But it was not just any prosecutor who had aroused the ire of some in Boston’s Muslim community. Chakravarty had shaped his career in part around protecting the civil rights of that very group, feeling it had been unfairly targeted by bigotry. And he had been leading the Justice Department’s efforts to create a new relationship with Muslims throughout the region.
He also was the man who had prosecuted several Muslims in terrorism investigations. Now, he found himself under attack.
A decade after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror strikes, the dilemma for Chakravarty and other federal officials — searching for homegrown terrorists without violating the rights of Muslims — remains as sharp as it was in the immediate, chaotic aftermath of the attacks.
The federal government’s domestic counterterrorism efforts have scaled up dramatically, largely through a transformation of the FBI into an intelligence-driven agency and a large increase in the number of agents devoted to fighting terrorism. Justice Department and FBI officials say they have helped prevent a second major terror attack on American soil and arrested numerous would-be terrorists.
The government’s efforts have relied in part on a more trusting relationship with Muslims — a particular focus in the Obama administration — and many leaders in the community have been open to that. But others have complained about federal law enforcement and its investigations, surveillance and arrests of Muslims, accusing officials of targeting the same community they are trying to cultivate.
It is one of those arrests and prosecutions that has complicated Chakravarty’s dual role: From his office next to Boston Harbor, he has taken the lead in trying to build a better rapport with Muslims. But he also is prosecuting the terror case against Tarek Mehanna, a local Muslim whose trial is scheduled for early October.
In meetings with Muslims, Chakravarty is unfailingly polite and solicitous. In court, he is the tough post-Sept. 11 prosecutor, endorsing tactics that are considered routine by law enforcement officials but have infuriated many Muslims, including the use of cooperating witnesses in their community.
Arguing in court that Mehanna should be held without bail, Chakravarty described the thread between the accused and those around him.
Mehanna committed his crimes “often from the confines of his own home,’’ Chakravarty said, “often with the assistance, with the knowledge of people in this very same community.”
In the Boston area, tensions between federal law enforcement and Muslims, who number roughly 100,000, were triggered by the 2001 attacks, when 10 hijackers boarded two planes at the city’s Logan International Airport and crashed them into the World Trade Center.