Federal Law-Suit Accuses F.B.I. of Spying at Mosques in California

The ACLU and the Council on Islamic American Relations, held a news conference Wednesday in downtown Los Angeles to announce a lawsuit filed Tuesday on behalf of three plaintiffs. They accuse the FBI and seven employees of infringing on the 1st and 4th amendment rights of hundreds of members of the local Muslim community by using paid informants to infiltrate mosques and record interactions with its members. They claim that the FBI informant, Craig Monteilh, violated members’ civil rights and subjected them to “indiscriminate surveillance” because of their religion.

For over 14 months between 2006 and 2007, FBI agents planted an informant (Mr Monteilh) in Orange County mosques who posed as a convert to Islam and through whom the FBI collected names, telephone numbers, e-mails, and other information on hundreds of California Muslims. Sheikh Yassir Fazaga, Ali Malik, and Yassir AbdelRahim – plaintiffs in the case-are three of the many individuals who came in contact with the bureau’s informant.

F.B.I. officials said that they could not comment on the lawsuit, but that they based any investigation on allegations of criminal activity. They said that they did not single out specific religious or ethnic groups.
Mr. Monteilh has also sued the F.B.I., saying that it failed to protect him from charges of grand theft that he says were related to his work in a drug-ring operation. The class-action lawsuit seeks a court order for the F.B.I. to destroy or return the information Mr. Monteilh obtained.