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California Lawsuit Alleges FBI Violation of Muslim Rights

The usual suspects — CAIR and the ACLU — are suing the Bureau for infiltrating mosques in Orange County.

by
Elise Cooper

Bio

March 26, 2011 - 12:00 am

The new strategy of those supporting radical Muslim elements is to put “politically correct” pressure on the FBI while at the same time distracting it with frivolous lawsuits. A recent lawsuit in Los Angeles is a perfect example of how the FBI’s reputation is being distorted, say former agents interviewed by PJ Media.

A lawsuit filed this year by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California and the Los Angeles office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) alleges that former FBI informant Craig Monteilh violated Muslims’ freedom of religion. Monteilh infiltrated Orange County mosques from 2006 to 2007, recording conversations and meetings. The plaintiffs claim that “the FBI did not gather the information based on suspicion of criminal activity, instead it gathered the information simply because the targets were Muslim.”

All those interviewed by PJM vehemently disagree with this claim. FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller has emphasized that the Bureau is not in the business of targeting groups or individuals based on their religion. To understand this position, Craig Dotlo, a former FBI agent, explained that:

[A]nytime an agent directs an informant or cooperating witnesses to penetrate a mosque or other religious institution, the agent is required to articulate there is reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is occurring. The reason the FBI would go into a mosque is to investigate a possible crime, not because of someone’s religion.

Other former agents insist that there must be a “predication” that a crime has been or will be committed.

This has been the FBI’s practice for decades, as they infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan, organized crime, the drug cartels, or any group that poses a threat to Americans. Since the 1970s, new rules have been imposed. Agents have to fill out a lengthy questionnaire and obtain the approvals of a supervisor, an assistant special agent in charge, as well as a Department of Justice attorney. The use of an informant must be approved by a high level authority after reviewing the informant’s background.

What should American Muslims suggest the FBI do, considering Homeland Security Department Secretary Janet Napolitano and the director of the National Counterterrorism Center have stated that the new type of threat is a self-radicalized, homegrown lone wolf? This lawsuit by CAIR and the ACLU appears to be a fishing expedition to find out what information the FBI has, to identify who the FBI sees as targets of the investigation, and to make the FBI more risk-averse.

Because some of the evidence is classified, the FBI is not able to go public and present the facts and its side of the story. The expectation is that the FBI, as a domestic intelligence service, should be able to predict threats before they take place. This sentiment is echoed by Congressman Peter King (R-NY), who recently stated that “I don’t believe there is sufficient cooperation  by American Muslims with law enforcement.”

The lawsuit goes on to allege that “this dragnet investigation did not result in even a single conviction related to counterterrorism.” This statement is only true on its face value because evidence was gathered that can possibly be used in a future investigations. For example,  Ahmadullah Niazi, a member of the Irvine mosque who is the brother-in-law of Osama bin Laden’s former bodyguard, was arrested on charges he lied about ties to terrorist groups on citizenship and passport papers.

In addition, in a search warrant affidavit from March 2009, FBI Special Agent Thomas J. Ropel stated that:

[S]earching agents seized numerous documents from the subject (Niazi) premises reflecting multiple cash transfers … to Pakistan and Afghanistan through the use of a hawala, an unlicensed money transfer system.

He further stated that the hawala system is used because many transfers go undetected. He also reported that  these transfers were traced to someone convicted of money laundering in connection with narcotics, and that he found approximately $10,900 in hundred dollar bills located in a small box locked in an armoire at Niazi’s house. Although Niazi was indicted, the case was dismissed.

When asked about this, the former agents agreed with Richard Marquise, the lead investigator of the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing, that the case may have been dismissed “to make a stronger case.”

Think of it like a football game. We punt right now so when we get the ball back we will be in better field position. I would like to hope that somebody is still keeping tabs on him which can make him less valuable to the possible terrorists.

The lawsuit seems to base all its evidence on the aggressive tactics of FBI informant Craig Monteilh.

The question is: who is credible? In the past, many terrorists, including the Oregon Christmas Day bomber and the Maryland subway bomber ,were arrested because the government prevailed and went undercover to thwart these plots. A former FBI agent pointed out that FBI Director Mueller testified earlier this month that the FBI no longer has a formal relationship with CAIR because of concerns that the national leadership might be linked to terrorist groups such as Hamas. Mueller also defended undercover operations in mosques to thwart the domestic lone wolf terrorist.

In the Irvine mosque investigation, Monteilh turned and is now a cooperating witness for the plaintiffs. Dotlo feels that:

[S]ome informants fail to perform as instructed and occasionally operate beyond the boundaries imposed by the Government, despite close supervision.  Is Monteilh trying to discredit law enforcement for his own gain?  Are innocent and dedicated FBI agents being unfairly subjected to this needless ordeal?

The stated objective of the plaintiffs is to point out how the FBI is singling out Muslims. They point out in the filing that 500,000 Muslims live in Southern California with 120,000 living in Orange County. Bob Hamer, a former Los Angeles FBI agent and author, responded to their accusations by stating that:

[T]here are an awful lot of mosques in the Southern California area. If we were targeting Muslims we would be pretty busy. If there was a white supremist plot to blow up a mosque, would you hear any complaints about an informant being placed to tell us about their activities? I believe the FBI was not targeting the mosque. They were not targeting the religion. They were targeting individuals who happened to be Muslim.

A former agent who knows the Los Angeles office well speculated that:

Things are not as they appear. This is a one sided story and when the facts are presented it will show the FBI did nothing wrong since there is so much evidence. My faith is that the FBI had probable cause or reasonable suspicion.

By overburdening the FBI with these ridiculous lawsuits those American Muslims are hindering the Bureau from carrying out its responsibilities to protect Americans.

The author is a freelance writer focusing on national security issues.
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