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Old 02-24-2011, 02:01 PM   #1
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CAIR, ACLU Sue FBI Over Mosque Surveillance

Christian Science Monitor, Feb. 23
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In a case that could test law enforcement's ability to identify and monitor potential terrorists inside the United States, an Islamic organization has sued the FBI for the actions of a paid spy who infiltrated several Orange County mosques in California in the mid-2000s. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Council on American-Islamic Relations allege in the lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles, that a paid informant named Keith Monteilh violated the First Amendment rights of hundreds of Muslim worshipers when he performed "indiscriminate surveillance" on "people who were more devout in their religious practice, irrespective of whether any particular individual was believed to be involved in criminal activity."

The FBI responded that it doesn't ask its informants or agents to target people for their religious affiliations, and maintains it has done a good job of balancing civil liberties with its ongoing antiterrorism work. Nevertheless, the case threatens to erode already-tenuous relationships between law enforcement and the broader American Muslim community, which has the best potential to spot suspicious behavior in its midst. That ability--and willingness --was illustrated in this case. Mr. Monteilh "became an agent provocateur," says Ibrahim Hooper, national CAIR spokesman. "He was the one suggesting all these kinds of bizarre activities to the extent that community itself turned him in."

The Monteilh affair was particularly galling to Los Angeles-area Muslims, since he was working in a mosque where an FBI official had promised no such surveillance would take place under his watch.
More broadly, targeting mosques and even fervent believers is a sure way for the FBI to alienate moderate, law-abiding Muslims, says Ameena Mirza Qazi, staff attorney of CAIR-Los Angeles. "When Muslims perceive that they are viewed as a suspect community by law enforcement or the FBI, it really has a devastating effect on relations between law enforcement authorities and American Muslims," says CAIR's Mr. Hooper.

But the FBI can't ignore the role of mosques as potential hubs of terror activity, says Gabriel Schoenfeld, a national security expert at the Hudson Institute. Some of the organizers of the first World Trade Center attack in 1993, for example, met at a mosque in New Jersey. "Mosques can't be sanctuaries for criminals," says Dr. Schoenfeld, author of "Necessary Secrets: National Security, Media, and the Rule of Law." "Even if the FBI did something wrong in this case, that would not eliminate the need for the agency to investigate places like mosques, where terror activities have been cooked up in the past. Does that cut against the First Amendment? Undoubtedly. But the First Amendment isn't a suicide pact. It has to be balanced against other provisions of the Constitution, like providing for the common defense," argues Schoenfeld.

The lawsuit contends that Monteilh's FBI handlers told him to collect e-mail address, phone numbers, and other pertinent information about Muslims, and "explicitly told Monteilh that Islam was a threat to America's national security." Legal experts say the lawsuit could succeed if the ACLU proves that the FBI targeted Muslims for their religious beliefs. But resting an entire case on a paid informant--with a criminal record, in Monteilh's case--can be tricky. "Using informants is an unsavory business, and informants often lie,'' John Baker, a Louisiana State University law professor, tells the Washington Post. "How trustworthy is his information? No one knows.'' Schoenfeld adds that lawyers could also parse the allegation that the FBI asked Monteilh to look for worshippers who were particularly devout. "What does that mean?" he says. "Are they devout in trying to memorize the Koran, or are they devout in preaching a political brand of Islam? That could be legitimate for the the FBI to investigate."

"Nobody objects" to the FBI investigating "when there's actual probable cause," says Hooper, "but to just say, 'go into these various mosques and see what you can dig up'--and even suggest to people that they should engage in criminal activity--that is something that is way beyond the pale."
San Francisco Chronicle, Feb. 23
Quote:
Monteilh's use as an informant has caused little but headaches for the FBI. The one-time machine operator has a lengthy rap sheet dating to the 1980s and a history of evictions and bad debts for everything from car payments to rent to credit cards.

After several months of gathering cell phone numbers and e-mail addresses for his handlers, agents asked Monteilh to talk more openly about jihad and his willingness to engage in violence, according to the lawsuit. Instead of responding approvingly to Monteilh's violent rhetoric, several mosque-goers called the FBI to say they were worried about his statements.

