WASHINGTON (AP) _ The head of the department of Housing and Urban Development has launched an investigation into allegations of discrimination by security firms that receive federal money and are affiliated with Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam.

The firms get millions of dollars worth of federal contracts that could be jeopardized by the probe.

The Clinton administration agreed to the investigation after Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan., and Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., complained to Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros.

``I would like to know,'' Dole wrote, ``whether you think that financing the activities of the Nation of Islam, an organization with a well-documented history of anti-Semitism and bigotry, is an appropriate use of federal tax dollars.''

Cisneros has said in the past that while he strongly disagrees with Farrakhan's hostile views toward whites, and Jews in particular, the security firms affiliated with him have the right to do business with local housing authorities and receive HUD funds.

King says he thinks that's wrong and has authored legislation that would prohibit federal money from going to radical groups, such as black extremists like the Nation of Islam or white extremists like the Aryan Nation or the Ku Klux Klan.

``I know how dangerous it is to have hate groups spewing out their message. In a free society you can't stop them,'' King said in an interview. ``But to find out they're getting anywhere from $20 million to $30 million in federal money was to me a case of a society subsidizing its own destruction, or certainly its own disruption.''

In a letter to Dole dated Jan. 6 and made public by King on Thursday, Cisneros said he was ``very concerned about recent allegations of possible discrimination involving contracts with the Nation of Islam and affiliated groups.''

Cisneros said he had ordered an investigation into all of the contracts. If HUD finds any of the companies have discriminated it can cancel their contracts.

HUD officials referred questions about the nature of the discrimination allegations to Roberta Achtenberg, assistant HUD secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity, but Achtenberg did not return phone calls requesting more information on the investigation.

The Nation of Islam said it would hold a news conference Friday in Chicago to respond to the HUD investigation.

``We are eager to discuss our internal operations with HUD officials,'' said Leonard F. Muhammad, chief of staff for the Nation of Islam. ``However, we do not believe that any outside group should seek advantage through the improper use of the legislative or executive branch of government.''

A Farrakhan attorney was to meet with King today to discuss the issue.

King said HUD had ignored his complaints until Republicans won majorities in both houses of Congress and Dole voiced his concern.

According to the lawmakers, the Nation of Islam receives millions of federal dollars each year to provide security for public housing facilities in Baltimore, Chicago, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Pittsburgh.

Dole has requested a list of all contracts HUD has with the Nation of Islam or with groups affiliated with the organization.