- The Washington Times - Friday, September 21, 2007

Several Muslim groups are suing the federal government to force the disclosure of possible FBI investigations into the Southern California religious community since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to determine whether civil liberties were violated.

Led by the American Civil Liberties Union, the complaint was filed this week in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California asking that a Freedom of Information Act request made last year be enforced.

“Since the tragic attacks of September 11, 2001, the FBI has increased the number and scope of its counterterrorism investigations, and has in part directed these efforts against Muslim American individuals and organizations,” the complaint said.

The organizations filing the complaint include the California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and Islamic Shura Council of Southern California.

The Muslim leaders “all reasonably believe that they were subjected to surveillance, monitoring, and/or other methods of investigation by the FBI without cause, and that the FBI retains records regarding these investigations,” the complaint said.

The groups are asking for the disclosure of “all FBI records relating to any monitoring, surveillance, observation, questioning, interrogation, investigation, infiltration of or collection of information about” their activities.

The FBI rejected the request of the documents that would show all aspects of any impending investigation, including informants.

FBI Special Agent Richard Kolko said the agency does not comment on ongoing litigation, but said “it is important to note, the FBI does not investigate anyone based on their lawful activities, religious or political beliefs.”

Michael Soller, spokesman for the ACLU of Southern California, said the full disclosure of documents would resolve and diminish “rumors” that the FBI had mosques under surveillance. “It was an opportunity for the FBI to allay fears, and they did not,” he said.

Since the May 11, 2006, request, the government has turned over four pages of documents. Mr. Soller said the documents dealt with a complaint by CAIR to the FBI regarding a threatening phone call, and an interview with a CAIR official about “building bridges between the FBI and Southern California Muslim Community.”

Hussam Ayloush, director of the Southern California CAIR chapter, said the meeting mentioned in the FBI response is one of many held to “discuss ways to strengthen the cooperation and communications between the FBI and the Muslim community.”

“I am a founding member of a Southern California advisory group to the FBI called the Multi-Cultural Advisory Committee (MCAC), and I frequently communicate and meet with FBI officials,” he said.

Mr. Ayloush said he was “disappointed in the government”s response, particularly because community understanding is crucial to the goals we share.”

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