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Lawsuit contends FBI violated rights of hundreds of Muslim Americans

Craig Monteilh, photographed in 2009,

The FBI violated the 1st Amendment rights of hundreds of Muslims by using a paid informant to target and monitor several Southern California mosques based solely on religion, according to a federal class-action lawsuit filed Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Filed on behalf of three Muslim plaintiffs, the suit accuses the FBI and seven of its employees, including Director Robert Mueller, of paying Irvine resident Craig Monteilh to go undercover, infiltrate mosques and record conversations in order to root out potential terrorists.

Over the course of 14 months beginning in 2006, the FBI used Monteilh to “indiscriminately collect” personal information on hundreds or even thousands of Muslim Americans, the lawsuit alleges.

Through this “dragnet” operation, the agency “gathered hundreds of phone numbers, thousands of e-mail addresses, hundreds of hours of video recordings that captured the interiors of mosques, homes and businesses, and ... thousands of hours of audio recordings,” the lawsuit alleges.

Monteilh, who has served prison time for forgery, has previously told The Times that he was recruited by the FBI in 2004 to infiltrate drug-trafficking groups. In 2006, Monteilh said, he was asked to assume the identity of a Muslim convert and go undercover to identify extremists and gather intelligence.

The lawsuit comes a year after Monteilh filed suit personally against the FBI, accusing his law enforcement handlers of endangering his life and violating his civil rights. His claims of working for the FBI in some capacity were confirmed in 2009 when a West Covina judge unsealed court records that showed the agency intervened in 2007 to terminate Monteilh's parole on a theft charge early.

The FBI declined to comment on the case Tuesday night, citing ongoing legal proceedings. Spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said in an e-mail, however, that the FBI does not target houses of worship or religious groups but does focus on “people who are alleged to be involved in criminal activity, regardless of their affiliations, religious or otherwise.”

ACLU lawyer Peter Bibring said members of the Muslim community grew suspicious after Monteilh habitually asked probing and invasive questions about their religious beliefs, political views, loyalties and became “increasing aggressive about denouncing U.S. foreign policy.”

“Ironically, the operation ended when members of the Muslim communities of Southern California reported the informant to the police because of his violent rhetoric and ultimately obtained a restraining order against him,” the lawsuit alleged.

Bibring dismisses the idea that the FBI may have been targeting individuals already suspected of criminal activity.

“That simply doesn’t fit with the behavior that the entire community observed,” he said. Monteilh “didn’t focus on individuals or small groups of people. He probed a wide range of people.”

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages, class-action status and the destruction of all materials that Monteilh collected and handed over to the FBI.

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-- Shan Li

Photo: Dressed in his undercover Islamic clothing, Craig Monteilh, seen here in 2009, was recruited by the FBI to spy on Muslims. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

 
Comments () | Archives (13)

“Ironically, the operation ended when members of the Muslim communities of Southern California reported the informant to the police because of his violent rhetoric and ultimately obtained a restraining order against him,” the lawsuit alleged.

Well.

So much for those wild claims that CAIR is a front group for crazed terrorists.

If they catch one terrorist it would be worth it. I really don't feel any pity for them.

The ACLU, a communist organization. CAIR, a front organization for Muslim islamofacists. Corrupt organizations banding together to sue the government. The FBI is just doing its job to keep real americans, and those that claim membership in these two useless organizations, safe. They would do themselves better by assisting the FBI in looking for the Muslim loonies that want to do harm. I hope someone in Washington will cut off any federal funds these organizations receive.

If the Muslim Americans are as proud of America as most of us, they would invite the FBI to attend any service secretly without announcing they are doing it. This would be doing the work the Muslims should be doing for themselves to weed out terrorist since so many throughout the world profess to be Muslim. I respect Muslims just as I respect any other human being, but if very many of my family were involve in suspicious activity relating to crime and I was driving down the street and they stopped my car to check my brother who was my passenger, I would think nothing of it. I would invite them to check on me also, mainly because I know I am innocent of any crimes. Crime among all men will happen so long as the honor system is our security device. Like a card game, “trust everyone but cut the cards”. You keep me honest and I will keep you honest. Our friendship will grow stronger throughout the years.

Where was the ACLU when Muslims violated the rights of 3,000 Americans on 9-11?

The FBI monitors threats from all subversive groups, including American militias and others who threaten the existence of our nation through violent means. The Muslims in this country have been targeted due to the actions of other Muslims who attacked our nation and still want our destruction. Can you really blame this nation for being proactively protective?

Maybe they should move someplace, perhaps another country..where their "rights" won't be violated.

Well, we have to do what we have to do to protect ourselves. They are building in numbers... and it won't be long before they have enough "citizens" in the United States to start protests like in Libya and Egypt... and take over our government. And nobody is stopping them.

yeah, it's about time the FBI started profiling these people. If you're not doing anything wrong, don't worry about what you're saying.

Since when is asking people questions a violation of their civil rights?

Why is the FBI wasting time in targeting specific groups (Muslim Americans) to find terrorists? They should just set up the infrastructure to monitor everyone and require everyone to check in with them or submit a weekly time sheet letting them know exactly what we did. Then they would have a much easier time of "catching terrorists." We wouldn't have to settle for catching just one terrorist. We could simply database everyone, label the terrorists as such, and deal with them how ever we determine just. Why shouldn't we if they are terrorists?

are they U.S. Citizens ??--either way if they do not like it here--go home and live by your own rules and laws

I second what I ME MINE said "Where was the ACLU when Muslims violated the rights of 3,000 Americans on 9-11?"
Sorry but muslims are best known to be terrorists and I think we have every right to protect our country and ourselves. It's extremely hard for me to respect a religion when I have friends and family losing their lives overseas because of them.
You know that if OUR rights were violated they wouldn't care at all.


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