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Mr. Mustapha declined to comment on the visits or whether he has any link to Hamas.

An NCTC spokesman referred questions to the FBI, and an FBI headquarters’ spokesman referred questions to Mr. Rice.

The visits were first reported by Andrew Breitbart’s website Big Peace, which included a photograph of Mr. Mustapha and 18 other people inside the NCTC.

Mr. Rice said that during the recent Washington visit, Mr. Mustapha was escorted the entire time as he visited the NCTC headquarters near Tysons Corner in Northern Virginia and the FBI headquarters building.

“He’s very sympathetic to the mission of the FBI and has pledged his support,” Mr. Rice said.

A former FBI agent said Mr. Mustapha several years ago was listed in the FBI’s database as a member of Hamas. “This is a known senior Hamas guy,” the former agent said of Mr. Mustapha.

Asked if Mr. Mustapha is listed by the FBI as a Hamas member, Mr. Rice said, “not that I’m aware of.”

Mr. Rice dismissed a question about whether Mr. Mustapha could be posing as a double agent for radical Islamists while publicly supporting the FBI. “We would hopefully detect that, and there is no indication of that,” he said.

The imam was vetted before his inclusion in the approximately 30 ethnic, religious and business leaders who took part in the Citizens Academy program, he said.

Since 2001, the FBI, along with other U.S. government agencies, has conducted a series of outreach programs designed to develop ties to Muslim communities.

Critics have said the programs have failed to identify legitimate Muslim moderates and have been exploited by some radical Muslims to limit investigations into the covert U.S. activities that support international terrorist groups, including the Egypt-based Muslim Brotherhood.

Steven Emerson, director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, which has reported extensively on Mr. Mustapha’s support for Hamas, said the security issue of visiting sensitive U.S. buildings is only one aspect of the problem.

By making Mr. Mustapha part of the outreach program, the FBI is conferring “respectability” on a Muslim leader who has supported radical Muslims, he said.

“The fact that the FBI brought him in there is a slap in the face to all victims of terrorism and hundreds killed by Hamas,” Mr. Emerson said. “If this is U.S. counterterrorism policy, we’re doomed.”

Jim Phillips, a Middle East specialist at the Heritage Foundation, also questioned the FBI’s ties to Mr. Mustapha.

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