Monteilh himself is suing the FBI over his treatment by the handlers. He says the FBI failed to protect him from grand theft charges he claims were related to his work for the agency on a drug ring investigation. He eventually served eight months in prison on the felony counts.
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Old 02-25-2011, 06:11 AM   #2
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"Using informants is an unsavory business, and informants often lie,'' John Baker, a Louisiana State University law professor, tells the Washington Post.
I really don't know how many more times this has to be repeated before people realize this. Sometimes informants can be very valuable, yes. But not always. You can't go on those alone.

I think it's hilarious this backfired on the guy. I mean, really...

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After several months of gathering cell phone numbers and e-mail addresses for his handlers, agents asked Monteilh to talk more openly about jihad and his willingness to engage in violence, according to the lawsuit. Instead of responding approvingly to Monteilh's violent rhetoric, several mosque-goers called the FBI to say they were worried about his statements.
Because naturally, people who are planning such things just talk about it openly and freely. It's not like they don't want to, you know, get CAUGHT or anything. To say nothing of the assumption that Muslims would just automatically as a whole perk up at the mere mention of the word.

Also, I can think of certain aspects of Christianity that would fit the "criteria" suggesting worthy concern listed here.

Angela
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Old 02-28-2011, 05:57 AM   #3
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I have no problem whatsoever with this.....and I would STILL have no problem if the same was being done in synagogues and churches or any other place of worship.

Why should they mind being watched if they have nothing to hide?

I think this says it all:
Even if the FBI did something wrong in this case, that would not eliminate the need for the agency to investigate places like mosques, where terror activities have been cooked up in the past. Does that cut against the First Amendment? Undoubtedly. But the First Amendment isn't a suicide pact. It has to be balanced against other provisions of the Constitution, like providing for the common defense," argues Schoenfeld.
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Old 02-28-2011, 10:15 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Moonlit_Angel View Post
I really don't know how many more times this has to be repeated before people realize this. Sometimes informants can be very valuable, yes. But not always. You can't go on those alone.

I think it's hilarious this backfired on the guy. I mean, really...



Because naturally, people who are planning such things just talk about it openly and freely. It's not like they don't want to, you know, get CAUGHT or anything. To say nothing of the assumption that Muslims would just automatically as a whole perk up at the mere mention of the word.

Also, I can think of certain aspects of Christianity that would fit the "criteria" suggesting worthy concern listed here.

Angela

Good point!


I thought the word jihad ment a personal struggle in order to become closer with Allah. To rid one's self of sinful behavior and to live according to their teachings.

I attend a local Catholic parish. The FBI would be bored since mass is a celebration of the Last Supper. No political rallies there.
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Old 02-28-2011, 12:55 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by AchtungBono View Post
I have no problem whatsoever with this.....and I would STILL have no problem if the same was being done in synagogues and churches or any other place of worship.

Why should they mind being watched if they have nothing to hide?

I think this says it all:
Even if the FBI did something wrong in this case, that would not eliminate the need for the agency to investigate places like mosques, where terror activities have been cooked up in the past. Does that cut against the First Amendment? Undoubtedly. But the First Amendment isn't a suicide pact. It has to be balanced against other provisions of the Constitution, like providing for the common defense," argues Schoenfeld.
I'm curious what you think about this:

Quote:
FBI handlers told him to collect e-mail address, phone numbers, and other pertinent information about Muslims, and "explicitly told Monteilh that Islam was a threat to America's national security."
Something tells me you wouldn't be as ok with the FBI telling informers that your religion is a threat to America.
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Old 02-28-2011, 01:15 PM   #6
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I have no problem whatsoever with this.....and I would STILL have no problem if the same was being done in synagogues and churches or any other place of worship.

Why should they mind being watched if they have nothing to hide?[/b]
That's very scary, to be honest. I'm trying to put myself in the shoes of someone living in a country that has been under constant threat from neighbours for X years, and told it shouldn't exist, etc, and I still find it hard to use that as a reason to threaten civil liberties.

