Feds Failed To Conduct Thorough Background Check On Imam Who Taught Federal Prisoners

Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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The Department of Justice’s Bureau of Prisons failed to conduct a thorough background check of an imam hired to teach Islamic classes to federal prisoners who had previously said that Somali-born activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali should be put to death, the agency has admitted.

Iowa U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, inquired about the hiring of the imam, Fouad ElBayly, and asked the Bureau of Prisons about how it vets contractors hired to conduct religious classes at federal prisons.

In March, The Daily Caller reported that ElBayly, the imam at the Islamic Center of Johnstown in Pennsylvania, received $12,900 in 2014 to teach Muslim inmates at the federal prison in Cumberland, Maryland.

But ElBayly seemed a poor choice for the position. In April 2007 he publicly opposed Ali’s appearance at the University of Pennsylvania-Johnston, saying that because she has criticized Islam, she should be put to death. (RELATED: Imam Who Said Ayaan Hirsi Ali Deserved Death Penalty Was Hired By DOJ To Teach Muslim Classes To Federal Prisoners)

“If you come into the faith, you must abide by the laws, and when you decide to defame it deliberately, the sentence is death,” ElBayly said at the time.

Ali, a former Dutch parliamentarian, has openly criticized the religion, especially its treatment of women. Her criticism has drawn numerous death threats from Islamist groups. Theo van Gogh, who collaborated with Ali for his film “Submission,” was murdered by a Dutch-Moroccan radical in Amsterdam in 2004.

ElBayly’s 2007 comments appeared to be in conflict with the Bureau’s contract, which requires religious services contractors to agree with the statement: “I do not endorse nor will I practice or use language in the institution that will support violence, terrorism, discriminate against other inmates.”

In a response letter to Grassley, Linda McGrew, the assistant director at the Bureau’s Reentry Services Division, said that ElBayly is no longer contracted with the Bureau to teach Muslim classes. She also admitted that ElBayly was hired despite his past radical statements because they were not discovered during the agency’s Moderate Risk Background Investigation.

McGrew said that the vetting process requires contractors to pass two background checks — a National Crime Information Center check conducted by the Bureau and the moderate risk assessment, which is conducted by the Office of Personnel Management.

McGrew’s admission indicates that the Moderate Risk background check is not very rigorous. TheDC discovered ElBayly’s past statements about Ali through very simple means: a Google search for his name.

Nevertheless, McGrew said that the Bureau only recently learned of ElBayly’s “inappropriate statements.”

“Unfortunately, while Imam ElBayly did pass an NCIC check, our review of this case indicates the MBI was not fully completed,” McGrew stated.

“The Bureau has not knowingly contracted with religious services providers who have made statements endorsing violence against those who do not agree with particular religious tenets and does not intend to do so in the future,” she added.

“The statements by this former contractor remain a concern to the Bureau and we are currently reevaluating our background check procedures to prevent such hires in the future.”

In the letter to Grassley, McGrew attached ElBayly’s file which reveals that he was interviewed by a local program manager at Cumberland. His interview and his references showed “no indications” that he “held an extremist view of the Islamic faith,” she claimed.

McGrew stated that training has been provided to staff at the Cumberland facility and that the Bureau is conducting an audit of its hiring process across the board.

The Bureau of Prisons did not return TheDC’s request for comment.

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