Using the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the National Security Agency and the FBI spied on several prominent Muslim-Americans, including civil-rights activists, academics, lawyers and a political candidate, The Intercept reports.
Journalist Glenn Greenwald, who has been steadily publishing information leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden, said in May that he plans, with their consent, to publish the names of those targeted in the United States by the NSA.
The following are the five Americans under surveillance by the NSA after a three-month investigation by The Intercept:
- Faisal Gill, a one-time Republican candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates, who served in the Department of Homeland Security under former President George W. Bush.
- Attorney Asim Ghafoor, who has represented clients in terrorism-related cases.
- Hooshang Amirahmadi, an Iranian-American professor of international relations at Rutgers University.
- Agha Saeed, a former professor of political science at California State University, East Bay, who advocates Muslim civil liberties and Palestinian rights.
- Nihad Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the largest Muslim civil rights organization in the United States.
Greenwald said last month that he considers this to be the most important information in the archive leaked by Snowden. The Intercept identified those monitored through an NSA spreadsheet, named “FISA recap,” which lists 7,485 email addresses of people monitored between 2002 and 2008. In that list, 202 are Americans, 5,501 are listed as ‘unknown’ and 1,782 are listed as non-U.S. persons.
FISA allows the survelliance of Americans if the government believes they are agents of terrorist organizations or foreign powers, and are or may be actively engaged in or abetting terrorism, espionage or sabotage.
But the government is supposed to renew the authorization to monitor Americans every 90 days. The documents unveiled by The Intercept show that surveillance was approved to continue after 90 days, which means some may have been monitored illegally.
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In a joint statement after the publication of The Intercept’s report, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Justice on Court-ordered Legal Surveillance of U.S. Persons said that it is false the U.S. conducts electronic surveillance of political, religious or activist figures solely on race, religion, gender or sexual orientation or because they differ in opinion on foreign policies or criticize the government.
“With limited exceptions (for example, in an emergency), our intelligence agencies must have a court order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to target any U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident for electronic surveillance,” according to the statement.
Abed Ayoub, legal and policy director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said the committee is shocked and disturbed that the NSA and FBI have been spying on civic and community leaders solely on the fact that they are Muslim-American.
“This goes against everything we stand for in this country. Clearly a violation of our First Amendment rights … these types of actions are what many of our ancestors and many of our prior generations fled to get away from such practices in the Middle East, and here we are, victims of this from our own government,” he said.
The ADC is the nation’s largest Arab-American civil rights organization and handles a number of civil rights issues impacting the community.
Ayoub said when one community is singled out, no one is safe, which should strike fear into “any American that values freedom.” He mentioned how The Intercept reported that one of the documents had “Mohammed Raghead” as a placeholder name.
“We must draw a line and address this issues or we will lose our values and our protections in this country,” Ayoub said.