Here’s the headline on a Page A01 story from Sunday’s Washington Post:
Mosque infiltration feeds Muslims’ distrust of FBI
Here’s the top of the meaty, 2,200-word report:
IRVINE, CALIF. – Before the sun rose, the informant donned a white Islamic robe. A tiny camera was sewn into a button, and a microphone was buried in a device attached to his keys.
“This is Farouk al-Aziz, code name Oracle,” he said into the keys as he sat in his parked car in this quiet community south of Los Angeles. “It’s November 13th, 4:30 a.m. And we’re hot.”
The undercover FBI informant – a convicted forger named Craig Monteilh – then drove off for 5 a.m. prayers at the Islamic Center of Irvine, where he says he spied on dozens of worshipers in a quest for potential terrorists.
Since the 2001 terrorist attacks, the FBI has used informants successfully as one of many tactics to prevent another strike in the United States. Agency officials say they are careful not to violate civil liberties and do not target Muslims.
But the FBI’s approach has come under fire from some Muslims, criticism that surfaced again late last month after agents arrested an Oregon man they said tried to detonate a bomb at a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony. FBI technicians had supplied the device.
In the Irvine case, Monteilh’s mission as an informant backfired. Muslims were so alarmed by his talk of violent jihad that they obtained a restraining order against him.
So far, so good. The lede provides compelling, precise details (the reference to “some Muslims” notwithstanding). The dramatic opening scene sets the stage for the main thesis: that FBI tactics have hurt relations with Muslims and hampered the nation’s fight against terrorism.
After reporting more specific details on the Monteilh case, the Post raises the stakes:
Some Muslims in Southern California and nationally say the cascading revelations have seriously damaged their relationship with the FBI, a partnership that both sides agree is critical to preventing attacks and homegrown terrorism.
Citing Monteilh’s actions and what they call a pattern of FBI surveillance, many leading national Muslim organizations have virtually suspended contact with the bureau.
“The community feels betrayed,” said Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, an umbrella group of more than 75 mosques.
“They got a guy, a bona fide criminal, and obviously trained him and sent him to infiltrate mosques,” Syed said. “And when things went sour, they ditched him and he got mad. It’s like a soap opera, for God’s sake.”
So far, so good.
Now, all the Post needs to do is back up the facts that it just reported.
As best I can tell, the story quotes Syed and one other Muslim — a student from the Los Angeles mosque — who say Muslims’ relationship with the FBI has been hurt. I guess two qualifies as some Muslims. However, the paper refers — without attribution — to damaged relationships in Southern California and nationally. Where are the national sources?
Meanwhile, many leading national Muslim organizations have virtually suspended contact with the bureau.
Who are these many leading national Muslim organizations? I read the story three times, and I found mention of exactly zero national Muslim organizations. If many leading national Muslim organizations have virtually suspended contact, shouldn’t the story identify them?
And since we’re in the business of nitpicking here at GetReligion, what exactly does virtually suspended contact mean? Does that mean you only call the FBI three times a year instead of 20? Seriously, what does it mean?
So far, so good.
Nah, take that back. So far, too good.
The Post overreached and failed to deliver the promised goods.