The latest Goldman and Apuzzo report on the CIA-on-the-Hudson provides proof that Ray Kelly and Mike Bloomberg’s claims that religious institutions are not profiled are false.
The New York Police Department recommended increasing surveillance of thousands of Shiite Muslims and their mosques, based solely on their religion, as a way to sweep the Northeast for signs of Iranian terrorists, according to interviews and a newly obtained secret police document.
The secret document stands in contrast to statements by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who said the NYPD never considers religion in its policing. Kelly has said police go only where investigative leads take them, but the document described no leads to justify expanded surveillance at Shiite mosques.
The 2006 intelligence document they obtained shows not just affirmative spying on Shiites as Shiites, but also a really muddled sense of the religious faiths of Iranians, Lebanese, and other Middle Eastern groups in this country.
But I’m particularly interested in one target of intelligence collection, according to the intelligence document: the Al-Khoei Islamic Center. That’s the mosque Ray Lazier Lengend firebombed on New Year’s Day.
The intelligence report includes the following on the mosque:
Source reporting indicates that members of Alavi Foundation are worshipping and conducting business at the Al-Khoei Islamic Center located in Jamaica, Queens,
Expand and focus intelligence collection at the Al-Khoei Islamic Center.
Hassan Fares [alleged to be a Hezbollah member or sympathizer and accused of extorting money for the mosque] has been observed in attendance at the Al-Khoei Center and has close ties to Fadhel al-Sahlani, the Imam of Al-Khoei. The Iraqi-born al-Sahlani is alleged to be the highest Shi’a religious authority in North America. On January 13, 2006, al-Sahlani was quoted by media sources stating that the Holocaust “has been exaggerated,” that “the numbers which have been mentioned are too much.” Al-Sahlani added that the “killing of innocent Jews during the war was an injustice,” but that the extent of Nazi persecution needed further examination. This was in support of statements made [sic] the Iranian President in regard to Holocaust. The Al-Khoei Center and al-Sahlani have been the subjects of law enforcement investigations by NYPD, JTTF, and the FBI. Al-Sahlani is the subject of a JTTF investigation for “attempting to depart the country with excess funds” and in late 2003, he was the subject of a lead investigation conducted by the Queens Case Team that alleged al-Sahlani was providing funds to a terrorist organization overseas. In January 2004, the case was closed as “unfounded.”
Open source research suggests that the UK-based Al-Khoei Benevolent Foundation, of which Al-Khoei Islamic Center is part, is the largest Shi’a organization in the world. Treasury Enforcement Communication System (TECS) inquiries reveal the Al-Khoei Benevolent Foundation allegedly imported Islamic books from Lebanon into the US. In addition, according to the California-based Islamic Education Center’s (IEC) newsletter, an “Al-Khoei Center” in New York was identified as an organization where IEC members (in this case, California State prison inmates) can obtain books and other similar resources.
[The intelligence report includes an additional allegation about the UK parent organization’s potential ties to purchasing information about chemical propulsion in violation of sanctions against Iran.]
To be clear, there is much that merits investigation–and it looks like appropriate authorities have done so and in at least some of the cases, proved the allegations to be unfounded. There is much that doesn’t merit investigation, such as the provision of religious materials to prisoners.
But in this instance, the stated reason to conduct this heightened investigation of Al-Khoei (as well as other Shiite, Iranian, and Palestinian) institutions is because,
The present diplomatic conflict between the US and Iran over Iran’s nuclear proliferation has the potential to evolve into armed confrontation between the two nations.
The report, dated May 15, 2006, preceded the Israeli attack on Lebanon by just a few months.
So maybe the NYPD claims it only profiles religious institutions if the US is drumming up war against them? And is it the NYPD’s stance, then, at times of increased Iranian-US tensions (like, say, now), the Al-Khoei Islamic Center is a fair target?