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.

Pro Bono Law Firm(s)

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

Date filed

February 21, 2011

Court

United States District Court for the Central District of California

Judge

Hon. Cormac J. Carney

Case number

SACV1100301

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