Muslims accuse FBI of 'spying' in California mosques
A lawsuit brought against the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) by three members of a California mosque who allege they were unlawfully surveilled due to their religious beliefs will be heard in the Supreme Court later on this year.
Starting from 2006, the FBI sent a paid confidential informant to spy on the Southern California Muslim congregation.
The lawsuit, which was brought against the FBI by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the ACLU of Southern California, and their legal representatives was filed 15 years ago.
The FBI is understood to have told the informant to focus on the most devout mosque-goers, and he was instructed to meet with specific people targeted by the FBI and told to encourage people to visit terrorist websites.
He also attempted to collect compromising information that could be used to bring other informants in line.
The informant also targeted CAIR, and told mosque attendees not to support the organisation because it was a "sell-out organisation that is on the FBI’s payroll".
"The FBI infiltrated several mosques in Southern California, planted informants and targeted American Muslims for illegal spying solely because of their religion," said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Los Angeles branch of CAIR.
"The FBI's actions were a clear violation of our Constitution and revealed that the FBI viewed, and continues to view, the American Muslim community as second-class citizens who are suspects until proven innocent."
The FBI attempted to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds arguing the methods were in the interests of national security.
Lawyers for Yassir Fazaga and two other Muslim men argued that their case "challenges a domestic FBI surveillance program that, according to the FBI's own informant, targeted individuals for electronic surveillance because of their religion".
The government is attempting to have the case dismissed under the state secrets privilege, which allows the US to withhold evidence in court that could damage national security.
Targeting a particular religious community in this way is unconstitutional.
Such surveillance efforts have failed to produce "a single-terrorism-related conviction", CAIR said.d