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FBI and American Muslims at odds

An informant at a California mosque has hampered efforts to find home-grown terrorists.

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CAIR believes the decision goes back to May 2007, when it was named along with 300 other Muslim American groups and individuals as an "unindicted coconspirator" in the controversial terrorist funding trial of the Holy Land Foundation, which was once the largest Muslim charity in the United States.

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After a mistrial in 2007, the charity and some of its officials were found guilty in 2008 for ties to Hamas, a Palestinian terrorist organization.

In a letter to the FBI, CAIR argues that the "unindicted coconspirator" designation should never have been made or made public.

"Making this unjust designation public violates the Justice Department's own guidelines and wrongly implies that those listed are somehow involved in criminal activity," the CAIR letter states.

A source within the FBI confirmed that the alleged ties to the Holy Land Foundation were the basis for the FBI's actions. He also said, that as a result of the final conviction in the Holy Land case, "there was a public policy problem with us going forward" in formal relations with CAIR.

Muslim and Arab American groups are also upset with the FBI's decision to allegedly place an ex-convict as an informant in the Muslim American Community in Orange County, California.

The informant posed as a new convert to Islam and reportedly espoused terrorist ideology to several members of the Islamic Center of Irvine. That prompted two members of the mosque, including a man named Ahmadullah Sais Niazi, to report the informant's inflammatory statements to the FBI and ask for a restraining order against him.

FBI officials then began investigating Mr. Niazi and asked him to become an informant, according to the American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections, which has formally filed a complaint with the FBI. When Niazi refused, an agent told him he'd make his life "a living hell." Niazi has since been arrested and charged with making false statements to gain his citizenship and failing to disclose that his sister is married to an Al Qaeda operative, according to court documents.

At his bail hearing, an FBI Agent also said Niazi had allegedly been recorded discussing terrorist ideology, jihad and plans to blow up abandoned buildings. Niazi pleaded innocent."

An 'agent provocateur?'

Members of the Muslim American community say they're incensed by the FBI's use of what they call an "agent provocateur" within its community.

"It's pretty devastating, it came as a shock," says Kareem Shora – executive director of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

"What this has done is undermine what was a 10-year relationship of trust, or what we thought was trust," says Mr. Shora.

The FBI insists it is not targeting mosques or the community, but individuals.

"We do not target places, we don't investigate mosques. We identify individuals who merit investigation under a set of laws and guidelines," says the FBI's Mr. Miller.

"In the course of those investigations sometimes those people will take us to the places they go," Miller said.

But the FBI informant, a man named Craig Monteilh, told reporters last week that he was sent to several mosques and that he had alerted the FBI about Niazi's alleged terrorist sympathies.