Officials at the Federal Bureau of Investigation met and coordinated with employees of a group tied to Islamic terrorist groups in apparent violation of FBI policy, according to a new report from the Justice Department’s inspector general.
The member of Congress who requested the investigation demanded that DOJ remove officials who were found to have violated the prohibition in the wake of the report.
"This documented failure to abide by FBI direction is intolerable," said Rep. Frank Wolf (R., Va.), the chairman of the House appropriations subcommittee on commerce, justice, and science, in a letter to FBI director James Comey following the release of the inspector general’s report.
The FBI developed policies in 2008 designed to restrict bureau contact with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) after the group was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in a landmark criminal trial involving groups and individuals that provided support for Hamas, a group that the State Department classifies as a terrorist organization.
The trial targeted the Holy Land Foundation, a group that provided significant funding for Hamas, and five individuals involved with the "charity."
The Holy Land Foundation was part of the Palestine Committee, a U.S.-based umbrella group that was created to support the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, its Palestinian arm.
According to assistant attorney general Ronald Weich, evidence presented in the Holy Land Foundation trial "demonstrated a relationship among CAIR, individual CAIR founders, and the Palestine Committee."
In an effort to "ensure that the FBI is not supporting individuals who support extremist or terrorist ideologies," the IG report said, the bureau established policies designed to prevent FBI employees from working with CAIR except in an investigative capacity.
"The policy broadly prohibited non-investigative community outreach interactions with CAIR such as attending CAIR-sponsored events and allowing CAIR to attend FBI-sponsored events, while permitting interactions regarding civil criminal investigations," the IG said in Thursday’s report.
"In three of the five incidents we reviewed, we concluded that the CAIR [redacted] was not followed, resulting in interactions with CAIR that were inconsistent with the policy," the report said.
For example, the top official at the FBI’s Chicago office was the keynote speaker at a conference at the American Islamic College in Chicago and was introduced by CAIR’s Chicago civil rights director in 2010.
"The end result of this incident—CAIR posting on its website of a photograph showing the SAC speaking at the event and a description of CAIR's civil rights director moderating the sort of exploitation of contact with the FBI that the [redacted] was intended to avoid," the IG notes.
Critics of CAIR said the organization has avoided serious scrutiny for too long.
"It is encouraging that the FBI acknowledges CAIR's role in influencing operations, something the Center for Security Policy has been making the point about for years," David Reaboi, spokesman for the Center for Security Policy, said in an email.
However, Reaboi expressed concerns about the report’s general findings.
"Since 2009 the FBI seems to have come in line with Obama administration policy, embracing what it considers ‘moderate Islamists’ in a quest to defeat the ‘violent extremists’ who commit terrorist acts," he said.
Despite FBI prohibitions on non-investigative interaction with CAIR, the White House has promoted the group and touted the multitude of meetings that administration officials have held with CAIR representatives.
"There is hundreds of examples of departments and agencies that meet with CAIR on a range of issues," a White House official said to the Daily Caller last year.
The report "confirms the blatant disregard of bureau policy as well as multiple enacted Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations reports with respect to interactions by the FBI with CAIR," Wolf said in his letter to Comey.
One subcommittee report, which accompanied the commerce, science, and justice appropriations bill for fiscal year 2013, encouraged Attorney General Eric Holder to expand prohibitions on cooperation with CAIR to other DOJ agencies beyond the FBI.
Wolf said in his Thursday statement that FBI violations of those prohibitions could in fact be more extensive than the IG report suggests.
"What concerns me even more is that the OIG only reviewed five instances of reported violations of the policy, which could represent only a fraction of the overall number of violations that may have taken place at other field offices," he said.
CAIR did not respond to a request for comment.