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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

FBI severed contacts with CAIR in last days of Bush administration

WASHINGTON — The FBI has cut ties with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, regarded as the leading U.S. Muslim lobby financed by Saudi Arabia.   

Officials said the decision to sever contact with CAIR headquarters in Washington D.C. and all 30 of its branches was made in late 2008 under the administration of President George Bush.

"The FBI has had to limit its formal contact with CAIR field offices until certain issues are addressed by CAIR's national headquarters," said FBI spokesman John Miller. "CAIR's leadership is aware of this."

Officials said CAIR failed to provide details of its ties to the Hamas movement or regime in the Gaza Strip. The group has been identified as a suspected financier of Hamas.

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In January 2009, the Congressional Anti-Terrorism Caucus, reporting the FBI decision, sent a letter to every House member regarding CAIR. The "Dear Colleague," letter warned House members and their staffers not to meet CAIR representatives.

The FBI decision marked a major shift in the policy of the U.S. law enforcement community toward the Saudi-financed Muslim lobby, which organized anti-Israeli demonstrations during the war with Hamas in January 2009. Since 2002, the FBI has consulted with CAIR on outreach to the Muslim community.

"This is an unfortunate legacy of the Bush administration's misguided and counterproductive efforts to marginalize mainstream American Muslim organizations," CAIR said.

As late as 2007, the FBI attended the fundraising banquet of CAIR's new branch in Oklahoma. By October 2008, the FBI decided that it would end cooperation with CAIR chapters.

"As you know members of the United States government, especially those serving in a law enforcement capacity, have a duty to be judicious in our activities as representatives of the federal government," the FBI said in a letter by special agent James Finch. "As a result, if CAIR wishes to pursue an outreach relationship with the FBI, certain issues must be addressed to the satisfaction of the FBI."

Officials said the FBI decision came in wake of the conviction of directors of a U.S. Muslim charity accused of funneling millions of dollars to Hamas. During the trial, the FBI described CAIR as a front group for Islamic extremists.

CAIR has also been sued by former Muslim clients on charges of fraud. The Muslims said they paid CAIR thousands of dollars for a promise of U.S. citizenship.

Muslim lobbyists said the new administration of President Barack Obama would be pressed to overturn the FBI decision. Obama has pledged to improve U.S. relations with Muslims throughout the world.

"We look forward to better relations with the Obama administration," CAIR said.

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