A former Department of Homeland Security agent says that an investigation he was conducting into a fundamentalist Islamic group operating in the U.S. may have helped stop San Bernardino jihadi Syed Farook had the government not shut down his probe.
During an interview with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly on Thursday, Philip Haney said that in 2012 as an agent with U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s National Targeting Center, he opened an investigation into a Sunni Islamic group called, Tablighi Jamaat, a subset of the fundamentalist Deobandi movement.
But Haney said that just a year into the investigation it was shut down by the State Department and the Homeland Security Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.
The reason the investigation was quashed? Because the federal government did not want to profile Islamic groups, Haney told Kelly.
In the process of shutting down Haney’s inquiry, the feds also deleted his files, which included information on an organization with ties to Farook’s mosque, San Bernardino’s Deobandi movement-affiliated Dar-al-Uloom al-Islamia.
And Farook’s wife and accomplice, Tashfeen Malik, went to school at Pakistan’s al-Huda, which also has ties to the Deobandi movement.
As the global intelligence group Stratfor has reported, Talighi Jamaat has been linked to a number of attempted terrorist attacks targeting the U.S.
Members of the sect were tied to the Oct. 2002 Portland Seven case and the Sept. 2002 Lackawanna Six case. Members were also involved in an Aug. 2006 plot to bomb airliners en route from London to the U.S. and attempted bombings in London and Glasgow, Scotland in July 2007. Stratfor also reported that Talighi Jamaat affiliates were involved in the July 7, 2005 bombings. That attack left 52 dead and more than 700 injured.
Haney said that had his investigation been allowed to develop, Farook may have ended up on the federal government’s terror radar or on the government’s no-fly list. And if that had occurred, Farook would not have been able to connect with Malik. The jihadists reportedly met in 2013. She came to the U.S. from Saudi Arabia last year on a fiancee visa and married soon after.
“Either Syed would have been put on the no-fly list because association with that mosque, and/or the K-1 visa that his wife was given may have been denied because of his association with a known organization,” Haney told Kelly.
Haney turned whistleblower in 2013 after meeting with DHS’ inspector general. In turn, DHS and the Justice Department investigated him, though found no wrongdoing, The Federalist reported.
In September 2014, Haney had his security clearance revoked as well as his access to work databases.
According to Fox’s Trace Gallagher, the Department of Homeland Security declined to comment on the story but said that Haney’s story is missing many details.
Haney’s claim comes amid reports that investigators believe that Farook was in the same social circle as a Riverside, Calif., man who was arrested in 2012 in a plot to recruit for al-Qaida. That recruiter, Soheil Kabir, was convicted of providing material support to terrorists and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Farook had reportedly planned an attack in 2012 but got spooked after that recruiting ring was busted.