Guidance Directive [Redacted]”'>The FBI’s Official “CAIR Has Cooties Guidance Directive [Redacted]”

I had just about come to the conclusion that Michael Horowitz, DOJ’s Inspector General who took over after Glenn Fine retired in 2010, was a worthy successor. In recent weeks, Horowitz has released reports critical of DOJ’s handling of classified information, its refusal to account for drones’ unique risks to privacy, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms’ use of “churning” (money-making) operations.

But then I read this report — on the FBI’s Interactions with the Council on American-Islamic Relations — and I got literally sick to my stomach.

The report purports to determine whether the FBI complies with Agency guidance — the title and issuing authority for which are redacted in the report, which is why I am referring to it as the “Cooties Guidance Directive [Redacted]” throughout, even where it is redacted in direct quotes — that FBI personnel are not to engage in any community outreach with people from CAIR. For results, it shows that in three of five cases where FBI personnel did engage (or almost engage!) with people from CAIR, the personnel either didn’t consult with the FBI entity the IG deems to be in charge of this policy (which is probably the Counterterrorism Division, but the IG Report redacts that too), or consulted instead with the Office of Public Affairs, which is in charge of community outreach.

In response to these shocking (!!) results, Congressman Frank Wolf has already called for heads to roll.

But what the report actually shows is, first of all, how in response to two non-criminal pieces of evidence — a meeting between men who would go on to found CAIR and Hamas, which was not yet a designated a terrorist organization, and CAIR’s designation as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation case (the publication of which was subsequently deemed a violation of the group’s Fifth Amendment rights) — the FBI formulated a formal policy to treat that organization as if it has cooties.

And yet, even the language the IG repeats about this policy makes it clear that the FBI was operating on a policy of “guilty until proven innocent.”

The guidance specifically stated that, until the FBI could determine whether there continued to be a connection between CAIR or its executives and Hamas, “the FBI does not view CAIR as an appropriate liaison partner” for non-investigative activities.

That is, for the entire 5 year period versions of this policy have been in place, FBI has maintained that so long as it doesn’t develop evidence that CAIR has no ties to Hamas, then FBI will treat the organization and its officials as if they do have such ties by refusing to let them on FBI property or attend any CAIR-affiliated events. And we’re supposed to believe, I guess, that the FBI has used not a single one of their intrusive investigative methods to try to prove or disprove this allegation in the interim 5 years, and so it just will never know whether the allegation is correct or not, and so must operate on the playground Cooties standard.

Heck, in one of the “incidents” the report investigates, the local FBI office actually vetted an event participant to make sure his service on CAIR’s local board didn’t taint all his other community ties so badly that he should not participate in the event.

Yet whether or not a particular CAIR representative [redacted] is irrelevant to the Cooties Guidance Directive  [Redacted] to deny the organization access to the FBI in such non-investigative community-outreach activities.

And the IG Report — Michael Horowitz’ report — judges that vetting that found this gentleman to be innocent was not sufficient reason to ignore the Cooties Guidance Directive [Redacted]. The Report seems to endorse the view that vetting notwithstanding, this guy had a formal role in CAIR that made all his other roles in the Muslim community suspect and that’s the way things work in America.

Then there’s the underlying logic. The entire policy is premised on a bizarre belief that it is exploitative for a Muslim organization to advertise its willingness to work with the FBI.

The June 2011 EC also reiterated that CAIR was not prohibited from “maintaining a relationship with the FBI regarding civil rights or criminal violations; however, civil rights and criminal squads should be cognizant CAIR has exploited these relationships in the past.”


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 his speech is the sort of exploitation of contact with the FBI that the Cooties Guidance
Directive [Redacted] was intended to avoid.

I don’t get it. If CAIR really were a terrorist sleeper cell, wouldn’t advertising their willingness to associate with the FBI completely ruin all their terrorist Cred, and therefore neutralize whatever threat they presented?

In any case, on the one hand, the report chronicles how the federal agency in charge of investigating civil rights abuses basically treated an entire constitutionally protected civil rights organization as guilty without charging it with any crime.

But then there’s the fact that, after responding to a request to fear-mongers in Congress, this report saw the light of day in the fashion it appears.

As noted above, the IG Report seems to accept this premise of guilty until proven innocent without noting the problem underlying it. Like, you know, the Constitution. In places, the language of the report even echos that of a presumption of guilt, as in this passage where it berates OPA for actually treating an individual with multiple formal ties to the Muslim community as such, rather than as someone branded solely by his affiliation with CAIR.

It appears that OPA provided guidance that effectively reversed the presumption against CAIR participation in non-investigatory FBI activities in this instance. OPA indicated that it wanted to ensure that there was sufficient justification for excluding the CAIR participant apart from his role in CAIR.

