Policy: National Security

Justice probe finds terrorist 'co-conspirator' trained FBI agents

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Beltway Confidential,Joel Gehrke,FBI,National Security,Terrorism,al Qaeda,Justice Department

Justice Department investigators found that some FBI field offices violated agency policy by interacting with a terrorist-linked organization in part because field agents who disliked the policy received permission to violate it from the agency press shop.

FBI officials instructed agents not to interact with members of the Council on American-Islamic Relations after the organization was linked to Hamas and named as an "unindicted co-conspirator" in the 2007 Holy Land trial.

The Holy Land trial was a federal prosecution of charitable front groups used by radical islamists to raise funds in the U.S. and elsewhere. The funds were then channeled to terrorists groups like al Qaeda.

And yet, "on October 29, 2010, the FBI New Haven Field Office co-coordinated a diversity training workshop with a local Muslim organization," according to a redacted executive summary of a DOJ Inspector General.

The New Haven training is one of three instances, out of five reviewed by the IG, in which the policy was not followed.

The report found that some FBI special agents-in-charge of field offices didn't want to follow the rule, which restricted their engagement with CAIR.

"[The electronic communications] containing the policy acknowledged that it represented a significant deviation from past FBI policy and that it affected longstanding relationships in the field," the executive summary of the inspector general report, released today in redacted form, says.

"Based on our review of five incidents in three field offices, we found that [redacted] did not manage or provide the oversight needed to ensure proper implementation and compliance with its policy," the inspector general summary says.

Field offices looked to the Office of Public Affairs, which interacts with the media and works on public outreach, for guidance on complying with the policy.

"We found that OPA's guidance was not always in line with, or supported by, the binding language contained in the policy," the inspector general summary says.

FBI officials told agents at the New Haven Field Office that they would be in violation of government policy if they allowed CAIR to participate in the sensitivity training, but the New Haven team decided to ask the Office of Public Affairs for a second opinion.

"OPA provided different guidance to the New Haven Field Office that training could occur as long as it was conducted offsite and New Haven did not abide by the opinion of the [redacted] and instead followed the OPA guidance," the IG found. "The result was an FBI interaction with CAIR that was inconsistent with FBI's policy."
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