The Honorable Michael E. Horowitz
Office of the Inspector General
U.S. Department of Justice
900 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20530
Dear Mr. Horowitz:
We write to express our concern with recently released documentary evidence that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) improperly targeted communities based on their religion, race and national origin of community members. Specifically, the evidence shows that the FBI recorded and disseminated information about community members' First Amendment-protected activities, including religious practices. We request that you initiate an investigation into these allegations, including into possible Privacy Act violations within the FBI's San Francisco and Sacramento divisions.
Recently publicized documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) suggest that the FBI targeted American Muslims for intelligence gathering under the guise of community or mosque outreach programs from at least 2004 through 2010. Many of the community organizations, mosques, and college campuses identified in the FBI documents are located throughout Northern California, but it is unclear whether similar activities are occurring in other FBI divisions.
These documents also include detailed descriptions of community members' constitutionally protected activities. The intelligence memoranda contain descriptions of the content of sermons, summaries of conversations and religious materials, methods of prayer, political opinions, and individuals' religious and community associations. The documents did not indicate that the FBI communicated to participants that their conversations and personal information were being collected for intelligence purposes.
Community outreach is essential to effective law enforcement. But when law enforcement officials blur the line between community outreach and intelligence gathering, it damages valuable relationships. The FBI itself recognizes that, "[it] is important to maintain an appropriate separation between outreach activities conducted to build trust and confidence and those conducted with a specific operational or intelligence purpose." Any FBI practice of taking information collected during community outreach efforts for the purpose of utilizing it as intelligence threatens to erode crucial trust between federal law enforcement and American communities. It is also contrary to basic constitutional principles of free speech and freedom of religion.
Given this new documentation, we respectfully request that you conduct a nationwide audit to determine whether the FBI is improperly targeting and collecting intelligence about specific communities based on their First Amendment-protected activities. Such an audit should include an investigation into potential Privacy Act violations by the FBI's San Francisco and Sacramento field offices, but should also determine whether such improper targeting and record maintenance is occurring in other FBI divisions throughout the country.