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Feds question Arizona Muslims ahead of debate

The FBI is increasing efforts to interview Phoenix-area residents, including Muslims, as the region prepares for an Oct. 13 presidential debate and the Nov. 2 election.
/ Source: The Associated Press

With the final presidential debate in Tempe less than two weeks away, the FBI is increasing efforts to interview Phoenix-area residents, including Muslims, as part of a nationwide plan to prevent a terrorist attack before the Nov. 2 election, agents said.

Susan Herskovits, the FBI’s spokeswoman in Phoenix, said this latest push aimed to increase intelligence by contacting as many people as possible — not just Muslims.

“We’re worried about an attack on American soil,” Herskovits told the East Valley Tribune. “It isn’t really targeting any group.”

Deedra Abboud, executive director of the local chapter of the Council of American-Islamic Relations, disagreed, saying Muslims obviously are a focus of the FBI effort. She was called by the FBI earlier this week.

“They are contacting Muslims they’ve already contacted, and contacting ones they haven’t met,” Abboud said. “They tell us they are not using ethnic profiling — we tend to disagree, but we won’t deny they are interviewing other people.”

She said the FBI told her they had no knowledge of any terror plans for Arizona “but they can’t be too sure.”

Abboud said while the agent’s tone was congenial, a visit or phone call from the FBI can still be disconcerting.

“You tend to wonder if you’re on a list — why they are at your door,” she said. “You feel like you’re under investigation even if you’re not.”

President Bush and Democratic Sen. John Kerry met Thursday night in their first presidential debate in Coral Gables, Fla. They have two more debates scheduled: Oct. 8 in St. Louis and Oct. 13 in Tempe.