A federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit against the FBI over agency spying on Muslims in southern California, ruling that allowing the case to proceed could jeopardize national security.
According to the Los Angeles Times
, U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney came to his decision after reviewing confidential declarations filed by top FBI officials, including Attorney General Eric Holder, who last August asserted the state secrets privilege in the case.
Holder invoked the clause to keep the information secret that was gathered in Operation Flex, a counterterrorism effort that recruited confidential informants to gather information on Muslims in Orange County, the Times reported Wednesday.
Operation Flex became public in 2009 after former convict Craig Monteilh came forward claiming that he had worked as a paid informant for the FBI charged with gathering information on devout Muslims. In a court declaration Monteilh said he was never given specific targets, but collected intelligence by "immersing myself in the Muslim community and gathering as much information on as many people and institutions as possible."
Carney said in his ruling that he reached his decision reluctantly but was convinced that that Operation Flex involved "intelligence that, if disclosed, would significantly compromise national security."
But the Times noted that while dismissing the case against the agency and the federal government, the judge did allow it to stand against individual FBI agents named in the suit for allegedly violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which allows anyone improperly subjected to electronic surveillance to sue.
The lawsuit was brought jointly by The American Civil Liberties Union and the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The organizations said they planned to appeal the judge's decision to throw out the case against the government.
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