Federal Judge Sanctions Government in FOIA Lawsuit

 

Santa Ana, CA: The Council on American-Islamic Relations Greater Los Angeles Area and the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California Nov 21 applauded an order by a US District Court compelling the government to pay legal fees of Muslim groups and individuals because the government "lied" to the court.
In the order imposing sanctions, Judge Cormac Carney wrote:
"The Government's deception of the Court was inexcusable. The Court cannot perform its important oversight role mandated by FOIA unless the Government provides it with complete and accurate information. It is the Court, not the Government, who determines what the law requires. The Court must impose monetary sanctions to deter the Government from deceiving the Court again."
The judge's ruling is the latest development in the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, Southern California (ACLU/SC) on behalf of 11 Muslim American leaders and community groups to obtain records of surveillance and investigations conducted by the FBI of them and their organizations since 2001. A FOIA request was filed in 2006, but only four pages of documents, which were heavily redacted, were turned over by the FBI. The request was made after several prominent Muslim community leaders became concerned that the FBI had monitored them merely for practicing their religion. In September 2007, the ACLU/SC filed suit against the FBI alleging that the government's incomplete and long delayed response violated the Act.

SEE: Judge FBI must pay penalty to Calif. Muslims
"The Court's decision is an important victory for our values of accountability, open government and due process," said CAIR-LA Deputy Executive Director and Staff Attorney Ameena Mirza Qazi. "We hope that this significant decision will help right many of the wrongs that were committed under the guise of national security against law-abiding Americans and institutions."
"We thank the court for upholding rule of law but we deplore the Obama administration for condoning the pervasive lies of the FBI," said Shura Council Executive Director Shakeel Syed. "We now wonder how many more law-abiding citizens and advocacy organizations are victims of the FBI's lies. We call upon Congress to reverse the Obama administration's policy that allows the FBI to lie. This we believe perverts the rule of law and corrodes the spirit of a democratic society."
CAIR-LA and Shura Council additionally commended the ACLU/SC for its dedication to protecting the civil liberties of the American Muslim community amid mounting calls for erosion of Muslims' rights and monitoring of the Muslim community's First Amendment activities by intelligence agencies.
Earlier this month, CAIR-LA presented the ACLU/SC with the "Champions of Liberty" award at its 15th Anniversary Gala. Watch video here.
Judge Carney gave the plaintiffs 14 days to submit an affidavit on attorneys' fees, to be paid by the government.
The 11 plaintiffs are: Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, Council on American-Islamic Relations of Southern California ("CAIR"), Islamic Center of San Gabriel Valley, Islamic Center of Hawthorne, West Coast Islamic Center, Human Assistance and Development International, Inc., Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, Shakeel Syed, Hussam Ayloush, Mohammed Abdul Aleem, and Rafe Husain.

 

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