GUEST OPINION: SCOTUS should have been harsher on FBI in Fazaga case

An FBI informant by the name of Craig Monteihl illegally surveyed OC Muslims in 2006 and 2007. Once an Imam and two community members Sheikh Yasser Fazaga, Ali Uddin Malik, and Yasser Abdelrahim found out, they sued the FBI in 2011. In 2021, a Supreme Court hearing was held and a decision was scheduled to arrive in June or July 2022, according to Fazaga.

The decision came three months earlier. 

On March 4, the Supreme Court ruled that while the FBI has the right to invoke the state secret’s privilege, the plaintiffs may still pursue their claims that the FBI spied on them on religious grounds in lower courts.

The State Secrets Privilege stems from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA), which allows the federal government to dismiss cases that could potentially harm national security. 

This makes sense, until you realize that Monteihl and the FBI found no terrorist links to the Mosques and Muslims spied on in OC. 

Invoke the state secrets privilege on cases that truly could harm our national security, not a case in which the FBI illegally spied on a religious group only for it to be in vain. 

The audacity of the FBI to invoke state secrets when no terrorist links were found is a farce. It’s horseplay. It makes the FBI look like a laughing stock when it’s one of our most vital institutions for national security.

Imagine if a church or a synagogue was spied on, or any other religious gathering place. All hell would break loose. But once it has to do with Islam and Muslims, there is always an excuse for mismanagement by the government.

I feel as if I’m being spied on as well. Us Muslims in the US have a notion that right when one of us decides to take on a leadership role in the community, we’re automatically spied on. We like to say “First it was the Native Americans, then the Irish, then the Germans, and now the Muslims.”

Aside from being the founder and President of the Muslim Student Association here at Orange Coast College, I’m also the President of the Muslim Youth Group of the Islamic Society of Orange County, one of the largest Mosques in North America.

My Mosque’s Religious Director, Muzammil Sidiqqi, was invited to the White House by President George W. Bush himself after the attacks of 9/11, but it doesn’t matter. 

Our mosque is still afraid that anyone could be an FBI informant. We are subconscious targets all because we’re Muslim. We’re still seen as ‘different’ to the American subconscious. While we truly have nothing to hide, the fear of being a Muslim in this country is real. It’s nerve-wracking. 

Many of us Muslims come from countries in which our rights are not respected, and consider ourselves blessed to be residents of the U.S. for its tough stance on individual rights and liberty. 

Nonetheless, we hear stories of other Muslims being spied on, arrested for simply wearing "Islamic clothing," or for speaking Arabic. It’s so rampant that it happened right in our backyard.

I always tell people that ever since I got myself into a leadership position in the Islamic community, I have no doubt that I’m being spied on. 

There’s always a chance that when I fly, I am “randomly selected” to be set aside for padding procedures, or to get asked some questions, whereas the Orthodox Jew right next to me or the Christian priest, both with full religious attire (as they rightfully should wear) don’t get asked questions nor are “randomly selected” for the day. 

Illegal surveillance is a detriment to the democracy of our great union and its constitution. Unjustifiable acts by the government on any level should be met with severe legal consequences. No one is above the law. We are all “one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.”

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