A war of acronyms began Wednesday with the Council on American-Islamic Relations of Greater Los Angeles Area (CAIR-LA), the American Civil Liberates Union of Southern California (ACLU-SC), and the law firm Hadsell, Stormer, Keeny, Richardson & Renick LLP (HSKRR) announcing a federal class action lawsuit against the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for what they believe was 14 months of illegal surveillance of Muslims in Southern California.
On behalf of three Muslim plaintiffs, CAIR, the ACLU and HSKRR are charging that the FBI and seven of its employees violated hundreds of people’s First Amendment rights by having an informant infiltrate and monitor several California mosques, just because, they allege, the attendees were Muslim.
The plaintiffs are accusing the agency of paying informant Craig Monteilh to go undercover to find potential terrorists at their places of worship in 2006.
Laura Eimiller, a spokeswoman for the FBI Los Angeles Field Office, told The Daily Caller that while the FBI is prohibited from discussing pending litigtion, the agency denies that it targets any groups based on their religion.
“The FBI investigates allegations of criminal activity and threats to national security, not constitutionally protected activities, including the exercise of religious freedom, Eimiller wrote in an emailed statement. “The FBI does not investigate houses of worship or religious groups, but individuals who are alleged to be involved in criminal activity.”
ACLU lawyer Peter Bibring told the LA Times that it is doubtful Monteilh was only going after known criminals.
“That simply doesn’t fit with the behavior that the entire community observed,” he said. “[Monteilh] didn’t focus on individuals or small groups of people. He probed a wide range of people.”
CAIR has had a strained relationship with the FBI in the past. In 2008 the agency ended its once-tight relationship with the organization amid growing evidence that CAIR had ties to the terrorist group Hamas. The California chapter of CAIR only recently took down their “Build a wall of resistance. Don’t talk to the FBI” poster.