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7 Apr, 2016

Arab-Americans urged not to cooperate with FBI’s latest anti-Muslim surveillance program

Washington, D.C. | www.adc.org | March 25, 2016 – The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee demands that the FBI cancel the launch of its controversial “Shared Responsibility Committee” program. Since learning about the program last fall, ADC has frequently expressed serious concerns about the initiative, which is part of the government’s Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program.  Today, ADC sent a letter requesting a meeting with FBI Director James Comey and calling for the initiative’s cancellation. According to news reports, SRCs will be formally introduced next week.

ADC has vocally criticized the SRC program since October 2015, as it raises numerous civil rights and civil liberties concerns and has been planned in secrecy. Foremost, the SRC is problematic as it continues to target Arabs and Muslims, and turns our religious leaders, mental health professionals, teachers and dedicated community members into informants for the FBI.

The FBI and other government agencies have failed to be transparent and forthcoming with details about the program, which the FBI packages as a form of community engagement. The SRCs expand the FBI’s surveillance powers, under the guise of an “interventionist” program. Similar programs were implemented in Europe, and they failed miserably.  In implementing the program, the FBI has ignored history and the concerns raised by community members. Instead the FBI has relied on fringe groups from within the community. These groups are recipients of government grants used to implement such programs and do not work in the best interest of the community.

For a visual explanation of how the SRC’s work, please click here. As explained in the visual, a typical SRC is made up of a religious leader, teacher, mental health professional, mentor and advocacy representative. The SRC works with the FBI in gathering information collected through private meetings between a suspect and members of the SRC. The SRC also makes a recommendation to the FBI as to whether a suspected individual should face prosecution, or not.

The SRC does not need to tell the suspected individual that they are working with the FBI, and must turn over all documents, including those typically protected under privacy laws. The members of the SRC are also open to liability should one of the individuals they are interviewing commit a crime. Members of the SRC can be called to testify at a criminal trial in the event charges are brought against an individual.

“The SRC program is tantamount to outsourcing the FBI’s surveillance apparatus to trusted community and religious leaders,” said Samer Khalaf, ADC President. “If the program is implemented, our community members will feel they can no longer trust even their doctors and religious leaders. Rather than make our community safer, this will create mistrust and ultimately fuel division within our community.”

ADC encourages community members, particularly religious leaders and mental health professionals, not to engage in or be part of the SRCs. If you are approached by the FBI, please contact the ADC Legal Department at 202-244-2990 or via email to legal@adc.org.