Fazaga v. FBI

  • Categories :
  • Case Information

    Full Name : Yassir Fazaga, Ali Uddin Malk, Yasser Abelrahim v. Federal Bureau of Investigation; Robert Mueller, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in his official capacity; Steven M. Martinez, Assistant Director in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation's Los Angeles Division, in his official capacity; J. Stephen Tidwell; Barbara Walls; Pat Rose; Kevin Armstrong; Paul Allen

    Case Number : SACV1100301

    Court : United States District Court for the Central District of California

    Judge : Hon. Cormac J. Carney

    Co-Counsel : Council on American-Islamic Relations, California; Hadsell Stormer Keeny Richardson & Renick, LLP

    Fazaga v. FBI is a case against the Federal Bureau of Investigation for illegally spying on the Muslim community in Orange County, California.

    In June 2006, FBI agents sent an informant to one of the largest, most diverse mosques in Orange County, California, who posed as a convert to Islam.  After publicly converting before a crowd of hundreds, the informant spent the next fourteen months acting on the instructions of his FBI handlers — gathering names, telephone numbers, e-mails, backgrounds, political and religious views, travel plans, and other information on hundreds of individuals in the community.  The FBI directed the informant, Craig Monteilh, not to target any particular individuals they believed were involved in criminal activity, but to gather as much information as possible on members of the Muslim community, and to focus on people who were more devout in their religious practice. No terrorism charges were brought, and no criminal convictions obtained, as a result of the FBI’s operation.

    In February 2011, the ACLU of Southern California, the Council for American-Islamic Relations of Greater Los Angeles, and the law firm Hadsell Stormer Keeny Richardson & Renick LLP filed a federal class action law suit against the Federal Bureau of Investigations for infiltrating mainstream mosques in Southern California and targeting Muslims Americans for surveillance because of their religion.  Among other claims, the lawsuit alleges that the FBI’s operation unlawfully targeted individuals on the basis of their religious beliefs and practices, in violation of the First Amendment; unlawfully collected information on religious practices in violation of the Privacy Act; and constituted unreasonable searches in violation of the Fourth Amendment.   The suit demands that the FBI destroy all information unlawfully collected through their operation and pay damages to the individuals who were targets of unlawful surveillance.

    Case Developments

    FILING
    August 14, 2012

    The Court dismissed the lawsuit against the FBI but permitted the suit to go forward against the individual government agents under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Read more about the ruling.

    FILING
    December 23, 2011

    The ACLU filed responses to the defendants’ motions to dismiss the case.  Read the ACLU’s opposition to the government’s motion to dismiss, the ACLU’s opposition to the FBI agents’ motions to dismiss, and the declaration of Craig Monteilh.

    FILING
    September 13, 2011

    The ACLU filed an amended complaint. Read the complaint.

    UPDATE
    Aug 1, 2011

    The government asserted the “state secrets” privilege, asserting that regardless of whether the complaint’s allegations are true, whether or not the government has discriminated against American citizens on the basis of their religion in violation of the First Amendment is a state secret.  This marked the first time in recent memory that the government has asserted the state secrets privilege to dismiss a lawsuit brought by United States citizens alleging that a domestic law enforcement operation was violating their constitutional rights.

    FILING
    February 21, 2011

    The ACLU of Southern California filed a federal class action lawsuit against the Federal Bureau of Investigations for infiltrating mainstream mosques in Southern California and targeting Muslims Americans for surveillance because of their religion.