Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) asked FBI Director Robert Mueller on Wednesday whether the bureau had any outreach programs specifically for the Baptist or Catholic communities like it did with the Muslim community.
“How is your outreach going with the Baptists or the Catholics?” Gohmert inquired.“Do you have a particular program of outreach to Hindus, Buddhists, the Jewish community, agnostics, or is it just a particular outreach program for [Muslims]?” Gohmert pressed.
“I’ve looked extensively and I haven’t seen anywhere … that there’s been an extensive outreach program to any other community trying to develop trust and this kind of relationship,” Gohmert continued. “And it makes me wonder if there is an issue of trust or something like that the FBI is seeing in that particular community.”
Mueller was appearing before the House Judiciary Committee’s hearing on FBI oversight. I caught up with Gohmert after the hearing to find out what he was getting at.
“You can try and figure it out,” Gohmert told TPM. “I was just trying to explore because he said that there was no more suspicion basically in one community than the other so I was trying to explore just how similar all the other communities were.”
Mueller said in response to Gohmert’s question that the FBI’s citizens academies involve “individuals from a variety of segments” of the communities in which they operate.
“It doesn’t sound like there extensive outreach programs to all the other communities, so I think there’s a difference,” Gohmert told TPM.
CBS News posted video of the exchange:
Gohmert also pressed Mueller on the FBI’s relationship with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). Mueller confirmed that the FBI cut off their formal ties to CAIR.
“We have no formal relationship with CAIR because of concerns with regard to their national leadership,” Mueller said.
Mueller defended the bureau’s relationship with the Muslim-American community while justifying the use of undercover agents in mosques and the FBI’s so-called “sting” cases — both of which have proved controversial in some parts of the Muslim-American community.
“I would say we have very good relationships with Muslim communities around the country,” Mueller told members of the committee. “The Muslim community has been helpful in a number of cases which we have addressed since Sept. 11.”
Mueller, whose 10-year term in office began days before Sept. 11, said that another terrorist attack would be the “worst thing that could happen to the Muslim community” and that that Muslim-Americans are “for the most part are cooperative.”
“Across the country, I think those relationships were very, very good,” Mueller said.
But he defended the FBI’s sting operations, which have come under fire in some circles on allegations that the feds were entrapping Muslim youths.
“With regard to the use of undercover operations, we have used these [techniques] for probably 100 years of our existence in terms of undercover operations when it comes to corruption, narcotics trafficking, trafficking in child pornography,” Mueller said.
“So use of undercover operations we do across the board day-in-and-day out, and undercover operations in terrorist cases are not much different from undercover operations that we do across the board,” he added.
“Secondly, I would say that they are subject to substantial review at headquarters and are monitored as they go forward not only by headquarters but also by U.S. attorneys offices where they take place to ensure that we are not entrapping individuals,” Mueller said.
“If you look at the number of terrorist threats which have been thwarted where individuals have been arrested and those individuals who have asserted an entrapment defense, I am not familiar with a jury that has found in favor of the defendant on the entrapment defense in the number of cases since September 11,” Mueller said.
The FBI director also said the bureau was focused “very intently” on domestic lone wolves dating back to the 1995 terrorist attack in Oklahoma City.
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) asked Mueller if the FBI had been prevented from entering any mosques in the course of their investigations.
“We are not restrained in undertaking investigations, but we are exceptionally sensitive to the fact that the First Amendment does protect speech and association,” Mueller said. “We are not constrained in pursuing an individual regardless of where they may be.”
Mueller said that generally a warrant is not required for an agent to sit in a mosque wearing a tape recorder but said there would have to be a predication for using that particular technique.
While he declined to weigh in on Rep. Peter King’s controversial hearing focusing on Muslim radicalization, Mueller said more generally that there had been a “number of cases” where the Muslim community had either initiated or cooperated with investigations.
[Ed. note: This post has been updated to include video of the exchange posted by CBS News.]