FBI agents in Dallas routinely meet with leaders of the North Texas Muslim community to discuss a variety of issues, including anyone who might be worthy of additional scrutiny by law enforcement.
Muslim leaders and former local federal law enforcement officials confirmed the meetings Monday, a day after a 29-year-old man who pledged allegiance to ISIS killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando.
A spokesman for the Dallas FBI field office had no comment Monday about the current meetings.
Alia Salem, the executive director of the Dallas-Fort Worth chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, said that the meetings with the FBI now take place on a quarterly basis. She said the gatherings are the agency’s way of “keeping tabs on us.”
They also offer opportunities for Muslims to voice concerns for their safety — as they did following armed protests at the Islamic Center of Irving in February.
Imam Zia Shiekh of the Islamic Center of Irving said the meetings he has attended for the past 10 years take place in public and private locations throughout the region, including individual homes and restaurants — where the FBI usually picks up the tab.
The meetings are not advertised to the public, but Shiekh said they are not a secret, either, at least among North Texas Muslims.
Neither Coulson nor Defenbaugh would discuss specific cases arising from their outreach. But Paul Coggins, the former U.S. attorney in Dallas from 1993 to March 2001, said the intelligence gleaned was very helpful.
“You would find people who were very comfortable telling police officers that, ‘This guy said something,’ or, ‘This guy is going to do something soon,’ ” Coggins said. “I remember making cases and even preventing violence with information we got under Danny Coulson.”
But Coulson said that making those cases or even tracking potential terror threats can be hamstrung by guidelines set by the attorney general.
For example, when local FBI agents get a complaint or tip about someone, they have just a few months to investigate. During this time, they can only conduct background checks or interviews with the subject of the complaint, family members, friends or co-workers. No searches or electronic surveillance are allowed, Coulson said.
When their time runs out, if the agents don’t have enough evidence to persuade Department of Justice officials in Washington to authorize a full investigation, they have to close the case, as Florida agents did twice with the Orlando shooter. They can’t continue to talk to the subject or tell local police what they might have learned, Coulson said.
“You’ve got FBI agents with one hand tied behind their backs,” said Coulson, who now runs his own security firm.
FBI agents were supposedly banned from any activity with terror-linked CAIR over the Muslim group’s HAMAS links (the Muslim group being CAIR although it’s hard to differentiate these days – see FBI, Despite Ban, Still Meeting with Terror-linked CAIR).
But, as was written years ago, Islamist Groups Keep ‘Punking’ the FBI.