The main thing with this case is that the informant the FBI sent in was actively trying to garner support for organizing anti-US activity, so much so that the members of the mosque reported him to.....law enforcement.

Then again, this is the same FBI that threatened to expose Martin Luther King Jr. as an interracial sex freak to the country if he didn't back off the civil rights cause, so, meh, par for the course for the home of the brave.
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Old 02-28-2011, 06:34 PM   #7
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^ It's not really Monteilh's 'jihadi' exhortations to mosque members that's the issue here, since the FBI never found cause to charge any of them for such activities (though that is an issue in the ongoing case of Mohamed Osman Mohamud, the Portland 'Christmas bomber'--i.e., whether or not the FBI's extensive undercover involvement in that bogus 'plot' constituted entrapment). Instead, this lawsuit is essentially challenging the sweeping revisions of FBI surveillance policies under John Ashcroft, which dramatically loosened requirements on reasonable grounds for suspicion and restrictions on surveillance methods that had been in place since Watergate. Those revisions disproportionately affect American Muslims in practice, and the alleged facts of this case may offer an opportunity to challenge them, primarily along First Amendment lines (failure to maintain religious neutrality), and secondarily along Fourth (unreasonable search) and Fifth (equal protection) Amendment lines.
Quote:
...Schoenfeld adds that lawyers could also parse the allegation that the FBI asked Monteilh to look for worshippers who were particularly devout. "What does that mean?" he says. "Are they devout in trying to memorize the Koran, or are they devout in preaching a political brand of Islam?..."
Some elaborations on that allegation from the lawsuit (available here), according to Monteilh: He was told to focus especially on very religious people such as imams, anyone who'd gone to Mecca, anyone who led prayers, anyone who led youth groups, and anyone who attended both the early-AM and late-PM prayer services regularly. He was to seek private encounters with such individuals as often as possible, where he was to find out as much as he could about their political views, which charities they favored, how often and where they traveled, and what they thought about specific Quranic verses often given 'jihadist' interpretations, and/or the views of scholars known for propounding such interpretations. He was also given a few 'jihadist' websites to recommend his 'friends' visit (ones whose traffic his handlers were monitoring); was on occasion supplied by his handlers with controlled substances (painkillers, steroids) to give to mosque members interested in them, to build his reputation as a religious man who also knew his way around the black market; and was directed to present himself as a trained fitness instructor so as to create further opportunities to bond with young male members. Monteilh stated that his handlers repeatedly cited a maxim that "Everybody knows somebody"--i.e., that an Afghan immigrant probably has friends or relatives affiliated with Taliban, a Lebanese immigrant probably has friends or relatives affiliated with Hezbollah, etc. He regularly secretly filmed and/or recorded these conversations with other mosque members, and recounts being told by his handlers of at least 14 other area mosques which were under electronic surveillance by the FBI.

In addition to this focus on 'very religious' members, Monteilh further claims he was told to keep an eye out for members who might have immigration, drug abuse, or sexual orientation 'problems' which, under the right circumstances, might make them 'amenable' to becoming informants themselves. This was, in fact, how Monteilh's true purposes eventually become known to the former mosque 'friends' who'd (so they thought) turned him in--one of them was arrested on a minor immigration-related charge based on information gathered by Monteilh, and while the charge wound up being dismissed, it came out during the trial that 'an informant' (recognizable from the description as Monteilh) was the source of the allegations against the man.

So, at least as I understand it, basically this case comes down to whether the apparent design of the FBI's operation (and by implication others like it) violated plaintiffs' First Amendment rights by targeting them for undercover surveillance based on religious affiliation alone, in the absence of any reasonable grounds for suspecting their involvement in crime. That, and--as the OP article mentions--whether Monteilh's assertions about his work can be shown to be true.
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Old 02-28-2011, 07:56 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by yolland View Post
Instead, this lawsuit is essentially challenging the sweeping revisions of FBI surveillance policies under John Ashcroft, which dramatically loosened requirements on reasonable grounds for suspicion and restrictions on surveillance methods that had been in place since Watergate. Those revisions disproportionately affect American Muslims in practice, and the alleged facts of this case may offer an opportunity to challenge them, primarily along First Amendment lines (failure to maintain religious neutrality), and secondarily along Fourth (unreasonable search) and Fifth (equal protection) Amendment lines.
Ooh, triple whammy.

