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FBI spies on Bay Area mosques

Since 9/11, surveillance of Muslims has been on the rise. New York City made national news in February when the Associated Press broke the story about the NYPD spying on area mosques. AP won a Pullitzer Prize for that reporting.

About a month later, in March, we received similar news much closer to home. The ACLU announced it had documents showing the FBI spied on mosques here in the San Francisco Bay Area between 2004 and 2008.

Zahra Billoo is executive director of the Bay Area chapter of CAIR- the Council on American Islamic Relations, which is working with the ACLU on the issue. KALW’s Hana Baba spoke with Billoo about federal surveillance of mosques.

HANA BABA: What would the federal agents do at the mosques?

ZAHRA BILLOO: They would visit these mosques under the guise of building community relationships, really trying to build trust with the community, saying we're here to protect and serve, we want you to get to know us so you always have a contact at the FBI. Because of this guise of outreach, many leaders and activists opened up to the FBI. They thought it's really important for us to have this relationship with law enforcement. And what we learned was that this was in fact a betrayal of the community because these weren't outreach visit. What was happening is you'd have is they'd do a visit, take all sorts of notes detailing everything from who's Sunni or Shia, to how many women are in the room, to who is planning on going on pilgrimage to Mecca – and then putting that information in intelligence files, and sharing it with the intelligence units in the FBI and also outside of the FBI. So it was shared with other agencies as well, and that's incredibly frightening and the community feels really betrayed.

Listen to the complete interview above.

Hana Baba is host of Crosscurrents, KALW's weeknight newsmagazine that broadcasts on KALW Public Radio in the San Francisco Bay Area.