Photo by sadaqah/Flickr (Creative Commons)
The Islamic Center of Irvine, a mosque allegedly targeted by the FBI informant
A federal lawsuit filed earlier this week alleges that a former FBI informant, an ex-fitness instructor and ex-convict named Craig Monteilh, violated Muslims' freedom of religion when he spied on Orange County mosques for the FBI between 2006 and 2007.
Monteilh posed as a new convert to Islam, the lawsuit alleges, recording conversations and meetings with a device hidden in his key ring and a camera embedded in a shirt button.
What did some of these conversations entail? According to the complaint, the informant pressed people on the topic of "violent jihad," scaring some at the Islamic Center of Irvine to the point of calling the cops:
Agents Allen and Armstrong had instructed Monteilh to ask general questions about jihad from the beginning of the operation. In early 2007, they instructed him to start asking more pointedly about jihad and armed conflict, then to more openly suggest his own willingness to engage in violence.
Pursuant to these instructions, in one-on-one conversations, Monteilh began asking people about violent jihad, expressing frustration over the oppression of Muslims around the world, pressing them for their views, and implying that he might be willing or able to take action.
In about May 2007, on instructions from his handlers, Monteilh told a number of individuals that he believed it was his duty as a Muslim to take violent actions, and that he had access to weapons.
Many members of the Muslim community at ICOI then reported these statements to community leaders, including Hussam Ayloush. Ayloush both called the FBI to report the statements and instructed the individuals who had heard the statements to report them to the Irvine Police Department, which they did.