ACLU, Muslim Group Sue FBI Over Surveillance

LOS ANGELES -- A former FBI informant who infiltrated a California mosque violated the constitutional rights of Muslims by conducting "indiscriminate surveillance" because of their religion, according to a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday.

The lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles was filed by the ACLU of Southern California and the Los Angeles office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. It named the FBI and seven of its agents and supervisors, the Washington Post reported.

The lawsuit alleges ex-FBI informant Craig Monteilh was ordered by his supervisors to target Muslims for surveillance, violating their First Amendment right to freedom of religion. The lawsuit seeks class-action status, unspecified damages and a court order instructing the FBI to destroy or return the information Monteilh collected.

Monteilh infiltrated an Orange County mosque and helped build a case against an Afghan-born man who was arrested on terrorism-related charges in 2009.

The lawsuit claims that Monteilh's handlers, FBI agents Kevin Armstrong and Paul Allen, instructed him to collect e-mail addresses, phone numbers and other detailed information about Muslims and "explicitly told Monteilh that Islam was a threat to America's national security," according to the Post.

Through an FBI spokeswoman, the two agents declined to comment to the newspaper.

In an e-mail to The Associated Press, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said she could not comment on assertions made in the lawsuit or pending litigation, but she emphasized that the FBI does not target religious groups or individuals based on their religion.

"FBI agents do not direct others to break the law or to conduct activity outside the authority granted them under the United States Constitution," Eimiller said.

The agency "does not investigate houses of worship or religious groups, but people who are alleged to be involved in criminal activity, regardless of their affiliations," she added.