Over the past year, the world learned that the National Security Agency (NSA) engages in costly, ineffective, mass surveillance collecting both metadata and content of communications of hundreds of millions of innocent people, including Americans. Thanks to whistleblower Edward Snowden and the aggressive, responsible investigative journalism from Glenn Greenwald, the public learned last night that who the NSA targets for surveillance is driven by First Amendment-protected activities of speech, association, and religious practice.
The National Security Agency and FBI have covertly monitored the emails of prominent Muslim-Americans—including a political candidate and several civil rights activists, academics, and lawyers—under secretive procedures intended to target terrorists and foreign spies.
According to documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the list of Americans monitored by their own government includes:
• 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.
Harkening back to its domestic spying roots of spying on civil rights leaders, the FBI and NSA have been specifically targeting people for surveillance based on their race, religion and constitutionally-protected speech. To put it more bluntly, would we be more outraged at the surveillance of a non-profit director, professors and civil rights leader if they were the Executive Director of NAACP or AIPAC or Professor Obama (back when he taught - and respected - Constitutional Law)?