A Decision Made: The Supreme Court sides with FBI in a case involving the surveillance of three Muslim men.

The Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of the FBI in a case involving FBI surveillance of three Muslim men. However, this does not mean that the case is over and that the three men lost their lawsuit. Instead, it means that the Supreme Court found that FISA (the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) does not displace states-secrets privilege, which is what the three men were arguing; therefore, the case will be sent back to lower courts to continue proceedings.

The plaintiffs are: “Eritrean-born U.S. citizen Yassir Fazaga, an imam at the Orange County Islamic Foundation in Mission Viejo; native-born U.S. citizen Ali Uddin Malik, who attended the Islamic Center of Irvine; and Yasser Abdel Rahim, a U.S. permanent resident from Egypt who also attended the Islamic Center of Irvine,” U.S. News shared. 

The plaintiffs are pursuing this lawsuit because they were surveilled for a 14-month period of time from 2006-2007 by an undercover FBI informant named Craig Monteilh. Monteilh professed a desire to convert to Islam and conducted surveillance by recording video and audio inside homes, businesses, mosques, and at events, according to court filings reported by CBS News. The investigation ended when Monteilh began making statements about wanting to take violent action; community members then reported him to the local police and filed a restraining order.

The plaintiffs sued the FBI in federal court, “alleging they were targeted for surveillance because of their religion,” CBS News stated. However, the federal government moved to dismiss the suit because they said that the claims couldn’t be litigated without risking the disclosure of state secrets.

The Supreme Court’s ruling reverses the decision made by the 9th Court of Appeals. The 9th Court had concluded that “the procedures established under FISA regarding the legality of challenged electronic surveillance displace the state-secrets privilege and the district court should have reviewed the materials first to see whether the surveillance was unlawful,” CBS News stated. 

The claims of the plaintiffs have not yet been dismissed and can continue forward in a lower court. The 9th Court of Appeals also allowed the unlawful search claims to continue forward as well, which was not at issue before the Supreme Court.

Sources: CBS News, U.S. News