A former FBI informant tasked with befriending Muslims in Orange County, CA, and secretly recording conversations in an effort to entrap radical Islamic sympathizers has told his story to The Guardian.Craig Monteilh, 49, said he started undercover work after meeting a group of off-duty cops at a gym and impressing them with his knowledge of criminals he had met in Chino (where he served time for fraudulent checks).
After working on drug and organised crime cases, Monteilh was asked to work on counter-terrorism and passed on to two FBI handlers.
In 2006 he was given the French-Syrian alter ego Farouk Aziz and told to hang around mosques as a recent convert to Islam who wanted to learn more.
Monteilh began to wear robes, a hat, a scarf and grew a beard as he circulated from mosque to mosque in suburbia south of LA. He spent his days from 4:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. praying, reading books or just hanging out to get as many people as possible to talk to him.
After a few months he looked for “like-minded souls” to discuss jihad, access to weapons and a possible desire to be a martyr in an attempt to trap people into making condemning statements.
At one point he got the go-ahead from his handlers to have sex with a Muslim women that the undercover operation was targeting and record their pillow talk.
Monteilh used a secret video recorder sewn into his shirt or audio recorders on his key rings to blanket record conversations. He earned a reputation among worshippers for being careless with his keys because he often left them in different rooms of the mosques in an attempt to record conversations that took place when he wasn’t there.
He would pass on the recordings to his handlers once a week and meet with them every two months at a hotel room in nearby Anaheim for a more intense debriefing in which he was grilled on specific individuals and asked to view charts of relationship networks among Orange County’s Muslim population.
Monteilh said the FBI had dual aims of uncovering potential militants and using any information he discovered— like an affair or someone being gay— to turn targeted people into becoming FBI informants themselves.
“The way the FBI conducts their operations, it is all about entrapment … I know the game, I know the dynamics of it. It’s such a joke, a real joke. There is no real hunt. It’s fixed,” he said. … “The skill is that I am going to get you to say something. I am cornering you to say ‘jihad.'”
Unfortunately for the FBI, the scheme known as Operation Flex turned out to be a bust.
In June 2007— 11 months after officially converting at the Islamic centre of Irvine— the centre took out a restraining order against Monteilh and reported him to the FBI as a potentially dangerous extremist.
Incidents such as the NYPD’s secret CIA-backed intelligence operation have led Muslim civil rights groups to openly wonder if their communities are being unfairly targeted in a spying game that is rigged against them, and the story of Monteilh seems to give credence to that suspicion.
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