The FBI allegedly told an informant who infiltrated a California mosque to dig up dirt on the immigration status, sexual activities, business problems and drug use of members of the community. A discrimination lawsuit filed against the Bureau this week charges that they hoped to use the information to convince those members to become FBI informants.Craig Monteilh, whose aggressive tactics as an informant in 2006 led worshipers at the Islamic Center of Irvine to file a restraining order against him, is now cooperating with the plaintiffs in a lawsuit that accuses FBI agents of violating the constitutional rights of hundreds of Muslims.
The lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) on behalf of three Muslim plaintiffs, claims that the FBI violated the constitutional rights of Muslims by targeting them indiscriminately because of their religion. It requests unspecified damages and a court order to return or destroy all the information that Monteilh gathered.
“The trust within the community has been broken,” Ameena Mirza Qazi, a lawyer from CAIR representing the plaintiffs told TPM in an interview. “The community feels under psychological siege at this time.”
Qazi said she hoped the lawsuit would shine a spotlight on how the FBI spies on the Muslim community. “The overall scenario is not unique to Southern California,” she said. ‘What is unique is that in this case we have confirmation of what went on, because of the informant.”
“We want a court to say that it’s wrong to target a community because of religious affiliation when there is no link to criminal activity,” she said.
The lawsuit says FBI Special Agent Kevin Armstrong and FBI Special Agent Paul Allen talked with Monteilh about obtaining dirt on members of the Muslim community — “immigration issues, sexual activity, business problems, or crimes like drug use” — that could be used to convince them to become informants.
“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 issue,” the suit says.
“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 lawsuit claims.
Monteilth also “attended religion classes given in Arabic even when he did not speak Arabic, and questioned 17 and 18 year olds about religious doctrine and politics,” according to the suit.
One of the plaintiffs in the suit is a well-known Imam in the area; the other two are worshippers who were tasked with teaching Monteilh about Islam.
An ex-con, Monteilh began working for the FBI in 2003. In 2006, he was asked to infiltrate the popular Islamic Center of Irvine, where he started attending prayers five times a day and donning an Islamic robe.
In May 2007, Monteilh recorded a conversation in a car with two worshipers, in which Monteilh suggested blowing up buildings. In the tape, one man agrees with Monteilh. But a few days after the conversation, the two worshipers contacted the Los Angeles chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and reported Monteilh as a potential terrorist. Other worshippers told mosque leaders that they were scared of Monteilh and felt as though he was trying to entrap them. In June 2007, the mosque obtained a restraining order against the informant.
His relationship with the FBI deteriorated shortly afterwards and, after threatening to go public, Monteilh says he signed a non-disclosure agreement in exchange for $25,000. In December 2007, Monteilh was arrested on a grand-theft charge and went to jail for 16 months.
The lawsuit is embedded below.