The FBI’s release of photographs of two men of unknown origin, who the agency says were acting suspiciously aboard as many as six different Washington ferry routes in recent weeks, is creating new worries in the Seattle area’s Muslim and Arab community, says the Seattle Times. Muslim- and Arab-American leaders are upset that the FBI didn’t consult them – as it has done in other instances – before releasing the photos on the Internet and to news organizations. They worry that the action may fracture the relationship the agency and the community have carefully built.
The FBI says the photo release is a rare move, taken only after it had exhausted other efforts to identify the men. The agency also has said the men’s actions could be innocuous, but it needs to question them. The men seemed inordinately interested in the operation of ferries, took photos of the boats’ interiors, and went into areas tourists and commuters don’t normally go, the FBI said. Dozens of Muslims and Arabs have complained to community leaders about the photos. The FBI didn’t take the photos of the two men to the Arab- and Muslim-American community because the agency doesn’t know if the men are Middle Eastern, said an agent. “That seems potentially prejudicial to me, and in some ways worse than simply putting [the photos] out the way we did,” he said. “It is not us saying these guys look Middle Eastern.”