The judges will take the FBI’s appeal of a 2019 lower court decision that allowed several claims made by the men to advance in litigation. The Supreme Court will consider whether most claims should be rejected based on the government’s so-called privilege of state secrets, a legal doctrine that is sometimes asserted when national security interests are invoked.
The court will hear the case during its next term, which begins in October.
The 2011 lawsuit accused the FBI of infiltrating traditional mosques in Southern California and targeting American Muslims for surveillance because of their religion. He accused the agency of engaging in religious discrimination in violation of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution by targeting Muslims, as well as violating the Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable searches and seizures.
The plaintiffs are: Yassir Fazaga, an Eritrean-born US citizen, an imam of the Orange County Islamic Foundation in Mission Viejo; US-born US citizen Ali Uddin Malik, who attended the Irvine Islamic Center; and Yasser Abdel Rahim, an American permanent resident of Egypt who also attended the Irvine Islamic Center. They are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and others.
The lawsuit centers on a 14-month period in 2006 and 2007 when the FBI paid an informant named Craig Monteilh to collect information on Muslims as part of a post-September. 11 counter-terrorism investigation. Monteilh met Muslims in Southern California, adopted a Muslim name, and said he wanted to convert to Islam, according to court documents. Monteilh also recorded conversations and conducted surveillance, according to court documents.
The arrangement fell apart when Monteilh began making statements about his desire to take violent action and community members reported it to local police, and the FBI obtained a restraining order against him, according to court documents.
In a 2012 ruling, a California federal judge dismissed the claims against the FBI, determining that they were prohibited under the privilege of state secrets. The court allowed claims that accused individual FBI agents of violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as FISA, which regulates how the government conducts electronic surveillance.
The San Francisco-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected the government’s state secrets argument, saying the claims should be reviewed under a section of the FISA law that allows judges to review legality. of surveillance.
In court documents, the Justice Department said the provision should be employed only in circumstances where the government intends to use evidence obtained from surveillance against an individual, not as a mechanism to challenge the methods used by the FBI in a manner more espacious.
The Justice Department also said the Ninth Circuit ignored Supreme Court precedent that “courts should not endanger national security by allowing state secrets to be used in litigation.”
In April, the Supreme Court took another case related to the privilege of state secrets.
In that case, the government is trying to prevent two former CIA contractors from being questioned in a criminal investigation in Poland about their role in questioning a suspected high-ranking Al Qaeda figure who was repeatedly subjected to the submarine, a form of widely considered simulated drowning. be torture.