While the Senate Judiciary Committee peppered FBI Director Robert Mueller with questions today before about the guidelines the bureau operates under while spying on Islamic mosques in the United States, a San Francisco legal advocacy and education organization filed a lawsuit demanding access to those guidelines.
February's arrest of Tustin resident Ahmadullah Sais Niazi and Irvine resident Craig Monteilh's disclosure that he was the FBI informant who spied on Niazi figure prominently in the complaint filed in Washington, D.C., federal court by Muslim Advocates.
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) suit asserts that the FBI has no legal basis to withhold Domestic Investigative Operational Guidelines (DIOGs), which became effective in December 2008. The actual complaint lists "numerous news articles that demonstrate the public interest in these DIOGs." Among them are:
* "FBI Planting Spies in U.S. Mosques, Muslim Groups Say," March 20, 2009, CNN, by Eliott C. McLaughlin, who focuses on the uproar over Niazi's arrest;
* "Rift Develops Between Muslims, FBI Over Mosque Surveillance," March 26, 2009, Orange County Register, by Sean Emery;
* "Some Influential Muslim Groups Question FBI's Actions," April 20, 2009, LA Times, by Paloma Esquivel;
* "FBI Monitored Members of O.C. Mosques At Gyms, Alleged Informant Says," April 28, 2009, LA Times, by Scott Glover, who focuses on some of Monteilh's allegations.
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(The Weekly's Nick Schou also wrote extenstively about Niazi and Monteilh in his cover story, "Who Was That Mosqued Man?")
Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates, told Politico.com "Under the Radar" blogger Josh Gerstein today that the FBI rules are of particular concern to the Muslim community because of persistent reports that mosques have been targets of FBI surveillance.
"These are enormous powers. I'd say, arguably unprecedented powers," she said. "The public has a right to know. . . . Why should people have to fear that when they're praying they should be looking over their shoulder?"
After another civil liberties group, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, filed a suit in June seeking the text of the same DIOGs, the Justice Department promised to make public whatever parts of the guidelines it believes are subject to disclosure under FOIA by Oct. 13.