[lit-ideas] Angry Mesopotamian Sky Gods in the Slammer

  • From: Scribe1865@xxxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 6 May 2004 00:15:57 EDT

Report Warns of Infiltration by Al Qaeda in U.S. Prisons

Published: May 5, 2004

WASHINGTON, May 4 â?? Groups promoting extremist brands of Islam have gained a 
foothold in American prisons, and counterterrorism officials believe Al Qaeda 
are likely to try to use the prisons "to radicalize and recruit inmates," 
according to a Justice Department investigation. 

In a report from the Justice Department inspector general's office, 
investigators said safeguards were so loose in the 105 federal prisons that 
chapels "remain vulnerable to infiltration by religious extremists." A copy of 
report, to be released on Wednesday, was obtained by The New York Times.

The investigation grew out of concerns among members of Congress that groups 
training Muslim chaplains had terrorist ties and were breeding extremism. But 
the investigation found that the problem of "radicalized" prayer sessions was 
less a reflection of the chaplains than of unsupervised inmates who were 
allowed to lead their own worship meetings. 

"Too many opportunities for abuse of this practice exist," the report found.

The inspector general's report, the first detailed look into how the federal 
prisons have dealt with extremist beliefs since the Sept. 11 attacks, will 
likely prove controversial among Muslim leaders, who say they have been 
to unfair scrutiny and criticism because of their religious beliefs. Several 
groups that have trained Muslim chaplains have vigorously denied charges of 
terrorist links, and Muslim leaders point out that charges linking a military 
chaplain at Guantánamo Bay to possible terrorism largely collapsed.

The inspector general concluded that while the problem of terrorist 
recruitment in the federal prisons was not necessarily widespread, officials 
needed a 
number of systemwide improvements to ensure tighter control. Prison officials 
said Tuesday that they had already moved to fix some problems identified in the 
report by demanding more information about outside groups that train 
chaplains and by improving communications with the Federal Bureau of 
The report found that prison officials received sparse information from the 
F.B.I. about inmates or chaplains who may have terrorist connections. 

"We understand the seriousness and the risks inherent with extremist 
chaplains, contractors or volunteers," said Dan Dunne, a Bureau of Prisons 
"And we've made significant changes since the review was initiated to better 
screen religious service providers."

A classified addendum to the report details cases in which counterterrorism 
officials assert that people leading prison prayer sessions â?? including 
authorized chaplains, volunteers and inmates â?? may have ties to terrorist 

In a briefing Tuesday for Congressional officials, the inspector general's 
office said it found evidence that volunteers leading prayer services had been 
linked to people who showed up on terrorist watch lists, and that people 
associated with Al Qaeda had already managed to recruit support within the 
prisons, said Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York. 

Federal prison officials "were putting out the welcome mat to any group that 
wanted to infiltrate the prisons," Mr. Schumer said. "There was virtually no 
vetting of who would become a chaplain or a volunteer, and there was virtually 
no supervision. It was an invitation to danger."

Senators Schumer and Jon Kyl, Republican of Arizona, requested the 
investigation and held a hearing last year after concerns focused on the case 
of a 
Muslim chaplain, Warith Deen Umar, who had run New York State's Islamic prison 
program and was a consultant in the federal prisons. Mr. Umar was banned from 
state prison program after he reportedly expressed admiration for the Sept. 11 
hijackers and espoused a radical brand of Islam, but he maintained he was 

Senator Kyl said the inspector general's findings confirmed his concerns 
about the spread of extremist messages in the prison system, where Muslims 
represent an estimated 9,000 of the 150,000 inmates. 

"There's a concern that groups may already be radicalizing people in prison," 
he said. "Some of the findings are troubling, and clearly there is work to be 

The report found that chapels are among the few areas in federal prisons 
where large numbers of inmates can meet and talk, and it noted that several 
high-profile terrorist suspects had been drawn to Islam while in prison. 
sometimes supervise the prayer sessions with no guards present, and some prayer 
sessions are conducted partly in Arabic, the report said. 

Although some chapel services are videotaped, prison officials admitted that 
they might not be in a position to detect radical religious messages. "Not a 
whole lot of folks are in tune with that stuff," said an associate warden 
quoted in the report.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company 

To change your Lit-Ideas settings (subscribe/unsub, vacation on/off,
digest on/off), visit www.andreas.com/faq-lit-ideas.html

Other related posts:

  • » [lit-ideas] Angry Mesopotamian Sky Gods in the Slammer