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O.C. mosque spying case centers on alleged FBI informant

Craig MonteilhA hearing is scheduled in federal court in Santa Ana on Tuesday in a high-profile lawsuit involving the FBI’s alleged use of an informant to conduct surveillance inside Orange County mosques in the years after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Revelations of the surveillance, said to have occurred in 2006 and 2007, sparked anger and dismay in the Muslim community when it was disclosed in 2009. Many Muslims say a climate of suspicion toward them after 9/11 has harmed their community and severely inhibited their freedoms of speech and faith.

An FBI agent testifying in a criminal trial in February 2009 said the agency had sent an informant into several Orange County mosques to collect evidence about a man accused of ties to Al Qaeda. Another man, Irvine resident Craig Monteilh, later stepped forward to claim that he had been the informant.

The lawsuit, filed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the American Civil Liberties Union, contends that the FBI illegally targeted mainstream Muslims through its actions, violating their rights to freedom of religion.

Tuesday’s hearing is on motions by attorneys for the U.S. Justice Department who want the lawsuit dismissed, saying defending it could lead to state secrets being disclosed.

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-- Rebecca Trounson

Photo: Craig Monteilh, who claims to be an FBI informant who infiltrated mosques in Orange County, says these IDs were issued to him while serving time in state prison. Credit: Los Angeles Times

 
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