Wednesday, November 7, 2007

FBI Hoped to Follow Falafel Trail to Iranian Terrorists in San Francisco

Yes, you read the headline correct. It turns out our crack squad of FBI agents were "data mining" for Iranian terrorists at San Francisco grocery stores. What you ask was the secret trail that they thought might lead them to the "evil doers"? Why, falafel purchases of course!

On one hand, this is so ludicrous its difficult not to get a chuckle from. Yet, it simultanerously gives creedence to every fear privacy protection advocates could possibly dream up! If the FBI is tracking falafel purchases of San Francisco residents, what else might they be up to? To call this "profiling" is an understatement.

Congressional Quarterly covers the story:

Like Hansel and Gretel hoping to follow their bread crumbs out of the forest, the FBI sifted through customer data collected by San Francisco-area grocery stores in 2005 and 2006, hoping that sales records of Middle Eastern food would lead to Iranian terrorists. The idea was that a spike in, say, falafel sales, combined with other data, would lead to Iranian secret agents in the south San Francisco-San Jose area.


As ridiculous as it sounds, the groceries counting scheme is a measure of how desperate the FBI is to disrupt domestic terrorism plots. The possibility of Iranian-sponsored terrorism in the United States has drawn major attention from the FBI because of rising tensions between Washington and Tehran over Iran’s nuclear program.

“Because of the heightened difficulties surrounding U.S.-Iranian relations, the FBI has increased its focus on Hezbollah,” Bresson said 16 months ago. “Those investigations relate particularly to the potential presence of Hezbollah members on U.S. soil.”


Last July’s National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on terrorism trends addressed the potential for Iranian subversion here in such cautionary terms that it was rendered useless. “We assess [Iran-backed] Lebanese Hezbollah, which has conducted anti-U.S. attacks outside the United States in the past, may be more likely to consider attacking the Homeland over the next three years if it perceives the United States as posing a direct threat to the group or Iran,” the [NIE] said. (Italics added.)

In other words, who knows? Nobody.


Only about a dozen Iranians in the United States have been arrested over the years, mostly in connection with small-time fund raising scams on behalf of Hamas, which included drug peddling, scalping cheap North Carolina cigarettes in New York and counterfeiting Viagra.


Community leaders have frequently complained that, since 9/11, any Muslim is considered a terrorist suspect. Some Iranians have complained of heavy-handed efforts by the FBI to turn them into informants. They say they constantly have to “prove” their loyalty to their adopted country to authorities and their neighbors.

I hope everyone feels as safe now as I do....

No comments: