IG: FBI Offices Ignored Policy Barring Non-Investigative CAIR Interaction

IG: FBI Offices Ignored Policy Barring Non-Investigative CAIR Interaction

The Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General released a summary report (full report here) on Thursday describing FBI field offices that did not follow department policy when it came to its interactions with the Council on American Islamic Relations. 

According to the summary, in 2008, the FBI developed a policy meant to restrict FBI field offices’ non-investigative interactions with CAIR as a result of evidence presented during the government’s 2007 Holy Land Foundation Trial Case. :

In 2008, the FBI developed a policy on its interactions with CAIR based in part on evidence presented during the 2007 trial of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development. The evidence at trial linked CAIR leaders to Hamas, a specially designated terrorist organization, and CAIR was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the case. The policy was intended to significantly restrict the FBI’s non-investigative interactions with CAIR and to prevent CAIR from publicly exploiting such contacts with the FBI.

The FBI announced this policy in 2008 to its field office from August to December of 2008. Several electronic communications were sent out to all field offices during that four month period about how non-investivative communications with CAIR would be handled. However, some field offices ignored the policy:

When we asked the former FBI Assistant Director for [redacted] who was the Deputy Assistant Director for[redacted]. at the time, why the FBI issued multiple ECs over a 4-month period regarding the policy, he said that some of the field offices were reluctant to go along “With the policy initially.3 For example, on October 27, 2008, the Los Angeles SAC sent an e-mail to his staff stating that the field office’s “position is that we will decide how our relationship is operated and maintained with CArR barring some additional instruction from FBI Headquarters.” The SAC further stated: “Please instruct your folks at this time that they are not to abide by the [October 22, 2008 EC from the [redacted] , but that their direction in regards to CAIR will from the L.A. field Office front office.” We learned from interviews with the [redacted] that several other SACs also were reluctant to follow the policy. The former Assistant Director of [redacted] also said that field office managers believed the strategy was being run  by the [redacted] rather than [redacted] and that “they did not like answering to the [redacted]”. The former Assistant Director of [redacted] further stated that EC’s were meant to demonstrate that this was a national issue rather than an issue that affected only a [redacted].

The Justice Department IG found that  in three of the five incidents reviewed, it concluded that the policy was not followed.  The IG notes that the bureau recognized “the importance of the policy by issuing multiple ECs and holding a mandatory meeting with field office leadership to ensure compliance.” However, the FBI failed to conduct effective oversight the report states, “to ensure compliance with the policy.” The FBI’s Office of Public Affairs was contacted by FBI field offices as opposed to the personnel the field offices would be mandated to call when policy was breached. 

“We found that OPA, which has a different mission and focus than other divisions provided guidance regarding interactions with CAIR that we found was inconsistent with the policy. This resulted in public interactions with CAIR that we found to be inconsistent with the goal of the FBI’s policy,” states the OIG in the report.

Ultimately, five incidences at three FBI field offices in Chicago, New Haven, Connecticut, and Philadelphia were reviewed and cited in the report by the IG. In Philadelphia, on December 11, 2010, the field office held a Community Relations Executive Seminar Training (CREST) event. CREST is an FBI community outreach program created by the bureau’s public affair’s office. The IG describes it as a subprogram of the FBI’s Citizen’s Academy. According to the report:

The policy specifically instructed FBI field offices that CAIR could not participate in the FBI Citizen’s Academy. Nevertheless, based on guidance it received from OPA, the Philadelphia Field Office allowed a local CAIR officiai to attend as an invited guest. A few days later, CAIR-Philadelphia posted an article on its website describing its participation in the program, with a link to the FBI website.

Another incident happened in December of  2010  in the Chicago field office. The field office hosted a quarterly Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Community Engagement Roundtable, when a CAIR official was invited to attend but ultimately did not show up.

“The SAC also stated that if CAIR officials came to the Chicago Field Office, he was not required to report it to FBI Headquarters, just as he was not required to report a meeting with CAIR on a civil rights matter.”

The IG disgreed remarking, “While the CAIR representative ultimately did not attend the Roundtable, the failure to follow the ECs in this instance could have led to an interaction that would have been inconsistent with the FBI’s policy.”

The DOJ’s OIG recommended the “FBI ensure implementation of FBI policy relating to interactions with CAIR.”  This would include “coordination mandated by the policy and enforcement and oversight of compliance with the policy.” The other recommendation to the bureau is to provide “comprehensive education on the objectives and requirements of the current CAIR policy to Headquarters and field office personnel who are likely to be involved with the application of the policy.”


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