Two civil liberties groups have sued the FBI, claiming that one of the agency's former informants was ordered to target Muslims for surveillance when he infiltrated a California mosque.
The ACLU of Southern California and the Los Angeles office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations filed the lawsuit Tuesday in federal court, the Washington Post reported.
The lawsuit alleged that ex-FBI informant Craig Monteilh violated Muslims' constitutional rights of freedom of religion by conducting "indiscriminate surveillance" because of their religion.
The suit named the FBI and seven of its agents and supervisors, and sought class-action status, unspecified damages and a court order instructing the FBI to destroy or return the information Monteilh collected.
FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller told The Associated Press she could not comment on the lawsuit, but she emphasized that the FBI does not target religious groups or individuals based on their religion.
The agency "does not investigate houses of worship or religious groups, but people who are alleged to be involved in criminal activity, regardless of their affiliations," Eimiller said.
Monteilh infiltrated an Orange County mosque and helped build a case against an Afghan-born man who was arrested on terrorism-related charges in 2009.
The lawsuit claimed that Monteilh's handlers _ FBI agents Kevin Armstrong and Paul Allen _ instructed him to collect e-mail addresses, phone numbers and other information about Muslims and "explicitly told Monteilh that Islam was a threat to America's national security," according to the Post.
The two agents declined to comment to the newspaper.