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FBI Tracking Falafel?


Is there a bug inside?

Courtesy Mike Nizza

From a news release from the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Monday: “In this case, too ridiculous to be true.” — John Miller, a spokesman for the bureau.

Mr. Miller was referring to a widely circulated Congressional Quarterly report, attributed to “well-informed sources,” uncovering a supposed scheme by F.B.I. agents to detect terrorists by tracking sales of Middle Eastern food:

The idea was that a spike in, say, falafel sales, combined with other data, would lead to Iranian secret agents in the South San Francisco-San Jose area.

The brainchild of top F.B.I. counterterrorism officials Phil Mudd and Willie T. Hulon, according to well-informed sources, the project didn’t last long. It was torpedoed by the head of the F.B.I.’s criminal investigations division, Michael A. Mason, who argued that putting somebody on a terrorist list for what they ate was ridiculous — and possibly illegal.

In the release, Mr. Miller said that he asked all the officials mentioned above, and many others as well, whether they had ever heard of such an operation. “Nobody did,” he said. In the original article from C.Q., another F.B.I. spokesman expressed doubt, saying it “sounds pretty sensational to me.”

Congressional Quarterly has yet to comment on the F.B.I.’s response.

The news release ends by indirectly addressing all those bloggers who had a laugh at the F.B.I.’s expense. “While the story may have been the source of some amusement,” Mr. Miller said, “I appreciate the opportunity to set the record straight.”

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