Probes Test Trust That Authorities Strove to Win From U.S. Muslims

October 5, 2009

Author: Carrie Johnson and Robin Shulman

Source: The Washington Post

Investigators seeking to uncover terrorist plots for years have walked a fine line between keeping tabs on the Muslim community and alienating the same people who could serve as an early warning signal.

That tenuous balance has been tested again in what law enforcement authorities say is one of the most worrisome terrorism investigations in decades, the unfolding case against Denver shuttle bus driver Najibullah Zazi, who has been charged with conspiracy to unleash weapons of mass destruction in the form of hydrogen peroxide bombs.

A Queens man who had been a power broker in his Muslim community -- and a source for the New York City Police Department -- allegedly tipped off Zazi of the police interest early last month. That complicated the ongoing investigation of what investigators say were al-Qaeda operatives on American soil, and led to the indictment of the Queens man on criminal charges.

Tension among the FBI, local police and members of the Islamic community has flared several times in the years since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist strikes. Earlier this year some Muslim charities and advocacy groups threatened to cut ties with the FBI amid concern that investigators were infiltrating mosques in California and elsewhere.