FBI Directly Spying On Prominent Muslim-American Politicians, Lawyers And Civil Rights Activists

from the because-of-course-they-did dept

For a little while now, Glenn Greenwald has been promising the next big scoop from the Snowden files, and it came out last night, with detailed reporting on how the FBI was directly spying on a bunch of prominent American politicians, lawyers and civil rights activists… who happened to be Muslim.

  • Faisal Gill, a longtime Republican Party operative and one-time candidate for public office who held a top-secret security clearance and served in the Department of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush;
  • Asim Ghafoor, a prominent attorney who has represented clients in terrorism-related cases;
  • Hooshang Amirahmadi, an Iranian-American professor of international relations at Rutgers University;
  • Agha Saeed, a former political science professor at California State University who champions Muslim civil liberties and Palestinian rights;
  • Nihad Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest Muslim civil rights organization in the country.

This certainly harkens back to the days of spying on Martin Luther King and other human rights activists — the kind of thing that was supposed to have stopped decades ago. In fact, the driving reason for setting up the FISA Court was to prevent this kind of thing. As Greenwald’s report notes, these individuals were on a list of folks who the DOJ had convinced the FISA Court that there was “probable cause” were engaged in terrorism.

The individuals appear on an NSA spreadsheet in the Snowden archives called ?FISA recap??short for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Under that law, the Justice Department must convince a judge with the top-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that there is probable cause to believe that American targets are not only agents of an international terrorist organization or other foreign power, but also ?are or may be? engaged in or abetting espionage, sabotage, or terrorism. The authorizations must be renewed by the court, usually every 90 days for U.S. citizens.

The spreadsheet shows 7,485 email addresses listed as monitored between 2002 and 2008. Many of the email addresses on the list appear to belong to foreigners whom the government believes are linked to Al Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah. Among the Americans on the list are individuals long accused of terrorist activity, including Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, who were killed in a 2011 drone strike in Yemen.

But a three-month investigation by The Intercept?including interviews with more than a dozen current and former federal law enforcement officials involved in the FISA process?reveals that in practice, the system for authorizing NSA surveillance affords the government wide latitude in spying on U.S. citizens.

Reading through the report, it becomes quite clear that the main reason these individuals on the list is solely because they’re Muslim. Of every lawyer who has helped represent defendants in terrorism-related cases, the only one on this list just happens to be Muslim. As the article reminds us, a few years back, Spencer Ackerman did some great reporting, revealing how the FBI was being trained to believe all Muslims were “violent” and “radical” and the impact of that ridiculous training appears to be clear in what this latest report finds. Perhaps the most chilling example of this anti-Muslim attitude is found in a training document revealed in this new report, showing intelligence community members how to “identify” targets for the FISA court. The “placeholder” name says it all:

Later in the report, the government tries to deny that there was a FISA Court order concerning at least one of the individuals listed above, even though they were in the spreadsheet. But that level of confusion only suggests that the process is even more of a mess. Whether or not this complied with the law is a distraction. The law shouldn’t allow this kind of thing.

A former Justice Department official involved in FISA policy in the Obama Administration says the process contains too many internal checks and balances to serve as a rubber stamp on surveillance of Americans. But the former official, who was granted anonymity to speak candidly about FISA matters, acknowledges that there are significant problems with the process. Having no one present in court to contest the secret allegations can be an invitation to overreach. ?There are serious weaknesses,? the former official says. ?The lack of transparency and adversarial process?that?s a problem.?

Indeed, the government?s ability to monitor such high-profile Muslim-Americans?with or without warrants?suggests that the most alarming and invasive aspects of the NSA?s surveillance occur not because the agency breaks the law, but because it is able to exploit the law?s permissive contours. ?The scandal is what Congress has made legal,? says Jameel Jaffer, an ACLU deputy legal director. ?The claim that the intelligence agencies are complying with the laws is just a distraction from more urgent questions relating to the breadth of the laws themselves.?

Much of the rest of the story involves a detailed look at the men listed above, all of which is worth reading, demonstrating just how ridiculous it was to be spying on their communications. The video of Faisal Gill is really worth watching:

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Comments on “FBI Directly Spying On Prominent Muslim-American Politicians, Lawyers And Civil Rights Activists”

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72 Comments
vancedecker (profile) says:

Re: Wow! This comment is dumber than usual...

Muslims are dangerous. All of the 9-11 hijackers were Muslims.

When someone draws a funny picture of Mohammed, Muslims go nuts like little children. Any group of people so utterly brainwashed as Muslims are, need to be watched closely.

Now reply back with some hokum about one billion Muslims or some other crap about how Christians are just as violent….a hundred years ago.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Wow! This comment is dumber than usual...

“The mindset that says: “I am justified in killing another because they have drawn a funny picture I do not approve of”

is dangerous”

Indeed it is. However, you’re mistakenly attributing this to all Muslims. The problem isn’t Islam, no matter how much you claim otherwise.

“all Muslims should be suspected and carefully observed.”

This attitude compromises the very “safety” you are so concerned about. By focusing on Islam instead of extremism, you are leaving a lot of gates unguarded.

vancedecker (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Wow! This comment is dumber than usual...

