Court Battles

Supreme Court to hear case over FBI’s surveillance of California mosques

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The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a case about the FBI’s efforts to invoke state secrets privileges against a lawsuit over its surveillance of mosques in California.

The justices will hear the case, which alleges the FBI illegally surveilled mosques with a confidential informant and targeted Muslims based solely on their religious identity, next term, a decade after it was filed.

A district judge had dismissed many of the claims, ruling the state secrets privilege allowed the government to block information from coming out in a civil suit.

A three-judge panel on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision in 2019, saying that the judge gave too much weight to the government’s claims of national security.

The Justice Department under the Trump administration asked the Supreme Court to review the 9th Circuit decision in December. 

In 2011, Yassir Fazaga, an imam at a mosque in Orange County, Calif., filed a class-action lawsuit against the FBI over its use of a paid informant to infiltrate Muslim communities in Southern California.

The informer, Craig Monteilh, posed as a recent convert in 2006 and 2007 and allegedly disturbed the local Islamic community with his efforts to incite violence until members reported him to the FBI and won a restraining order against him.

Monteilh later went public with his claims of working on behalf of federal law enforcement and filed his own lawsuit against the bureau. 

President Biden’s Department of Justice is now the third administration to defend the FBI in the case. Last month, acting Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar told the Supreme Court that the 9th Circuit decision will hurt national security. 

“The court of appeals’ decision undermines the Executive’s ability to protect sensitive national-security information and keep its promises to foreign allies,” she wrote in a filing. “And it threatens to deprive the government of an essential means of safeguarding this Nation’s most sensitive information.”

Tags Joe Biden Supreme Court Surveillance
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