In the wake of news that an FBI informant infiltrated several Orange County mosques, the ACLU of Southern California demanded in federal district court Monday that the bureau release documents on its surveillance activities of Muslim groups.
Earlier this year, Craig Monteilh, a 46-year-old father of three, said he worked as an FBI informant uncovering suspected terrorist plots. The Irvine man came forward saying he feared for his life because people might think he is a terrorist. He said his four-year investigation led to one arrest and seven others are pending, under sealed indictments.
The ACLU/SC alleges that Monteilh "baited religious leaders, created suspicion with his extremist rhetoric and sent a chilling effect into an already wary community," the group said in a statement released Monday.
The ACLU/SC has spent nearly three years trying to get FBI records of surveillance on Muslims in Southern California.
In May 2006, 11 Muslim American leaders, mosques and local organizations filed a joint Freedom of Information Act request. They sought all FBI records of the agency's surveillance and investigations of themselves and other groups since January 2001.
One year later, the FBI turned over four pages of documents. Not satisfied, the ACLU/SC filed a lawsuit in September 2007, claiming the government's incomplete and long-delayed response violated the FOIA.
"Since then, the government has provided hundreds of pages of documents, but they are so heavily redacted that there is only a sentence or a single name on many of the pages. Even so, the documents show that the FBI conducted extensive surveillance on lawful First Amendment activities of Muslim Americans where there appears to be no reasonable suspicion of criminal activity," the ACLU/SC said in a statement.
"Only full disclosure will satisfy us and alleviate the pervasive fear in our communities and congregations," said Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California.
"Truth can never be redacted," Syed said.