An influential civil rights group and a leading US Muslim organization have filed suit against the FBI alleging that it spied on California mosques by infiltrating them with a mole.
The suit was filed on Tuesday in a California court by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
They charge that the Federal Bureau of Investigation sent an agent with a false identity to mix with worshipers at several mosques in California.
“This case concerns an FBI-paid agent provocateur who, by misrepresenting his identity, infiltrated several mainstream mosques in Southern California, based on the FBI’s instructions that he gather information on Muslims,” the suit reads.
The FBI agent went about collecting hundreds of phone numbers, email addresses, audio recordings of conversations, and filming inside local mosques.
The complaint charges that “this dragnet investigation did not result in even a single conviction related to counterterrorism. This is unsurprising, because the FBI did not gather the information based on suspicion of criminal activity, instead it gathered the information simply because the targets were Muslim.”
The operation drew to a close after the mole’s cover was blown.
“Members of the Muslim communities of Southern California reported the informant to the police because of his violent rhetoric, and ultimately obtained a restraining order against him,” the complaint added.
The FBI declined to comment on pending litigation.
Generally speaking, however, “the FBI does not investigate houses of worship or religious groups, but individuals who are alleged to be a threat to national security or involved in criminal activity,” a spokesman explained.