“you’re mistakenly attributing this to all Muslims”

You offer ZERO proof that all Muslims don’t believe this. When I see Muslims say publicly: “it’s offensive, but of course, you are free to draw whatever you like”

Then we can talk, until then STFU unless you have PROOF AND EVIDENCE that it is not.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Wow! This comment is dumber than usual...

The burden of proof is on those who assert that something is true, not on those who assert than something isn’t; You can’t prove a negative.

Please point to something that dictates that Islam inherently breeds violent people, and that the same basic tenants behind whatever that answer is does not appear in other religions.

Unchosen One (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Wow! This comment is dumber than usual...

Well considering the fact that your source is a largely discredited author (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satoshi_Kanazawa) I’m not surprised, and don’t even get me started on that turd of an article. I know it must hurt to use that thing you insist on calling a brain, but could you at least try using it before you make idiotic claims like that?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Wow! This comment is dumber than usual...

I was not aware that Salman Rushdie was threatened by Islam as a whole. By this logic, Chris Rock received Christian death threats after voicing support for gun control.

Obviously all Christians should be viewed with suspicion and subjected to constant surveillance.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Wow! This comment is dumber than usual...

By their fruits ye shall know them.

Can you point to anyplace in the world where Islam is strong and violent extremism is not? Can you point to anyplace where Christianity, or Hinduism, or Buddhism, or any other major world religion is strong that has severe systemic problems with violent extremism?

As for something specific in Islam, you can start here: its acceptance of polygyny means that many less successful men will end up without a mate, and coupled with the promise that martyrs for Islam will end up with plenty of desirable companionship in Paradise, the end results are rather predictable from a sociological perspective.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Wow! This comment is dumber than usual...

“Can you point to anyplace in the world where Islam is strong and violent extremism is not?”

As near as I can tell, the majority of places where Islam is strong are not beset with violent extremism to any degree more than places where it is not. The Islamic radicals seem to be localized in just a few regions.

“As for something specific in Islam”

You’ll have to do a bit better than that — that’s not a specific fact, that’s specific speculation.

Michael (profile) says:

Under that law, the Justice Department must convince a judge with the top-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that there is probable cause to believe that American targets are not only agents of an international terrorist organization or other foreign power, but also “are or may be” engaged in or abetting espionage, sabotage, or terrorism

7,486 email addresses over a 7 year period.
That is 1069 email addresses per year.
If the court is working a 5 day week without any breaks and a full 8 hour day and DOES NOTHING ELSE, they are afforded less than 2 hours per request to hear the arguments and consider if they should allow the surveillance.

Not a rubber stamp? I think FISA is the definition of a rubber stamp.

Jay (profile) says:

Re: 'foreign national'?

The sad part about all of this is that the FBI’s track record indicates that they believe six words are synonymous…

Communist(1930s), Socialist (1950s), Anarchist (1960s), Marxist(1970s), Terrorist (1990s), Muslim (2000s)

The date of the power to unlock new powers and destroy civil rights goes back to the Red Scare and decimated any person in the sights of the government.

And yet somehow we thought these kings of powers for law enforcement enemy going to be abused?

Our own history says otherwise…

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

A close friend of mine is of native (Central American) descent, and it’s interesting to hear some of the history he knows.

Most Native Americans, including almost all of the ones oppressed by the US government during the 18th and 19th centuries, were nothing like that. The horrific blood sacrifices were an Aztec thing. They were also known as the Mexica, and they tended to live south of the modern-day border. They were just as vicious and steeped in culturally-ingrained evil as modern-day Islamic extremists, and the European immigrants did both the Americas and the world in general a definite service by wiping them out.

But a lot of needless harm was done to peaceful people as well. It’s important to remember that the inhabitants of the pre-Colombian Americas were just as diverse in every way as the inhabitants of Europe, and if they hadn’t drawn a seriously unfavorable ball in the genetic lottery when it comes to disease tolerance, the last five hundred years would have looked very, very different.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Yep, there is like 400 different kind of natives only in Canada, some were almost decimated totally (micmacs) while those who sided with the French like the Mohawks and others are very much alive.

I’m glad to be a bilingual french canadian, at least we didn’t make em false promises (biggest example being Oklahoma : “we’ll leave you one moderately large country!”. How long did that even last?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“The ‘native’ americans owned lots of slaves and also made blood sacrifices to their gods”

Wow. I can’t tell if you’re simply ignorant — there was no single people who were the “native americans”, there were hundreds of different cultures, and they were very, very different from each other — or just straight-up xenophobic.

Anonymous Coward says:

I know this is some low hanging fruit here, but considering how FOX defended the NYPD Muslim spying program, the only way you will get them outraged over this is if you re-frame it to them: ‘NSA SPIED ON REPUBLICAN’

I fucking hate that network but they absolutely need to generate outrage over this

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

As a conservative this is one of the things that piss me off about the General Right.

But before we get ahead of ourselves… remember the left if guilty of the same damn thing…

‘Me and Mine can do no wrong’ or ‘shit which does not harm me is okay’ that pervades Politics at large.

