Union Tribune

October 22, 2002 

Police review board at issue
Is Shaikh an informant for the FBI? He denies it

By JOE CANTLUPE 
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE 

WASHINGTON San Diego's Citizens Review Board on Police
Practices takes pride in reviewing documents and asking plenty
of questions about Police Department conduct.

But one of its own members has been entangled in controversy
because law enforcement sources described him as an informant
for the FBI. That description apparently has attracted the
attention of congressional investigators.

Board members acknowledged in interviews that recent
published reports about board member Abdussattar Shaikh put
the advisory watchdog group in a potentially difficult situation,
because city policies forbid any board member from working for
law enforcement.

Shaikh, an educator and leader in the local Muslim community,
was a trusted informant for the FBI, sources told The San Diego
Union-Tribune last month.

However, Shaikh has repeatedly denied being an informant or
giving any information to the FBI. He declined to be interviewed
for this article.

Officials of the Citizens Review Board on Police Practices said
that no law-enforcement informant should belong to the
23-member board, saying it would compromise the panel's
independence.

Still, board members have not questioned Shaikh nor do they
plan to do so, describing him as honest and well-liked.

"My position is, there's no reason not to believe him," said
Joseph R. DeNigro, a retired Navy captain who serves as board
chairman. "I have never asked him.

"If he were an FBI agent or an informant by virtue of that he
would have to relinquish his position. If I asked him if he were an
informant, what would he say? No? There's no reason not to
believe him."

After the media reports characterized him as an informant,
Shaikh wrote e-mails to board members stressing that the
accounts were erroneous, city officials said.

The city manager's policies forbid members of the review board
from working for a law-enforcement agency in any capacity,
according to Scott Fulkerson, executive director of the board.
Board members are appointed by the city manager and serve
one-year terms without pay.

In a resume provided to the city, Shaikh described himself as
"well-organized, well-disciplined, loyal and a resourceful person
who enjoys working as a part of a team to accomplish the
organizational objectives."

The 68-year-old Shaikh, who resides in Lemon Grove, gained
attention in the months following the Sept. 11 attacks.

He said that in 2000 he had unwittingly rented a room to two
hijackers, Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid al-Midhar, who were on the
plane that was flown into the Pentagon. Shaikh said he was
unaware of the plot, and the FBI said he was not linked to the
terrorists.

In recent weeks, congressional investigators who examined
intelligence failures stemming from the Sept. 11 attacks have
expressed interest in the reported relationship between Shaikh
and the FBI, law enforcement sources said.

However, Shaikh was never called to testify during public
hearings.

Shaikh's disclosure that he was a landlord to the hijackers did not
undermine his reappointment last April to the police review
board, according to city records.

Shaikh had served for three years on the board in the mid-1990s
and was reappointed again in 2000.

Board members said he attends most meetings and is an active
participant on the panel, which reviews potential
abuse-of-power claims against the San Diego Police Department.

"I know Dr. Shaikh," said board member Fred J. Heske. "He's an
honest man. I'd be hard-pressed to tell him to leave, without any
evidence at all."

All board members undergo law-enforcement background
checks before their appointments.

"If a member were an informant, would that turn up on the
background check?" board chairman DeNigro asked. "We
wouldn't be told, I think. Really, how do we know about
anybody? It's some question."

Copyright 2002 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.