Then there’s the way in which this was released. While the actual Cooties Guidance  Directive [Redacted] is classified, nothing else in the report seems like it should be (though the FBI has removed the classification marks from the paragraphs to hide the basis for their claims that this is classified). In particular, FBI or DOJ or OIG has chosen to redact anything that would make it clear whether this is an actual policy, or just guidance on which CTD and OPA disagree (in their complaint about the report, the ACLU notes that it doesn’t appear to have gone through the formal policy-making process). And yet, having hidden that information, the IG presents it as if the failure to implement the Cooties Guidance Directive [Redacted] is a graver problem than the upending of presumption of innocence.

Finally, there are a few tonal issues. For example, the report presents this view — from a Chicago SAC who twice blew off the Cootie Guidance Directive [Redacted] — as if his basic civility presents a problem.

He stated that if DHS considered CAIR officials to be part of the community and invited them to the Roundtable, the FBI was not going to deny them entry at the door.

In another instance, it quotes another violating SAC as using the term “Islamophobia” (PDF 22), but presents the term in scare quotes. This is borderline McCarthyist shit, treating the language of people fighting terrorists by treating Muslims as human beings as some kind of brand against them.

Finally, there’s the timing of this. The fear-mongers requested this report in March 2012 — over 20 months after after the Section 215 IG Report that we’ve been waiting for for 1,224 days got started. Three of four of what are probably interviews with those deemed in violation of this guidance took place over the course of 8 days in August and September of 2012 (the last took place in July, which makes me wonder whether that was added to beef up an otherwise thin report.)

But then the report didn’t get released until a second state CAIR affiliate starts challenging the FBI’s killing of a Muslim person. And the IG Report got released on the very same day that CAIR released a major report on Islamophobia (or, as the IG appears to treat it, “Islamophobia.”)

The whole thing seems designed not to make the FBI a more orderly place (if that were the purpose, then it might be better to focus on how the Cooties Guidance Directive
[Redacted] became formal policy — if it did — without going through formal policy channels). Rather, it seems designed to foment a kind of McCarthyism within FBI targeted at those counterterrorism investigators who believe the best way to fight Islamic extremists is to treat Muslims as partners in rooting out violence.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

12 replies
  1. Snoopdido says:

    Guilty until proven innocent is the US government views us all.

    You know that NSA database of all of Americans’ domestic phone records? I’m betting that the US government calls it the “suspect pool”.

  2. harpie says:

    Definitely sickening. It’s interesting that this report is handled so much differently than the others. [I haven’t read them all, and am just taking your word for it.]

    From the ACLU letter:

    Given the OIG’s mandate to investigate violations of law by any part of the Department of
    Justice, the OIG’s failure to investigate the FBI’s anti-CAIR policy is particularly disconcerting. In an earlier generation, the FBI targeted the ACLU with a similar smear campaign, alleging that our work defending conscientious objectors and labor organizers during World War I was evidence of our involvement in a Bolshevik conspiracy. Such tactics offended American values then, just as they do now. We urge the OIG to reopen its review of FBI interactions with CAIR so that the policy’s infringement on CAIR’s constitutional rights itself may be investigated.

    I didn’t know that.

  3. peasantparty says:

    I’m pissed too!

    I’m gonna say this and anybody can disagree. I don’t care, because it is very clear to me what is going on. I think the FBI and DHS are sitting around waiting to entice another scary Muslim into an act of terror on the homeland. We have seen this over and over now. We have also seen our own Military and CIA train, equip, and hire the same extreme terror cells they say they’ve been fighting for 12 YEARS!

    The Counter Insurgency games they are playing have ran into a dead end on the belief meter. The DHS calls of homegrown and lone wolf have met the same meter reading! These are games and the illegal spying without actual evidence, along with disrupting the lives of innocents is beyond Legitimate Governance!

    There! I said it. Start the flame throwing. I’ll catch all of them.

  4. orionATL says:

    no flames warranted by your comment.

    the doj/fbi was directed by congress to focus on “national security” .

    in obligate bureaucratic fashion, the doj/fbi g created the “national security directorate” which, if i recall correctly, can be literally translated into the (east) german acronym “stasi”.

    but then, what to do?

    well, there just are not that many opportunities for a wacko to attack within the u.s. – there’s the times square guy (identified ex poste), the fort hood shooter (no id assistance needed), the ny subway guy, ….

    so, it became clear that to have something to keep the lads and lassies of the fbi busy, and the publicity positive, the best solution was a program of entrapment of alienated or wacked out young muslim men.

    get a undercover agent, or a perp to whom the fbi had promised leniency, and then look for wannabe muslim avengers/suiciders among the muslim communities in america.

    the formula worked beautifully.

    the fbi and doj uncovered and prosecuted numerous “plots” by fantasy-terrorists. with many such plots and plotters, provided information, weapons, bombs, targets, whatever was needed to encourage and facilitate an act of terrorism.

    the plots were “uncovered”.

    the media coverage followed.

    the congress appeared grateful and self-satisfied at their wisdom.

    why would doj/fbi mess up this career/agency boosting scenario to extend a hand to, talk with, or work with the CAIR?

    as sara said once: “fbi careers are built on closing cases”.

    maybe that applies to this sad tale of IG evasion of responsibility.

    oh, and what about that “independent” IG for the nsa?

    ha. ha. ha.

