Feeds

Snowden leaks latest: NSA, FBI g-men spied on Muslim-American chiefs

US Navy veteran? Lawmaker? Academic? You're all POTENTIAL TERRORISTS

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

New documents from whistleblower Edward Snowden confirm that the NSA and the FBI spy on Muslim-American leaders, including Republican Party politicians and military veterans.

The Intercept reports that the Feds are using tactics and techniques intended for catching terrorists and spies to monitor the email accounts of prominent Muslim-Americans.

A spreadsheet leaked by Snowden and titled “FISA recap” contains 7,485 email addresses apparently monitored between 2002 and 2008. Email addresses on the list include accounts owned by five high-profile Muslim-Americans, according to the Intercept. The famous five are:

  • 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 lawyer who has represented clients in terrorism-related cases.
  • Hooshang Amirahmadi, an Iranian-American professor of international relations at Rutgers University. He sought to be a candidate in the 2013 Iranian presidential elections, campaigning on a platform of improving relations with the US, but was rejected by the country's ruling Guardian Council.
  • Agha Saeed, a former political science professor at California State University who campaigns for Muslim civil liberties and Palestinian rights.
  • Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest Muslim civil rights organization in the US.

FISA (the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) provides a mechanism for the US government to obtain warrants to run surveillance ops on Americans, providing agents testify there is a probable cause to believe that subjects could possibly be acting as "agents of a foreign power", engaged in terrorism, etc. It should be noted that "foreign power" is a wide term under FISA, and can include any "foreign-based political organization, not substantially composed of United States persons". The "foreign intelligence information" that federal operatives are supposed to be trying to obtain under a FISA court order is also loosely defined, and may not be aimed at building a criminal case against anyone at all - it could instead be gathered for the purpose of strengthening the USA's hand in diplomatic manoeuvres, or for various other purposes.

The leaked documents, analysed during a three-month investigation by The Intercept, suggest that the secret court considered that surveillance was justifiable in the case of the five individuals named above - or at any rate in the case of people they were communicating with.

"The five Americans spied on by the NSA have all led highly public, outwardly exemplary lives," according to the Intercept. "All five vehemently deny any involvement in terrorism or espionage, and none has been implicated in any crime, despite years of intense scrutiny by the government and the press."

"I just don't know why," says Gill, whose AOL and Yahoo! email accounts were monitored while he was a Republican candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates. "I've done everything in my life to be patriotic. I served in the Navy, served in the government, was active in my community – I've done everything that a good citizen, in my opinion, should do."

The surveillance against Muslim-American leaders has already spawned awkward questions for webmail providers about their apparent unwillingness to contest FISA requests. There's also a potential historical parallel between recent surveillance against Muslim-Americans and spying against civil rights and anti-war activists during the 1960s.

According to one of the leaked files, purportedly dated from 2005, the term "Mohammed Raghead" was used as a placeholder in a 2005 government document instructing staffers on how to make surveillance requests. Amnesty International expressed concern that this represented "good reason to be concerned that anti-Muslim bias tainted the process".

"Any surveillance conducted on the basis of religion, rather than probable cause to believe that the defendant violated the law, would constitute discriminatory interference with the right to privacy, prohibited by both the Constitution and international human rights law," it said. ®

Bootnote

The feds, of course, would argue that it's by no means unusual for even the most outwardly patriotic Americans - with Navy service and secret clearances all complete - to turn out to be wrong 'uns, and that they have carried out surveillance against plenty of such people in the past with good reason. - Ed

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
One HUNDRED FAMOUS LADIES exposed NUDE online
Celebrity women victimised as Apple iCloud accounts reportedly popped
Rubbish WPS config sees WiFi router keys popped in seconds
Another day, another way in to your home router
Goog says patch⁵⁰ your Chrome
64-bit browser loads cat vids FIFTEEN PERCENT faster!
NZ Justice Minister scalped as hacker leaks emails
Grab your popcorn: Subterfuge and slur disrupts election run up
HP: NORKS' cyber spying efforts actually a credible cyberthreat
'Sophisticated' spies, DIY tech and a TROLL ARMY – report
NIST to sysadmins: clean up your SSH mess
Too many keys, too badly managed
Scratched PC-dispatch patch patched, hatched in batch rematch
Windows security update fixed after triggering blue screens (and screams) of death
Attack flogged through shiny-clicky social media buttons
66,000 users popped by malicious Flash fudging add-on
New Snowden leak: How NSA shared 850-billion-plus metadata records
'Federated search' spaffed info all over Five Eyes chums
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?