Would You Like Spies with That?

By Matthew Harwood

In an article on November 2, Congressional Quarterly National Security Editor Jeff Stein reported about a FBI program to monitor the sales of Middle Eastern foodstuffs in the San Francisco Bay Area to uncover Iranian terrorists.

The logic was simple and "ridiculous," according to Stein's "well-informed sources": A spike in the sales of falafel and other associated food products in the Bay Area combined with other data would lead to Iranian secret agents.

Now John Miller, assistant director of the FBI's Office of Public Affairs, has weighed in on the controversy. He says Stein was right to describe the program as ridiculous because the story is "too ridiculous to be true."

In a press release issued two days ago, Miller wrote he spoke to the counterterrorism officials identified in the article as the masterminds of the "Falafel Investigation." Miller said they had no knowledge of the program.

"While the story may have been the source of some amusement," wrote Miller in the press release," I appreciate the opportunity to set the record straight on something that touches on something so important as national security and civil liberties."

Stein and Congressional Quarterly stand behind their story (scroll to the bottom of Stein's November 16 column for a response to Miller's letter, which was originally sent to CQ before being released publicly two days ago).



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