COLUMBUS, 18 March 2008 — The FBI was interrogated for a change yesterday by members of the Muslim community at an event sponsored by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) at the Sunrise Academy in Columbus.
Officials engaged in the discourse as part of the FBI's so-called Community Relations Executive Seminar Training (CREST) program, which aims to improve relations with minority groups. Scheduled speakers at the event were special agents Kevin Bennett, Steve Flowers and Eric Thomas. The No. 1 concern in the audience was related to federal wiretapping, other forms of privacy invasion and the profiling of Muslims.
"Its not as easy as it seems (to get permission to phone tap)," said Flower. "We have to go before a federal judge and show evidence and get legal permission." But recent legislation has loosened these restrictions, especially when it comes to the surveillance of communications to and from overseas locations.
But Bennett attempted to assure Muslims that their phones were not being tapped. Flowers said that the three men the FBI prosecuted in Ohio — Ayman Faris, Christopher Paul and Nurudin Abdi — were arrested after years of careful evidence gathering. Flowers said the FBI must do its job fighting not just terrorism from Islamic extremists but also domestic terrorist groups such as the Army of God and the Aryan Nation.