Two FBI agents allegedly intimidated a Somali man in Minnesota as they tried several times to enlist him as an undercover informant, according to a recent release by the Minnesota chapter for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN).
The officials visited the man at his house, pressuring him to work for the agency, the release stated. When the man asked for a lawyer three times, the agents threatened to withhold his asylum papers and set him against the Muslim community — by spreading a photo of him and saying that he was an informant — so the community would fear him and no one would speak to him, the release said.
The incident occurred last October, said CAIR-MIN’s executive director, Lori Saroya.
“He is confused and worried,” Saroya said about the man who sought assistance from the advocacy group for Muslims in Minnesota. “He doesn’t understand why the FBI is harassing him because he has never engaged in any illegal conduct.”
On January 30, CAIR-MN sent a letter to the agency’s local office in Minneapolis about the allegations, asking the agency to investigate the case. The agency contacted CAIR-MN the next day to inform the organization that they had received the letter and would investigate it internally.
Saroya wouldn’t reveal the man’s name, but described him as a family man in his mid-20s who lives in Minneapolis.
The local office of the FBI did not return a phone call seeking comments on the allegations.
“CAIR-MN has seen a recent increase in complaints from Minnesota Muslims, including Somalis, who are approached by the FBI for questioning or asked to become informants,” Saroya said.
Over the past several years, the agency has been investigating the Minnesota Somali community, searching for connections between local Somalis and the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab in Somalia.
As part of the ongoing investigation into the disappearance about 20 Twin Cities, Somali men, believed to have gone to Somalia to fight for al-Shabab, the agency has raided some of the community’s local businesses and interrogated individuals suspected of being close to the missing men.
“We hope the FBI is conducting a thorough investigation,” Saroya said of the man’s case, “and explaining to their agents that these tactics are both unethical and unlawful.”
Reporting for this article supported in part by Bush Foundation.