This piece originally appeared at ColorLines.
Ten years after September 11, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has prioritized protecting American citizens from the threat of domestic terrorism emanating from within our borders. Consequently, about 15,000 of our friends, neighbors, business proprietors and religious leaders now work as paid, untrained informants for the FBI, in zealous pursuit of disrupting a terrorist threat. Though a clear path to “radicalization” has yet to be identified, the FBI relies on this vast network of informants to “see something and say something” about American citizens whose speech, ideology or religious expression suggests cause for a national security investigation. The Obama administration is invoking the state secrets privilege to block legal challenges to the surveillance as a violation of constitutional rights.
A large portion of the FBI’s $3.3 billion counter-terrorism budget is dedicated to informants, who typically earn about $100 a day for their role in an active investigation. Informants are disproportionately tasked to gather information in Muslim-American communities; they have been deployed based on blunt mapping programs that profile and target entire Muslim populations. Since 9/11, 508 defendants have been prosecuted for terrorism in 36 states and Washington, D.C. Almost half of these cases involved the use of an FBI informant.
The Raleigh Seven, Fort Dix Five, Newburgh Four and Tarik Shah (Martial Arts) cases received national attention as high-profile terrorism arrests—in each case an FBI informant enticed Muslim men to participate in a fictional terrorist plot. The lengths to which informants went to convince the men to participate in their nonexistent plots are striking; the details of their ultimate participation are often absurd. The families involved in these cases are African American, Albanian and Jordanian,* but they are united in that their belief that their family members were targeted and entrapped. As the anniversary of 9/11 nears, I aim that these photographs speak to the personal toll of our national security policies, which continue to adversely affect Muslim-American communities and families.