Bang-up job, Bush administration. As usual .

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was on occasion supplied by his handlers with controlled substances (painkillers, steroids) to give to mosque members interested in them, to build his reputation as a religious man who also knew his way around the black market
That's...really beyond creepy, actually.

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Monteilh stated that his handlers repeatedly cited a maxim that "Everybody knows somebody"--i.e., that an Afghan immigrant probably has friends or relatives affiliated with Taliban, a Lebanese immigrant probably has friends or relatives affiliated with Hezbollah, etc.
And that is just pathetically sad.

The immigration thing turning on Monteilh cracks me up, too. That's another thing-so the FBI wants an informant to gather this information, but they wind up picking one who apparently was pretty damn inept at doing the job! And yet it's the Muslims who are a threat to our national security?

Angela
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Old 02-28-2011, 10:12 PM   #9
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Old 03-01-2011, 03:35 AM   #10
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I'm curious what you think about this:



Something tells me you wouldn't be as ok with the FBI telling informers that your religion is a threat to America.
Hello Diemen,

Saying that Islam is a threat to America is WRONG because its not the religion that is evil it is the people who twist the articles of their faith in order to fit their own agenda. For instance, the 911 terrorists who committed murder in the false belief that they were doing god's work....

It is RADICAL Islam that is the threat - and not just Islam. ANY radical element that is intolerant to other beliefs and ways of life is a threat to stability.

Let me give you another example - in 1995, our PM Yitzchak Rabin was assasinated by a Jewish right-wing law student who believed that he was saving the country from Rabin's policies, which included major territorial compromises to the Palestinians in exchange for peace.
He took what he was taught in the ultra right-wing environment he grew up in and adapted it to suit himself and his selfish purposes.

Back on topic, lately, it has been the RADICAL muslims who have been most vocal in mosques and who have been calling to intensify the war against the west (particularly the U.S.), and we all know that the mosques were hotbeds for the radical Imams who preached murder for the 911 terrorists - and others.

So its a good thing that they're being watched. The surveillance is ultimately saving lives.
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Old 03-01-2011, 09:04 AM   #11
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Achtung Bono how do you know that "Radical" mosques are even located in the United States? We have thousands of Mosques here. One is located not too far from where I live and so far no bombings in my neighborhood.
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Old 03-03-2011, 10:14 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by AchtungBono View Post
I have no problem whatsoever with this.....and I would STILL have no problem if the same was being done in synagogues and churches or any other place of worship.

Why should they mind being watched if they have nothing to hide?

[/b]
So it's okay when people are guilty until proven innocent? In this case all muslims in the US are suspected of terrorist activity.

Monitoring should only be the case when there is really a threat of terrorism/ extremist preaching in some mosques or if terrorists are known to be from the same mosque 'parish'.
Why isn't the FBI working on white supremacy based churches or these freaks/trolls of the Westboro Baptist Church then? They have the same rate of danger with their hate speeches.

To me it sounds simply like an act of religion based discrimination.
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Old 03-03-2011, 12:36 PM   #13
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So it's okay when people are guilty until proven innocent? In this case all muslims in the US are suspected of terrorist activity.

Monitoring should only be the case when there is really a threat of terrorism/ extremist preaching in some mosques or if terrorists are known to be from the same mosque 'parish'.
Why isn't the FBI working on white supremacy based churches or these freaks/trolls of the Westboro Baptist Church then? They have the same rate of danger with their hate speeches.

To me it sounds simply like an act of religion based discrimination.

Well said!

I'm more afraid of the Westboro nut jobs than my Muslim neighbors.
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Old 03-03-2011, 03:47 PM   #14
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here's one kind of mosque "surveillance":


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Old 03-03-2011, 05:01 PM   #15
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