Your comments against Fox without listing the other guilty dogs is a clear indication that you are an intellectually dishonest turd!

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Sorry, no one outdoes Fox and friends. No wackos on the left have that reach or voice, and there are nowhere near as many in the general public. Talk abut dishonest.

If you are a right-leaning person, Republican, or conservative – however you identify, playing that game just makes you like the part of the Right that pisses you off.

And do you know for a fact that the comment you are responding to comes from the Left? (Also, don’t confuse Democrats, especially the President, with the Left. They are mostly to the Right of where Reagan was.)

vancedecker (profile) says:

GREENWALD LIED...as usual.

Greenwald told us that the climax of his ‘fireworks’ would be a list of everyday ordinary Americans who have been spied on.

Where is the list? There is no list.

Instead we got filtered MSM media reports that a bunch of Muslims were observed to make sure they aren’t contacting terrorist operatives in the Middle East and elsewhere.

IN OTHER WORDS: THE NSA IS DOING EXACTLY WHAT THEY SHOULD BE DOING!

NEXT!

vancedecker (profile) says:

Re: Re: GREENWALD LIED...as usual.

No you tard, this isn’t Airport Security. This isn’t just for the visuals. They aren’t emptying shoes and checking elderly white women’s bras.

They actually have been tasked with stopping terrorists, and the way to do that is through surveillance of those mostly likely to have contact with terrorists.

So unless you have a better way, you should STFU, along with the rest of the mentally deranged AMEN CHOIR on this site.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: GREENWALD LIED...as usual.

They actually have been tasked with stopping terrorists

Only sort of – only in that their mission to investigate federal crimes may be seen as a form of deterrence. (Their mission is NOT to investigate future crimes)

the way to do that is through surveillance of those mostly likely to have contact with terrorists.

IF we applied that reasoning to the FBI’s real mandate (i.e. all federal crime, not just domestic terrorism), then we should be spying on anyone who is likely to have had contact with a criminal. Mothers, past schoolmates, girlfriends, etc. of federal criminals should all be spied on. Anyone who visits, or writes to a criminal in prison should be spied on. Sound right to you? Maybe the FBI should start collecting the past subscriber lists of Martha Stewart magazine.

vancedecker (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 GREENWALD LIED...as usual.

Wrong. As usual, what should have been a class on formal logic, was probably some public school moron handing worksheets on emotional IQ during your schooling.

People who have contact with suspect does necessarily hold any value. You want people who have some sort of formative impact on the terrorist or potential terrorist.

Also, we are talking about the NSA here not the FBI. When the FBI gets various nuggets from the NSA, that’s just professional off the books courtesy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 GREENWALD LIED...as usual.

I’m sure the NSA was instrumental in the effort, but the FBI was listed as the responsible agency for surveiling these men.

I agree with you that it would be wise to be selective about which contacts should be surveilled. If they could show probable cause to a judge and get a warrant, then more power to them. The article highlights that at least 1 person on the list was not covered by a warrant.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: GREENWALD LIED...as usual.

No no, only this religion, because as everyone knows, there’s never been examples of extremists or crazy people in other religions, so if you were talking about applying the same scrutiny on say, a christian, hindu, or catholic person, solely on their religious beliefs, that would be unfair profiling, whereas here it’s totally justified and okay. /s

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Deal

Have four(or more, depending on how you count them).

The Unibomber
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unibomber

1996 Manchester bombing
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IRA_Manchester_Bombing

Birmingham pub bombings
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birmingham_pub_bombings

2011 Norway attacks
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_Norway_attacks#Perpetrator

vancedecker (profile) says:

Re: Re: GREENWALD LIED...as usual.

In the end I’m terrified of all insane western religions.

It’s all a matter of degree. For now Judaism and Christianity are relatively tame compared to the barbarism of Islam.

The Islamic world is still stuck 200 years in the past, unable to grow and evolved like regular human beings for some reason.

Nobody gives a shit how many people believe what. Half the world is stewing in their own feces bowing down before superstitious nonsense. That only makes it that much more sad.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: GREENWALD LIED...as usual.

In the end I’m terrified of all insane western religions.

I was agreeing until this:

>It’s all a matter of degree. For now Judaism.

It’s not because it’s not sensationalized and on TV that it doesn’t happen.

User ignored from now on. Get real, buddy. Unless you’re just doing your shill job, then well, you shouldn’t have drank all those college years away and failed. You’d most likely have a job that contributes to mankind or something.

vancedecker (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 GREENWALD LIED...as usual.

Egypt did the right thing. They rounded up the zealots, the frothing at the mouth nut bags, and sentenced them to death.

Now they will never again corrupt other people with their poison.

If Pakistan, Syria, Jordan, all those countries, if they did the same thing, there would be peace in the middle east.

Coyne Tibbets (profile) says:

| Date _____________
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| ASG background (below is an example from a past justification)
|
| |_| Because, terrorism.
| (note: Check box at left to reuse past justification
| or you can waste your time filling in below.)
| ______________________________________________
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