The Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General is completing its review of the Voting Section in the Civil Rights Division. It is also continuing to probe FBI field office agents’ interactions with a prominent Muslim advocacy organization, according to a report released Friday.
The Inspector General has been reviewing since March the contact the FBI has had with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which has long drawn the criticism of conservatives for its founders’ ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) has pressed the case of FBI contacts with CAIR for years, arguing such contacts serve to legitimize the organization.
In 2009, the FBI cut off all formal contact with the organization, after it produced evidence in a terrorism case in Texas that outlined CAIR’s ties to Hamas, which the U.S. had designated a terror group for its campaign of suicide bombings against Israel.
In the 2008 Texas federal trial, members of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development were convicted of supporting Hamas. Evidence at trial showed CAIR was founded by members of a support network for the militant group. However, none of the organization’s members were ever indicted and its leaders deny any connection to Hamas.
“The review will determine if these interactions were in compliance with FBI policy and guidance that restricts certain interactions with CAIR,” the Inspector General report states.
The document is the IG’s semiannual report to Congress, providing updates on its work over the year and what is ahead for the office.
Lawmakers questioned Attorney General Eric Holder earlier this year about its relationship with CAIR. Holder told the House Appropriations Committee in February that he personally avoids meetings or briefings where CAIR members are also attending. The department is expected to follow suit with the FBI and formalize a policy on interacting with CAIR.
Voting Section review
The Inspector General also reported it is nearing the end of its review of the Voting Section’s enforcement of civil rights laws, focusing on any shift in how the cases are brought and handled over time. The review began under former Inspector General Glenn Fine after GOP House members pushed for a review of a racially charged voter intimidation case.
“The review is examining the types of cases brought by the Voting Section and any changes in the types of cases over time; any changes in Voting Section enforcement policies or procedures over time; whether the Voting Section has enforced the civil rights laws in a non-discriminatory manner; and whether any Voting Section employees have been harassed for participating in the investigation or prosecution of particular matters,” the report states.
The Voting Section opened more new cases this year than ever before, doubling the number from last year. Attention focused on the section’s challenges to several voter identification laws across the country. The section came under scrutiny after allegations it was politicizing its hiring procedures during the George W. Bush administration.
Holder’s decision to dismiss a racially charged 2008 voter intimidation case involving members of the New Black Panther Party sparked an outcry from some Republicans, labeling him a reverse racist. The case was brought by former trial attorney J. Christian Adams, who has since quit and become a vocal critic of the department. Two members of the fringe New Black Panther Party were accused of intimidating voters outside a Philadelphia polling station in 2008.
The lawsuit was mostly dismissed by Holder in 2009 on free speech and other grounds. But an internal Justice Department review of the case’s dismissal found that no voters in the majority black polling district had actually complained of intimidation.