Pat Rose, head of the FBI's Orange County al-Qaida squad spoke on May 24 to about 25 members at the Pacific Club, saying things about her work that are normally left unsaid. Frank Mickadeit reports on the event in the Orange County Register:
"There are a lot of individuals of interest right here in Orange County. We are quite surprised."
"We live in Irvine. I can't tell you how many subjects' names come up, and they live right down the street from me." (Later, it was clarified she meant down the street figuratively - in the general area.)
Replying to a question whether citizens should be worried about the activist Muslim students at UCI: "That is another tough question to answer." She did say the FBI is aware of large numbers of Muslims at both UCI and USC.
"I think we need to be concerned with everybody, including our next-door neighbor," she said, adding the FBI gets frequent calls from people who want to tell them about situations like a Muslim neighbor who is changing his license plates or the guy who has nothing in his apartment but a mattress and five computers. "I can't tell you how many" tips like that paid off, she said.
What about racial profiling? That would be a mistake. "We have our own American-raised individuals who have converted to Islam," as well as Arabs coming to the U.S. who are trying to Westernize their appearance and pass for Hispanic.
Comment: (1) Brava to Pat Rose for speaking sense, a rare commodity in her bureau. (2) This may be one of those peaks behind the scenes of how U.S. government officials really think; another example would be the exclusion of Muslim employees three years ago in Kuwait (documented at "The U.S. Government Hires ‘Non-Muslims Only'") (May 25, 2006)
June 6, 2006 update: Straight talk like this must, of course, be covered over to smooth ruffled feathers, so on June 5, the FBI met with a Muslim group and said all the predictable and untrue things.
Stephen Tidwell, assistant director in charge of the FBI in Los Angeles, told about 100 people gathered at the Islamic Center of Irvine that "we do not, we cannot, we do not" monitor students at UC Irvine and USC. "We will set aside whether [Rose] was accurate or it was reported accurately or not." He answered no when asked whether the FBI is monitoring Irvine's Muslim community and said, "We would have to have reasonable cause to do that." This reinforced a prior FBI statement, following Rose's comments, that it "does not monitor Muslim student groups at UC Irvine, USC or other educational institutions."
Asked about Rose, Tidwell said she is "upset. … I'm dealing with that agent. I've had long talks with that agent. She understands that without regard to what her intent was, it has come to this."
June 7, 2006 update: Another report on the same meeting, this time from H.G. Reza of the Los Angeles Times. He counted 200 in attendance and emphasized Tidwell's attempts to distance himself from Rose's remarks:
Tidwell tried to turn the focus away from the alleged monitoring, saying that the FBI had issued a denial May 26, the day after the column appeared. "We are well past that," he said and urged the audience to work toward a better relationship with the FBI. … Huda Shaka, a UCI student, said that there was no reason to believe Tidwell's denial if he had not asked the newspaper to print a correction. Tidwell didn't say that Rose was misquoted and acknowledged that the agent's comments could have given the impression that Muslim groups were being monitored. "From a certain viewpoint, it could be implied that she said that," Tidwell said. "[But] we are not monitoring the colleges mentioned in the article." … Tidwell also downplayed Rose's comments that terrorism suspects lived in Orange County. "There is no current [terrorist] threat to Southern California," Tidwell said. "But we assume they're trying to get here to carry out a threat or they're already here."
June 16, 2006 update: In a clumsy and ungrammatically titled press release ("Joint Statement of FBI Assistant Director in Charge of the Los Angeles Field Office, J. Stephen Tidwell, the FBI's Youth Advisory Committee, and It's Multi-Cultural Advisory Committee, In Response to Recent Concerns of the Muslim Community that the FBI Is Monitoring Muslim Student Groups at Certain Educational Institutions" – reminds me of an eighteenth century book subtitle), the FBI carries on with its effort to refute Pat Rose's comments. Some excerpts:
An individual or groups' faith or ethnic background is not a basis for suspicion. The FBI does not monitor student groups at educational institutions, including Muslim student groups at the University of California at Irvine (UCI) or the University of Southern California (USC). In fact, Muslim student groups and the FBI are currently working together in building a sound and trusting relationship. The Los Angeles Field Office of the FBI and Muslim student leaders have recently formed the Youth Advisory Committee (YAC). YAC and the FBI have been meeting since March 2006 to address the issues/concerns of young Muslim leaders and to demystify the FBI. …
Community leaders and the FBI have maintained an open dialogue, to address concerns of the community and educated FBI personnel as to the Muslim religion. It is important that the community leaders know that they have direct access to their Los Angeles FBI Office and are able to contact us with their concerns. …
All new FBI Special Agents receive cultural sensitivity education, including that of the Muslim religion, during their new agent training at Quantico. As part of the ongoing training of our employees here in Los Angeles, arrangements were already being made to hold our next regularly scheduled Supervisory Special Agents training session in September 2006 at a Mosque in the Los Angeles area. During this training session, our Supervisory Staff will receive training on the Muslim religion and culture. The FBI is committed to ensuring that our personnel become more culturally fluent so that our investigations are more effective and respectful.
Muslim Americans comprise a relatively small part of the FBI's workforce, but the impact they have is tremendous. We are committed to increasing the number of Muslim Americans who serve in the FBI. We also praise and thank the Muslim community for its support in the FBI's mission.
Comment: Am I alone in thinking that the bureau doth protest too much?
June 17, 2006 update: Not surprisingly, Muslims do not believe the FBI: "Muslims leery of FBI activity" reads a story today by Cindy Carcamo and Sonya Smith in the Orange County Register. The most interesting quote is from James Wedick, a retired 35-year FBI agent. "The bureau has yet to honestly deal with how to communicate with the Arab and Muslim community and the Arab community distrusts them because of good reason because of paid informants getting sent into the community for less than legitimate reasons." The FBI community is upset by Rose's statements because "She was probably being more candid than Tidwell would want you to believe. Now they're trying to repair the damage that they've done."
No less predictable was an announcement from the FBI that its agents will undergo training at a Los Angeles mosque to learn more about Islam and Muslim culture. "The FBI is committed to ensuring that our personnel become more culturally fluent so that our investigations are more effective and respectful."
Related Topics: Counter-terrorism, Muslims in the United States
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