Report: NSA Stalked Prominent Muslim Americans
One 2005 NSA document on justifying FISA surveillance used the term "Mohammed Raghead" as a placeholder in the field for the target's name. That "shows there's some culture in the government that to a certain extent tolerates that conduct," observed Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney Mark Rumold. "That gives rise to bigger problems, like targeting leaders of the American Muslim community."
07/10/14 10:00 AM PT
It's been known for years that the U.S. National Security Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have targeted Muslim Americans.
What hasn't been widely known is that their targets included lawyers and some who have served the United States at the highest levels, which was revealed in an Intercept.org report.
The report names five highly prominent Muslim Americans who were listed on an NSA spreadsheet called "FISA recap," which indicates they were targeted under the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Service Act.
That would require warrants based on probable cause issued by the secretive FISA Court, which is tasked with overseeing the NSA's activities.
Such authorizations must be renewed every 90 days or so for U.S. citizens, but it's not clear whether that was indeed done, and the government reportedly has wide latitude when it comes to spying on Americans.
"This report confirms the worst fears of American Muslims: The federal government has targeted Americans, even those who have served their country in the military and government, simply because of their faith or religious heritage," Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates, told TechNewsWorld.
The Five Fingered
The five were named in documents provided by NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden.
One is longtime Republican Party operative Faisal Gill, who held top secret security clearance and served in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security under president George W. Bush.
Agha Saeed and Nihad Awad fought for Muslim civil liberties and rights. Saeed is a former political science professor at California State University, and Awad is the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest Muslim civil rights organization in the U.S.
Asim Ghafoor is a prominent attorney who has represented clients in terrorism-related cases.
The fifth, Hooshang Amirahmadi, an Iranian-American professor of international relations at Rutgers University, has argued Iran's case.
We Don't Need No Stinkin' 1st Amendment
"What's at stake here is whether surveillance will silence the representatives of the Muslim community," Gregory Nojeim, senior counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology, told TechNewsWorld.
Putting leaders and leading lawyers in the community under surveillance "can have a chilling effect on the exercise of rights by others in the community," he said.
"It's clear the intelligence community has stepped far beyond the bounds we've established for them, and it's time Congress stepped in," remarked Mark Rumold, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Getting Your Hate On
The five were among nearly 7,500 individuals whose email addresses appeared on the FISA recap spreadsheet.
Some others seem to be foreigners believed linked to al Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah. They include Anwar Al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, Americans accused of terrorist activity who were killed in a drone strike in Yemen in 2011.
It's possible surveillance on them, which in Ghafoor's case began at least in 2004, was sparked by anti-Muslim sentiment.
One 2005 NSA document on justifying FISA surveillance used the term "Mohammed Raghead" as a placeholder in the field for the target's name.
That "shows there's some culture in the government that to a certain extent tolerates that conduct," Rumold told TechNewsWorld. "That gives rise to bigger problems, like targeting leaders of the American Muslim community."
Better Training Needed
Former FBI counterterrorism official John Guandolo, who believes that Muslim Brotherhood covert operatives have penetrated the Pentagon and that CIA director John Brenan is secretly a Muslim, claims to have developed a training program for agents on the Muslim Brotherhood and their subversive movement in the U.S.
"Nearly three years ago, the Obama administration pledged to purge bigoted training materials from federal agencies," Muslim Advocates' Khera remarked.
"The [Intercept] report clearly calls into question whether that commitment has been fulfilled," Khera continued, "and [indicates] the urgent need for retraining of law enforcement officials."
We need public hearings along the lines of those held by the Church Committee back in the 70s, the EFF's Rumold suggested, adding that without full public involvement in the process, "we're going to end up with half measures."