Three Muslims from California, Sheikh Yassir Fazaga, Ali Uddin Malik, and Yasser AbdelRahim, were going to their normal religious proceedings at their chosen Islamic Center. They found out that the FBI, via an informant, had been watching their asses for over a year during a program weirdly called “Operation Flex.” Presumably on some tip or notion that these men were up to some terrorist shit.
Craig Monteilh, some former fitness bro rolled up into local California mosques, claiming he wanted to become all Muslim and shit. While there, he gathered names, license plates, and any other info he could from the local attendees.
He also recorded many conversations, sometimes even leaving the recorder behind to capture convos that ensued after he’d left. Monteihl was obviously looking for terrorists, so he wasn’t shy about starting some “death to America” conversations to see if there were any sympathizers. He was apparently so offputting, that the people he was actually trying to catch as terrorists, reported his dumb ass to the FBI themselves.
Eventually they found out he was an informant and they threw every law and constitutional argument they could at the FBI, claiming they had been violated like a prostitute at a college frat party. One specific law cited was the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). This lays out what is and isn’t illegal surveillance for the FBI and other government agencies to do.
However, there’s also the State Secrets Act (SSA) which allows government to keep their mouths shut, if any testimony could harm the security of the United States. When the government invoked the SSA, a district court agreed, and told these three to fuck off.
However, the contrarion left wing 9th circuit assholes, as usual, were like, “Not so fast! We’re basically the ACLU here, and we think the SSA doesn’t trump FISA.” They reversed the district court’s decision, and Fazaga and company were back on track.
In opening remarks, counsel for the United States even pointed out that the 9th circuit agreed the info in question fell under the SSA. As such, they believed the 9th circuit is making up a new rule that FISA rules invalidate SSA rules, if the FISA rules are broken.
Section 1806(f) of the FISA allows for a judge to hear in camera procedings to determine of the info in the suit would harm national security. If so, they can grant SSA protections, but if not, then the people can sue the FBI accordingly. But the US government is essentially arguing that the FISA cannot trump the SSA in this manner.
The FISA was set up to determine whether or not such surveillance was legal, it was never set up to override the SSA, nor does any of the text say as much, according to counsel for the US and the FBI.
Fazaga and friends argue that they couldn’t counsel their paritioners like a proper religious leader, because they feared, rightfully so, that their conversations weren’t private. So let’s say a person came in, and was having “death to America” thoughts, and wanted to talk to their Imam about it, they’d be afraid to here him and counsel him, because the FBI would be up his ass with a microscope.
So SCOTUS is charged with determining if FISA rules trump SSA protections. And in a unanimous decision, SCOTUS offered Fazaga and company to eat shit and die. The SSA is not subject to the whims of FISA rules. Nothing in FISA’s language even fucking mentions the SSA, which the court ultimately decided, meant they didn’t attend for it to change anything about SSA protections for the government.
Hear oral arguments and read about the case here.