Muslims fear FBI is spying in mosques

Queries about moles bring no answers 

By Dan Herbeck - 04/06/09 

A coalition of Muslim-American groups claims the FBI has been planting 
counterterrorism spies in mosques in some U. S. cities. 

Last month, 10 Muslim-American organizations threatened to stop working with 
the FBI on outreach efforts in the Muslim-American community. 

Dr. Khalid J. Qazi, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council of Western 
New York, said he is concerned about the situation and hopes the FBI provides 
some answers soon. 
"[Muslims] are asking questions, wondering if there are moles spying on mosques 
throughout the country," Qazi told The Buffalo News. "People ask me about it, 
and I have to tell them the honest truth - that I don't know if it's 

The controversy has been growing among Muslim-Americans since February, when an 
Irvine, Calif., fitness instructor named Craig Monteilh told reporters that the 
FBI paid him to infiltrate mosques in several communities in Southern 
California during an investigation conducted in 2006-07. 

Monteilh, a former convict, told the Associated Press that FBI agents had 
picked him up every morning for two weeks and took him to a building in Los 
Angeles where he learned some Arabic and learned about Islam. After that, he 
said, he infiltrated several mosques as an FBI informer. 

He claimed that Ahmadullah Niazi, 34, of Irvine, offered to help Monteilh 
attend a terrorist training camp in Yemen or Afghanistan. Niazi was charged 
last month with perjury, misuse of a passport and other federal crimes. The FBI 
alleged that he is related to a bodyguard for al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. 

So far, the FBI has refused to confirm or deny reports that Monteilh had been 
hired to infiltrate mosques. 

Qazi said the lack of a public explanation by the FBI is a concern to him and 
other American Muslim leaders who have been working with law enforcement 
agencies since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. 

In January 2007, Qazi's organization received a community leadership award from 
the FBI for maintaining a dialogue with law enforcement and for organizing 
public meetings on airline profiling, border policies and other issues. 

"Those of us who are working proactively with law enforcement, the FBI needs to 
give us a reason for what happened in this case in California," Qazi said. "So 
far, they are giving us no explanation, so we have nothing to tell people in 
our own community about what happened." 

Last month, the American Muslim Task Force on Civil Rights and Elections 
accused the FBI of "McCarthy-era tactics" that are "detrimental to a free 
society." Qazi is a board member of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, which is 
part of the task force. 

He said the Muslim Public Affairs Council asked the national FBI office last 
month for an explanation of what happened in the California case but so far has 
not received one. 
Have federal agents ever infiltrated any mosque in Western New York? 

Qazi said he does not know. "I think people in any religious faith would be 
upset if they felt they were being spied upon," Qazi said. 

Daniel Bodony, a Buffalo FBI spokesman, said he could not comment on the 
California case. But he said he was not aware of the Buffalo FBI office ever 
sending informers into a mosque, church or any other religious institution. 

"Unless there was some specific criminal activity that we were investigating, 
which was going on inside the mosque or church, it is something we would avoid 
at almost all costs," Bodony said. "We would never send informants or 
undercover agents into a mosque or church just to fish for information, or to 
infringe on any person's First Amendment rights." 
But one law enforcement expert said the FBI might have legitimate cause to 
investigate activities at a religious institution. 

"If they had information about someone at a mosque or church being involved 
with terrorism, they would have an obligation to investigate," said Robert 
Heibel, director of the Institute for Intelligence Studies at Mercyhurst 
College in Erie, Pa. 

Heibel, a retired FBI agent, noted that a man who spoke at a Lackawanna mosque 
was one of the main recruiters of the "Lackawanna Six," the men who wound up in 
prison for taking part in an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan. 

In 1995, Sheik Omar Abdel- Rahman, a Muslim cleric from New York City, was 
sentenced to life in prison for conspiring to destroy the U. N. building and 
other landmarks in that city. 

Prosecutions also have targeted racist criminal gangs tied to churches, Heibel 

"Should the FBI give attention to potentially dangerous religious extremists?" 
Heibel said. "In a case like that, the agents aren't targeting a religion. 
They're targeting a potential lawbreaker."

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