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FBI “Threat Assessments” of Prisoners

November 11, 2005

BY DON THOMPSON

Associated Press Writer

FBI agents nationwide have been ordered to conduct “threat assessments” of inmates who may have become radicalized in prison and could commit extremist violence upon their release, according to an FBI letter obtained by The Associated Press.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — FBI agents nationwide have been ordered to conduct “threat assessments” of inmates who may have become radicalized in prison and could commit extremist violence upon their release, according to an FBI letter obtained by The Associated Press.

“The primary goal of these efforts is to assess and disrupt the recruitment and conversion of inmates to radicalized ideologies which advocate violence,” according to a letter from the acting assistant chief of the FBI’s Los Angeles office, Randy D. Parsons.

The agency has been concerned since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that groups with extremist ideologies may be targeting felons as prime candidates for conversion during their time in prison.

The agency has worked with prison officials to identify potentially disruptive groups for “some time,” according to the letter. “However, recent investigations have identified a clear need to increase the FBI’s focus and commitment in this area,” Parsons wrote in the letter, dated Friday and obtained Tuesday by the AP.

He said the FBI wants to increase its efforts to “identify, report, analyze and disrupt efforts by extremist persons or groups to radicalize, recruit or
advocate for the purpose of violence within correctional facilities.”

Spokeswomen for the FBI’s Los Angeles office and for the FBI in Washington, D.C., declined to comment on the letter.

Karen Ernst, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Sacramento, confirmed her office is participating in the “threat assessments.”

The order comes as an investigation continues into whether a suspected Southern California terror plot originated in a state prison in Folsom, near Sacramento. Three Los Angeles area men, including a parolee from California
State Prison, Sacramento, are suspected of plotting attacks on Jewish and National Guard sites.

FBI director Robert Mueller warned the Senate Intelligence Committee in February that prisons are “fertile ground for extremists.”

“The FBI will be going into each institution and assessing each population,” said Todd Slosek, spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

He expects the FBI to examine the department’s information on all “disruptive groups,” including prison gangs and Islamic organizations.

That shouldn’t interfere with inmate religious practices, free speech or other rights, Parsons wrote in the letter.

Salam Al-Marayati, executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles, said he worries that some inmates are forming radical groups and “putting a veneer on it and calling it Islam.”

He also said that many inmates who adopt religion in prison emerge less violent.

Authorities said they believe the Southern California plan originated in a shadowy group at the Folsom prison known as Jamiyyat Ul Islam Is Saheeh.

That case arose after 25-year-old Levar Haley Washington and another man were arrested July 5 by police in Torrance, a suburb southwest of Los Angeles, for investigation of robbing gas stations.

Counterterrorism officials in California have said they suspect a list found in Washington’s Los Angeles apartment contained potential terrorist targets, although Washington has not been charged with a terrorism-related crime. The
list included National Guard recruiting stations, synagogues and the Israeli Consulate.

Authorities believe the attacks were to be carried out this coming Sept. 11, George Gascon, assistant chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, has said.

Washington converted to Islam in the Sacramento-area prison before his parole in November.

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