FBI and NSA Spied on Specific, Innocent Muslim-Americans

By Jamie Condliffe on at

New documents have revealed that the NSA and FBI spied on specific, law-abiding Muslim-American leaders after 9/11, possibly without warrants, under the pretext of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

The Intercept reports that the documents are the first firm evidence to show that individual US citizens have been targeted by domestic surveillance. The information could be enough to allows those targeted — including lawyers, academics and a political candidate — the legal right to sue the government.

Five targets have been identified from a spreadsheet, leaked by Edward Snowden, that shows 7,485 email addresses listed as monitored between 2002 and 2008. Many of those addresses belong to foreigners suspected to be linked to Al Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah; 5,501 have their nationality marked as "unknown" or left blank; 202 of the addresses belong to Americans. Five perfectly innocent US citizens have been accurately identified, as The Intercept explains:

  • 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 organisation in the country.

They all flatly deny any involvement in terrorism or espionage, according to The Intercept. While the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act requires renewed authorisation every 90 days to monitor suspects, this document suggests that surveillance carried on beyond those usual time limits. In turn, it means the five individuals named above may have been monitored illegally.

While it's not clear why they were targeted, Asim Ghafoor believes the NSA monitored him "because my name is Asim Abdur Rahman Ghafoor, my parents are from India, I travelled to Saudi Arabia as a young man, and I do the pilgrimage". He's possibly not far off the mark: one other leaked document, a pro forma for writing memos to obtain FISA surveillance rights, used a placeholder target name of "Mohammed Raghead". Sometimes, intelligence is far from intelligent. [The Intercept via Verge]