Tucson-Phoenix Mosques under FBI Investigation

Tucson, AZ  

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By Edward Campbell

TUCSON, July 30 — Officials for the Islamic Center of Tucson (ICT) and the Council of American-Islamic Relations Arizona (CAIR-AZ) met with FBI officials in Tucson July 29 to discuss the recent questioning of members of the Muslim communities in Phoenix and Tucson.

Spokesman for the Islamic Center of Tucson Mohammad Assad and Deedra Abboud of CAIR-AZ met with Brian D. Filbert and Roland J. Mignone of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) in Tucson on Thursday to arrange a possible meeting between the FBI and the Muslim communities in Tucson and Phoenix.

The FBI has tentatively agreed to first meet with Phoenix area Imams, followed by a meeting between the boards of directors of the several Phoenix area mosques, culminating in an August 10 town hall meeting in Phoenix where the FBI could meet the broader Muslim community.

The Islamic Center of Tucson is planning a similar meeting between the FBI and the board of directors of the ICT followed by a meeting between the FBI and the local Muslim community.

The Tucson and Phoenix offices of the FBI have been conducting random interviews of local Muslims under the pretext that local Muslims may have information about an impending terror attack intended to disrupt the Nov. 2 presidential election.

Deedra Abboud said that the FBI told her that they wanted to conduct these interviews when the interviewee is comfortable with the hope that the interviewee “may say something that the FBI may find significant.” And that the FBI told her that the interviewees “may know something that they are not aware of.” The FBI described the interviews as “friendly chats,” she said. Mohammad Assad said, “They’re only gathering information. Nobody is under investigation. It’s nothing to be concerned about.”

According to Deedra Abboud the FBI has developed a database of names based on information obtained from individuals previously under investigation. “You may be the friend of a friend of someone who was once under investigation, or maybe you went to the same school as someone who was once under investigation, or lived in the same apartment complex as someone who was once under investigation,” she said.

The FBI has also reportedly obtained the names of Muslim students from Arizona State University under the pretext that a presidential debate will be held there on Oct. 13. The New York Times reported on July 29 that Homeland Security received information on Arab American from the US Census Bureau.

Susan Herskovitz of the FBI in Phoenix said that the FBI has been conducting interviews statewide trying to find information of value and engender cooperation within the Muslim community. She said that there isn’t any specific information that the FBI is looking for in these interviews and denied that the FBI was looking for any particular person. “Each interview is specific to that person. It just depends on where that interview takes us,” she said. She said that she did not know how the FBI had obtained a list of names of members of local Muslim community or how the interviewees had been selected.

Tucson Muslims have reported that the FBI asked them seemingly innocuous questions regarding whether they knew of any local Muslim who had recently rented a truck or had expressed the intention to buy an airplane. Local Muslims were also asked if there were any people attending prayers at the Mosque that didn’t have solid roots to the community, or had arrived unexpectedly from an unknown location.

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The Muslim Observer Aug. 6

Edward Campbell 12.Aug.2004 21:25

This article appeared in The Muslim Observer Aug. 6, 2004.