As part of their anti-terrorism efforts, FBI agents monitored popular gyms throughout Orange County to gather intelligence on members of several local mosques, according to a man who claims to have been a key informant in the operation.
Sal Hernandez, director of the FBI's Los Angeles office, declined comment on the matter Monday. Another law enforcement source, however, confirmed that the surveillance occurred, but emphasized that it was a narrowly focused operation targeting people whom the informant had already implicated in alleged crimes.
The informant is Craig Monteilh, who said he posed as a Muslim convert at the request of the FBI to gather intelligence that might aid anti-terrorism investigators.
Monteilh, a muscular man with a background as a personal trainer, said he was instructed to lure mosque members to work out with him at local gyms. FBI agents, he said, later would obtain security camera footage from the gyms and ask him to identify the people on the tapes and to provide additional information about them. He said he was told that the agents then conducted background checks on the men, looking for anything that could be used to pressure them to become informants.
Disclosures of the FBI's tactics have angered some leaders in the Muslim community in Orange County who saw it as a betrayal of their efforts to assist law enforcement after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The issue has reverberated nationwide.
Last week, a coalition of the nation's largest Muslim organizations, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Muslim Public Affairs Council and the Islamic Society of North America, issued a statement demanding that the Obama administration address FBI actions, including what they described as the "infiltration of mosques," the use of "agent provocateurs to trap unsuspecting Muslim youth" and the "deliberate vilification" of the council.
Hussam Ayloush, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Anaheim, said he viewed the most recent disclosure as a form of religious profiling that "reflects a deeply rooted mind-set that was promoted by the Bush Administration." "I'm not surprised," he said. "It confirms our worst fears." (More)