CHICAGO (CN) – A federal judge ruled that a man who says he was falsely labeled a terrorism fund raiser may see the FBI background check that led the Illinois State Police to reject his application to become a Muslim chaplain.
Kifah Mustapha applied to become a chaplain with the Illinois State Police in November 2009. He was approved for the position and invited to training.
But in June 2010, Mustapha was told he had not passed the background investigation, according to the ruling from U.S. Magistrate Judge Arlander Keys and U.S. District Judge Ronald Guzman.
After he was accepted but before he was rejected, the Investigative Project on Terrorism (http://www.investigativeproject.org/), a nonprofit set up by journalist Stephen Emerson, published an online article describing Mustapha as a “radical fund raiser” and an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation fund-raising case.
Mustapha said those allegations were false. He sued the Illinois State Police, claiming it had denied him employment because of his race, national origin, religion, and affiliation with the Holy Land Foundation and other Islamic organizations.
Mustapha subpoenaed the FBI, seeking all documents from his background investigation, and a copy of the FBI’s standards on such investigations.
The FBI refused. FBI Agent Robert Grant claimed disclosure would reveal “sensitive law enforcement information, the disclosure of which would impair the FBI’s investigative technique and procedures.”
So Mustapha filed a motion to compel.
Judges Guzman and Keys granted the motion.
The judges acknowledged the myriad reasons for which law enforcement may withhold evidence with privilege, including protecting witnesses and preventing interference with investigations. But they did not accept the FBI’s allegation that it cannot safely disclose whether someone is the target of a terrorist investigation.
“No one is asking for that information here; Mustapha is simply asking for information relating to background checks,” according to the 11-page ruling.
“Quite simply, there is nothing to demonstrate (or even suggest) that the subject of the discovery relates, in any way, to an ongoing investigation, to a decision to prosecute, to any confidential sources, or to any confidential methodology or procedures.”
The judges called Agent Grant’s evaluation “not particularly elucidating or analytical,” and added, “the FBI’s claims of harm are difficult to pin down; certainly the FBI has not demonstrated how the disclosure of the particular materials requested and identified would harm anyone or anything. …
“Mr. Mustapha has no criminal history and does not appear likely to be the subject of any criminal proceedings. There appears to be no other way for Mustapha to obtain this information.”
The judges limited the ruling to the specific issue at hand: “None of this is to say that Mustapha has a carte blanche to delve into the FBI’s files. Information that was not relayed to the ISP simply is not relevant to Mustapha’s claims. …
“To the extent the documents disclose information about other people, the FBI may redact that information. But the information relating to Mustapha is relevant and outside the scope of any privilege.”