Rumor: Mosques are excluded from digital snooping

A report claims that mosques are excluded from the digital surveillance operation of the US Government.

FALSE: Where some see sensitivity, others see conspiracy

An editorial in Investor's Business Daily claims that President Barack Obama is snooping on all Americans except for those that attend mosques. "Since 2011," it reads, "mosques have been off-limits to FBI agents." The editorial also claims that 80 percent of American mosques "preach violent jihad" and that mosques are "jihad factories where homegrown terrorists are radicalized."

So first, let's point out one important thing: this editorial doesn't link to a single source. It makes sweeping statements about an entire religious minority, yet doesn't bother to offer any independent evidence or confirmation. That alone should make you suspicious.

What the editorial does do right is link this supposed mosque-snooping exclusion to real-life events. In 2011, two civil rights groups sued the FBI in an attempt to prevent the agency from targeting mosques. As a result of that lawsuit, the Obama administration set up something called the Sensitive Operations Review Committee, or SORC.

The problem was that in post-9/11 America, a lot of mosques were being targeted. The FBI was surveilling them and often paying informants to collect details. That's what brought about that first lawsuit: the FBI paid a convicted felon to spend years infiltrating mosques in Southern California, sometimes taping conversations with Muslims in their own homes. Only one case came from those years of spying, and it was dropped for lack of evidence.

The civil rights group thought the administration and the FBI had gone too far in their snooping. So the committee was an attempt to rein things in. It was not, as the Investor's editorial suggests, a free pass for "jihadi factories."

Another name for those factories is places of worship. And for every one radicalized Muslim, there are literally thousands of others who are just trying to do what the American constitution affords them: the right to worship freely. One last note. Since 9/11, 17 Americans have been killed by Islamist terrorists. Right-wing terrorists, aka non-Muslims, have killed 29.



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