  5. peasantparty says:

    @orionATL: You are correct! The Patriot Act, the NDAA, and the NSA are straight out of the Nazi handbook. I posted it somewhere months ago, maybe here.

    Ha is not even close on the Independence of any IG in this fake Government.

  6. Peterr says:

    Reading the report (and between the lines of the report in some places), it’s clear that there was some significant pushback on these directives and ECs coming out of DC from the front line folks. There is a series of ECs going out from DC, and it sure sounds like the folks outside DC didn’t like what they were being told to do (or not do, as the case may be).

    According to the [Nov 12, 2008] EC, the coordination meeting [on Nov 25] was scheduled because the field offices were facing “unique challenges involving their established and in some cases, long-term relationships with local CAIR chapters.” The EC stated that the senior manager for each field office or a high-level designee must attend the meeting, either in person at the FBI’s Washington Headquarters or by secure videoconference.

    IOW, this was driven by headquarters people removed from the actual CAIR individuals and the local FBI personnel who knew them, and over the objections of those same FBI personnel. This meeting was clearly designed to get all the senior folks to rein in their local agents.

    This being Emptywheel, I can’t help but notice the timeline for some of these things.

    Aug 15, 2008 — first EC restricting contact is issued (pdf p. 7)

    Oct 2, 2008 — another EC issued, telling the local FBI folks “no CAIR banquets for you!” and providing wording for the RSVPs they should send declining such invitations. (p. 8)

    Oct 21, 2008 — FBI recruiters report that they have crossed paths with CAIR people at recruiting events
    Oct 22, 2008 — FBI and CAIR leaders meet, agree not to hang out together.
    Oct 24, 2008 — another EC, giving guidance on what to say and do at future recruiting events

    Oct 31, 2008 — EC #4, which reiterates ECs 1-3 and requires reporting all interactions with CAIR to whatever office is in charge of Cootie Monitoring.

    Nov 12, 2008 — EC #5, announcing the mandatory Nov 25 meeting referred to in the blockquote above for the heads of 31 of the 56 field offices, “to review compliance with the [Cootie Directives]”.
    Nov 20, 2008 — EC #6, requiring the other offices to take part (footnote #7, pdf p. 10)
    Nov 25, 2008 — mandatory meeting held, where field office heads were encouraged to develop alternative (i.e., non-CAIR) primary points of contact with the Muslim community.
    Dec 4, 2008 — EC #7 to the 31 field offices, following up on the Nov 25 meeting

    Hmmm . . . what else was going on in Oct, Nov, and Dec 2008?

    Oh, yes. There was that little election thingie.

    I can’t help but think that in October, certain folks at the FBI headquarters might have been a little concerned that there might be some unwelcome changes afoot come Jan 20, 2009, and wanted to push to nail some of these policies into place before that happened.

    See here for’s tracking of the 2008 campaign. That gap between the red line and the blue line really starts to widen out in September . . .

  7. Peterr says:

    I’m still working my way through this report, and it reminds me a great deal of the kind of stuff that the conservative Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod goes through when they have to decide if they can participate in some kind of event that includes people of other denominations. By their policies, they are not supposed to have joint worship services with groups that they are not in close theological agreement with, so that no one would get the confuse the beliefs of the LCMS and these other groups (Roman Catholics, Methodists, etc.). Under this kind of thinking, various pastors and district presidents have been sanctioned for participating in such events, including the post-9/11 event at Yankee Stadium and the post-Newtown event in Connecticut. To investigate potential violations of this policy, the LCMS looks into the details of the event — who organized it; what, exactly, did the LCMS pastor do (or was he asked to do); were hymns sung; were prayers prayed (and by whom); etc.

    The OIG report appears to be a secular version of this same dynamic. The paranoia and quest for purity coming out of the DC headquarters is stunning. The fact that the OIG is going along with it is even more stunning.

    I’d love to hear from some of the field office personnel. Maybe if some of them are reading here, they might like to get in contact with Ms Wheeler to share their stories.

  8. orionATL says:

    peterr writes:

    “..IOW, this was driven by headquarters people removed from the actual CAIR individuals and the local FBI personnel who knew them, and over the objections of those same FBI personnel. This meeting was clearly designed to get all the senior folks to rein in their local agents…”

    yes, precisely.

    the election angle is interesting.

    one personal reflection is that this should have been one more reason for the obama to clean the stables at doj/fbi.

    but that did not happen.

    the nation has been left to suffer the consequences of a ruthless, self-serving fbi brutalizing and refusing to interact with american muslim communities.

  9. harpie says:

    Thanks, peterr!

    …seems like M. Mukasey of Bush and the Cheney-gang had no need for all that concern after all.

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