The spying game wasn’t all it was cracked up to be for Craig Monteilh, a convicted criminal recruited by the FBI to investigate the march of radical Islam into Southern California. His endless talk of violent “jihad” so alarmed worshippers at the local mosque, that they took out a restraining order against him.
Monteilh spent 15 months pretending to be Farouk al-Aziz, a French Syrian in search of his religious roots. He prayed five times a day at the Islamic Centre in Irvine, Orange County, wearing white robes with a camera hidden in one of its buttons, and carried a set of car keys that contained a secret listening device.
The enthusiastic attempt to catch local Muslims discussing terror campaigns backfired, however, when community leaders went to the police with fears that the suddenly devout young man, who got up to pray at 4am, had become a radical in their midst.
The terror case Monteilh had been helping build against Ahmadullah Niazi, the brother-in-law of Osama bin Laden’s bodyguard, collapsed in September, when the bungling informant revealed that his FBI handlers had instructed him to entrap his potential target and told him that “Islam is a threat to our national security”.
Yesterday, as details of his efforts to persuade Niazi to blow up buildings became public, leading US Muslim organisations said they have suspended all contact with the FBI in protest against the excesses of agents who are secretly, and in some cases illegally, monitoring mosques.
“The community feels betrayed,” Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, an umbrella group of more than 75 mosques, told The Washington Post. “They got a guy, a bona fide criminal, and obviously trained him and sent him to infiltrate mosques… It’s like a soap opera, for God’s sake.”