Journalist Glenn Greenwald released the names of five Americans targeted by NSA spies on Wednesday.
Greenwald obtained the information through documents given to him by Edward Snowden, specifically a spreadsheet called the FISA recap. The five people Greenwald revealed as spy targets all had one thing in common – their Muslim faith. They include civil rights activists, attorneys, a Republican candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates and academics.
Here are the five names Greenwald released:
• 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.
The spreadsheet contained 7,485 email addresses that were apparently monitored between 2002-2008. According to Greenwald, it appears many were foreigners with suspected links to Al Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah. There were also many Americans, including known terrorists Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, both killed in a 2011 drone strike. The nationality of many were listed as “unknown.”
Greenwald interviewed all five of the men he revealed. All felt their religion placed them in NSA cross-hairs. Although a few had some distant links to organizations linked to terrorism and foreign countries that might raise suspicion, the information Greenwald provided shows no justification for long-term snooping into their emails.
The five Americans whose email accounts were placed on the list come from different backgrounds, and hold different religious and political views. None was designated on the list as connected to a foreign power. Some have come under sharp public scrutiny for their activities on behalf of Muslim-Americans, and several have been investigated by the government. But despite being subjected to what appears to be long periods of government surveillance, none has been charged with a crime, let alone convincingly linked to terrorism or espionage on behalf of a foreign power. Taken together, their personal stories raise disturbing questions about who the government chooses to monitor, and why.
ACLU deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer likened the targeting of Muslim Americans by the government to FBI surveillance of dissedents in the 1960s.
Some of the government’s surveillance practices today are reminiscent of those earlier abusive practices. Today’s American-Muslim activists occupy the same position that civil-rights and anti-war activists occupied during the 1960s.
This latest revelation hints at the potential abuses inherent in secret spy programs run under the cloak of darkness. Documents released by Snowden indicate a far more insidious program than many imagined, and they reveal systematic lying by government officials. When one stops to considers what we now know about the NSA spy program, it boggles the mind to contemplate what remains hidden.
The government downplays each new revelation, but how can we believe their official statements when documentation has exposed a web of lies? The only solution lies in ripping away the veil of secrecy, and demanding the NSA and other federal agencies remain true to the limits on their power spelled out specifically in the Constitution. We cannot depend on Congress, the president or federal courts to rein in the spy programs. The federal government will never limit itself. We must take action at the state and local level to force the issue and bring about change from the bottom up.