should arise. Former FBI Director Robert Mueller told
the U.S. House Judiciary Committee that “many of our cases are a result
of the cooperation from the Muslim community in the United States.” The
U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida also has repeatedly
thanked the Muslim community for helping keep Florida safe.
We are not a nation of fearful people. Our rights are not
things to be cast aside because someone scary threatens us. Groups such
as IS strip people of their rights, and we should not do this in
America. If we willingly cast aside the liberty that previous
generations have bled for, then the terrorists win.
Just as taking precautionary measures to protect our security
is reasonable, taking precautionary measures to protect our rights is
also reasonable. That is why CAIR’s recommendation of having legal
counsel present when talking to law enforcement is the right balance.
Neither liberty nor security is sacrificed. Instead, both are protected.
Hassan Shibly, Esq., of Tampa is chief executive director of CAIR Florida.