Every year, the North Austin Muslim Community Center hosts a Ramadan open house and invites members of the FBI and other authorities, Syed says. Cops have spoken. Firefighters, too.
“We’ve only had one FBI agent show up one time, and I want to say that was like three years ago,” Syed says. “And he did not speak at the event.”
This would not surprise Charles Swift, attorney and director of the Richardson-based Constitutional Law Center for Muslims in America, who says that in Texas, the FBI has “one community liaison agent who is responsible for most of Texas and a large part of Oklahoma,” but at least 50 operational agents working on counter-terrorism working out of the Houston, Austin, Plano, and Dallas-Fort Worth field offices.
Swift calls this dichotomy the bureau’s twin programs of “show and dough.”
“For show, the FBI community liaison officer tells the community leaders that the FBI wants to work with the community to counter violent extremism,” Swift says via email. “At the same time, the operational agents are going for the dough by inserting informants into the community with directions to recruit anyone they can to violent extremism. When the operational agents succeed in overcoming the efforts of the community, the story is the FBI stopped another terrorist attack, and that is what gets the dough.”
Instead of catching an actual terrorist, Swift argues, the tactic just drives a wedge between law enforcement and mainstream Muslims.
“The successful terrorist does not talk to anyone,” Swift says. “They read the papers, and they know how the FBI operates. Not only does the FBI not catch these lone [wolves], they admit they have little chance of ever doing so. Instead, the FBI continues to catch the stupid and misguided — who were not a threat and could have easily turned away from terrorism with help. All this does is [alienate] a community and further educate the real person who’s going to attack you. Brilliant.”