(CN) – A Muslim man in Virginia lost his bid to revive a lawsuit accusing federal agents of illegally raiding his house for evidence that he supported international terrorism.
The 4th Circuit affirmed dismissal of constitutional claims brought by Iqbal Unus, his wife and one of his daughters.
After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Treasury Department established “Operation Green Quest,” a task force assigned with investigating domestic players suspected of aiding terrorists through corporate and nonprofit fronts.
In 2001, Green Quest began investigating a purported international terrorist network in Virginia. According to affidavits, the task force suspected that a “web of companies and charities controlled by these individuals,” led by “Middle Eastern nationals living in Northern Virginia” were conspiring with terrorists.
In March 2002, 11 federal agents and three local police officers executed a search warrant at the home of Unus and his family.
Unus said he was targeted based on research by Rita Katz, a self-professed expert on tracking terrorist organizations and the author of a book on researching terrorist activity in the United States.
Katz “espouses a belief that if one is a Muslim, one is a terrorist by virtue of religion,” Unus claimed. He said Katz’s views prompted federal agents to search his house as part of an unconstitutional and misguided effort to find evidence of money laundering, tax evasion and material support of terrorism.
David Kane, a special agent with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, sought and obtained warrants to search various businesses, homes and charities collectively referred to as the “Safa Group.”
Unus’ house fell squarely within the scope of the warrant, based on his involvement in five Safa Group organizations. He was the director of one, an advisor to two others, and the “administrative and billing contact for Web sites” for two more.
When agents executed the warrant, they knocked on the door and, after receiving no answer, busted down the door. Unus’ wife and one of his daughters were inside. Agents quickly handcuffed the women and searched the home for financial records and other evidence. When they left, they seized two computers and six boxes of documents.
Unus, his wife and daughter filed suit against Kane, Katz and the federal agents, alleging constitutional violations, conspiracy to fabricate evidence in support of the search warrant, discrimination, assault and battery, and false imprisonment.
The district court dismissed their claims, saying the agents had established probable cause.
After multiple amended complaints, the plaintiffs’ claims were either dismissed or killed by summary judgment for the government.
The federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., affirmed dismissal on all issues but one: an award of attorney fees to defendant Katz. “[T]his record lacks any indication that the plaintiffs were somehow motivated out of spite to prolong the litigation or increase the litigation costs,” King explained.
The court concluded that Kane is entitled to qualified immunity, Katz can’t be held liable for alleged conspiracy, the agents’ decision to handcuff the plaintiffs was reasonable, and the plaintiffs failed to identify any factual misrepresentations in the affidavit used to obtain the warrant.
Chief Judge Williams dissented in part, objecting to the reversal of Katz’s award of attorney fees.