© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The FBI Headquarters building can be seen in Washington, USA on December 7, 2018. REUTERS / Yuri Gripas / File Photo
By Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear the FBI’s offer to block a civil rights lawsuit brought by three California Muslim men who accused the agency of illegally monitoring them following the September 11, 2001 attacks United States.
The judges will take up the FBI’s appeal against a 2019 lower court ruling that advanced various claims by the men in the lawsuit. The Supreme Court will consider whether the bulk of the claims should be dismissed based on the government’s so-called state secrecy privilege, a legal doctrine sometimes invoked when invoking national security interests.
The court will hear the case during its next term, which begins in October.
The 2011 lawsuit accused the FBI of infiltrating mainstream mosques in Southern California and policing Muslim Americans for their religion. It accused the agency of engaging in religious discrimination in violation of the First Amendment to the US Constitution by targeting Muslims, as well as the fourth Amendment prohibiting improper searches and seizures.
The plaintiffs are: Eritrean-born US citizen Yassir Fazaga, an imam with the Orange County Islamic Foundation in Mission Viejo; Ali Uddin Malik, who was born in the United States and attended the Irvine Islamic Center; and Yasser Abdel Rahim, a US permanent resident from Egypt who also visited the Irvine Islamic Center. They are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and others.
The lawsuit focuses on a 14-month period in 2006 and 2007 when the FBI paid an informant named Craig Monteilh to gather information on Muslims. 11 Counter-Terrorism Investigations. Monteilh met with Muslims in southern California, adopted a Muslim name, and said he wanted to convert to Islam, according to court records. According to court records, Monteilh also recorded conversations and monitored them.
The agreement was shaken when Monteilh began to use violent measures and members of the community reported him to the local police and the FBI obtained an injunction against him, according to court records.
In a 2012 ruling, a federal judge in California dismissed the charges against the FBI, ruling that they fell under the privilege of state secrecy. The court admitted lawsuits alleging that a number of individual FBI agents violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as FISA, which regulates how the government conducts electronic surveillance.
The San Francisco-based US 9th Court of Appeals rejected the government’s argument on state secrets, saying the allegations should instead be analyzed under a section of FISA law that allows judges to review the legality of the surveillance.
In court filings, the Justice Department said the provision should only be used in circumstances where the government intends to use evidence from surveillance against an individual, and not as a mechanism to broadly challenge the methods used by the FBI.
The Justice Department also said the 9th district ignored the Supreme Court precedent that “courts should not compromise national security by allowing state secrets to be used in litigation”.
The Supreme Court opened another case with the https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-supreme-court-takes-up-dispute-over-guantanamo-detainees-interrogation-2021-04-26 in April State secret privilege.
In this case, the government wants to prevent two former CIA employees in Poland from being questioned about their role in interrogating a suspected high-ranking al-Qaeda figure who was repeatedly subjected to waterboarding, a widespread form of simulated drowning torture.
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