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FBI plans to continue mosque monitoring despite concerns in Orange County

June 9, 2009 |  7:48 am

The FBI plans to continue using informants to monitor mosques in America despite strong criticism over such programs leveled this year by Muslim American leaders in Orange County.

The Times revealed this year that an FBI informant claimed agents monitored popular gyms throughout Orange County to gather intelligence on members of several local mosques. Some Muslim leaders in area condemned the practice.

But FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III is now defending the practice.

"We don't investigate places, we investigate individuals," Mueller told the Associated Press. "To the extent that there may be evidence or other information of criminal wrongdoings, then we will ... undertake those investigations. We will continue to do it."

In April, informant Craig Monteilh told The Times he posed as a Muslim convert at the request of the FBI to gather intelligence that might aid anti-terrorism investigators.

Monteilh said he was instructed to lure mosque members to work out with him at local gyms. FBI agents, he said, later would obtain security camera footage from the gyms and ask him to identify the people on the tapes and to provide additional information about them. He said he was told that the agents then conducted background checks on the men, looking for anything that could be used to pressure them to become informants.

Disclosures of the FBI's tactics angered some in the Muslim community in Orange County, who have called on the Obama administration to halt the practice.

Mueller told reporters Monday in Los Angeles that "the vast majority of Muslim groups and Muslim-Americans are as patriotic as anybody else. They have contributed substantially to the safety of the United States."

-- Shelby Grad