The class claims: "Apart from the electronic surveillance program, Agents Armstrong and Allen also directed their surveillance at people on the basis of their religion by instructing Monteilh to look for and identify to them people with certain religious backgrounds or traits, such as anyone who studied fiqh (a strand of Islamic law concerning morals and etiquette), who was an imam or sheikh; who went on Hajj; who played a leadership role at a mosque or in the Muslim community; who expressed sympathies to mujahideen; who was a 'white' Muslim; or who went to an Islamic school overseas."
They also told Monteilh to look particularly for people attracted younger Muslims, and to discuss extreme Islamic attitudes and leaders to observe people's reactions, the class claims.
Monteilh was ordered to work under cover as a "fitness consultant," and, following orders, he "worked out with Muslims in various gyms around the Orange County area and elicited a wide variety of information, including travel plans, political and religious views," the class claims.
He collected names, phone numbers, email addresses and license plate numbers of mosque members and turned them over to his handlers, the class says.
The agents sought to collect incriminating information about certain Muslims - "such as immigration issues, sexual activity, business problems, or crimes like drug use. Agents Armstrong and Allen instructed Monteilh to pay attention to people's problems, to talk about and record them, including marital problems, business problems, and petty criminal issues. Agents Armstrong and Allen on several occasions talked about different individuals that they believed might be susceptible to rumors about their sexual orientation, so that they could be persuaded to become informants through the threat of such rumors being started," the complaint states.
The agents told Monteilh that "everybody knows somebody," and then "explained" what that meant: "They explained that if someone is from Afghanistan, that meant that they would likely have some distant member of their family or acquaintance who has some connection with the Taliban. If they are from Lebanon, it might be Hezbollah; if they are from Palestine, it might be Hamas. By finding out what connections they might have to these terrorist groups, no matter how distant, they could threaten the individuals and pressure them to provide information, or could justify additional surveillance.
"Agents Armstrong and Allen also instructed Monteilh to engage in acts that would build his reputation as a devout Muslim who had access to black market items. On one occasion, Agents Armstrong and Allen instructed Monteilh to provide Vicodin to a person whose father was sick in a foreign country. On another occasion, Agent Allen instructed Monteilh to provide prescription anabolic steroids to another two individuals to similarly further his credibility, which he did."
In early 2007, the agents told Monteilh "to start asking more pointedly about jihad and armed conflict, then to more openly suggest his own willingness to engage in violence," according to the complaint. "Pursuant to these instructions, in one-on-one conversations, Monteilh began asking people about violent jihad, expressing frustration over the oppression of Muslims around the world, pressing them for their views, and implying that he might be willing or able to take action.
"In about May 2007, on instructions from his handlers, Monteilh told a number of individuals that he believed it was his duty as a Muslim to take violence actions, and that he had access to weapons. Many members of the Muslim community at ICOI then reported these statements to community leaders, including Hussam Ayloush. Ayloush both called the FBI to report the statements and instructed the individuals who had heard the statements to report them to the Irvine Police Department, which they did.
"As a community, ICOI also brought an action for a restraining order against Monteilh to bar him from the mosque. A California Superior Court granted the restraining order in June 2007."
Monteilh's identity was eventually revealed, "first in court documents where the FBI and local law enforcement revealed his role, and then through his own statements which were reported widely in the press," the class claims.
Monteilh sued the FBI for $10 million in January 2010. As Courthouse News reported at the time, Monteilh claims he "was arrested in December 2007 and 'forced under the color of authority by the FBI and its agents, to plead guilty to grand theft, suffer a felony conviction, and endure sixteen months in prison for work performed at the direction of the FBI.'" He also claimed that he was endangered by being placed in the general population in prison after it was revealed that he was an FBI snitch.
In the new class action, named plaintiff Sheikh Yassir Fazaga, an imam with the Orange County Islamic Foundation, says that he can no longer counsel congregants at the mosque because they fear surveillance.
Fazaga claims that since having contact with Monteilh, he "has also been subjected to secondary screening and searches upon return to the U.S. from various international trips, being held up between 45 minutes and three hours most times he travels."
The complaint states: "By targeting Muslims in the Orange County and Los Angeles areas for surveillance because of their religion and religious practice, the FBI's operation not only undermined the trust between law enforcement and the Southern California Muslim communities, it also violated the Constitution's fundamental guarantee of government neutrality towards all religions."
It adds that the 14-month "dragnet investigation did not result in even a single conviction related to counterterrorism."
"Approximately 500,000 Muslims live in Southern California, more than 120,000 of them in Orange County, making the area home to the second-largest population of Muslims in the United States," the complaint states.
The class demands damages from the FBI, its Director Robert Mueller, Assistant Director Steven Martinez, Agents Armstrong and Allen and three other agents, for violations the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments, the Privacy Act, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
The class also wants destruction of the information the FBI obtained illegally.
Its lead counsel is Peter Bibring with the ACLU of Southern California.
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