Since 2009, paid FBI informants have played a central role in nearly 50% of all domestic terrorism cases. Informants, who can earn up to $100,000 per case, are instructed to build relationships with persons of interest in the Muslim community. Informants then use a mixture of conversation, persuasion, and coercion to determine if these individuals, when given the plot, means, and opportunity, will then participate in terrorist activity.
Critics of this strategy, known as "preemption" or "prevention", argue that the government is solving plots that they themselves create in order to declare an easy victory in the war on terror. In fact, Human Rights Watch recently reported that out of all the high profile terrorism cases announced in the past decade, all but four were initiated by an informant-provocateur.
We recognize that there is a strong need for national security. However, what motivated us to make this film was a deep concern that the FBI was using untrained and unregulated informants to create the illusion of safety, rather than the essence of it. We were also troubled by the fact that these tactics have harmed the broader Muslim community.
Despite the fact that white supremacists and violent right-wingers have been responsible for nearly twice as many terrorist attacks in the United States since 9/11 as Islamic extremists, the FBI's terror stings have focused almost exclusively on Muslims. As a response of this targeting, parents have told their children not to dress "too Muslim". Muslim Student groups have posted signs in their college club rooms advising members to "please refrain from political conversations."
And now, there are new reports the FBI is "monitoring" Black Lives Matter activists in a similar way to how it treats persons of interest in the Muslim community. It’s a troubling pattern that we've been reporting on for years, and it’s being done at taxpayers’ expense under the illusion of safety and national security.
These tactics pose a direct threat not just to the safety of the broader Muslim American community, but to the fabric of our democracy. The FBI's efforts to map the Black Lives Matters movement, just as the NYPD mapped the homes, businesses, and places of worship of hundreds of thousands of innocent Muslim civilians, has chilling implications, and endangers one of America's most valuable national resources - the voice of the people.
Our goals for (T)ERROR are twofold: grassroots and policy. At the grassroots level, we are currently conducting a national screening tour of the film in each of the 56 cities where FBI field offices are located, accompanied by Know Your Rights workshops. On the grasstops level, we're working with activist Linda Sarsour and MPower Change to draw attention to the issues raised by the film, and have launched a petition calling on political representatives to create accountability and transparency for the FBI, reform biased policies, and investigate sentencing and prison conditions. We're also asking Congress to hold a hearing to examine the FBI's use of informants, the negative impacts that these tactics have had on Muslim-American communities, and the threat they now pose to other groups who are now being targeted by surveillance. A public congressional hearing is a critical first step towards true security, and necessary reform.
We're independent filmmakers with limited resources and would love to coordinate with existing efforts. In addition to MPower Change, we've been working with the ACLU, NCPCF, Project SALAM, CCR, the BORDC, and CAIR chapters around the country, but are always looking to collaborate, either with other groups or individuals. If you're interested in supporting our impact campaign, or hosting a screening, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and tell us a little about yourself, and how you or your organization would like to help.