Civil rights advocates and Muslim-American leaders are citing what they say is a pattern of abuse by the U.S. government in using informants or undercover FBI employees to target Muslim-Americans. In recent years, the FBI has used informants in undercover investigations with greater frequency, say advocates and experts, reports the Detroit Free Press. U.S. officials strongly defend the use of informants, saying they only target people who have already expressed intentions to commit crimes. Using informants is “a legitimate tool in combating terrorism,” says David Gelios, chief FBI agent in Detroit. In Detroit, three cases involving undercover FBI agents or informants have played out in courtrooms this year, but no one has been charged with any terrorism crimes, drawing criticism from civil rights advocates who say that even after using informants who seek to push suspects to terrorism, the U.S. government is unable to bring terror charges.
Local Muslims who head mosques say they have nothing to hide but are concerned about the FBI going after young men who might be mentally unstable or have emotional problems who can be manipulated. In April, a lawsuit was filed against the FBI and other federal agencies by the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, saying Muslim-Americans were being pressured to become informants. A similar lawsuit was filed this month in Texas by the Constitutional Law Center for Muslims in America on behalf of a Muslim immigrant who said he was asked to spy on local Muslims in exchange for getting permission to work in the U.S. Of the 104 individuals charged with ISIS-related offenses in the U.S. since March 2014, 58 percent of cases involve informants or undercover agents, said Seamus Hughes of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University.