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Greenwald: Snowden documents show not just Muslim-Americans are targeted by NSA

Published time: July 09, 2014 19:03
Glenn Greenwald (AFP Photo / Brendan Smialowski)

Glenn Greenwald (AFP Photo / Brendan Smialowski)

​Journalist Glenn Greenwald says he’s not done reporting on the trove of National Security Agency documents provided by Edward Snowden, and that his future work further expose the extent of the NSA’s surveillance.

On Wednesday this week, Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain wrote for The Intercept that leaked documents from the Snowden cache have revealed that the United States’ NSA and Federal Bureau of Investigation have each been spying on no fewer than five prominent Muslim-Americans with US citizenship, including a member of the George W. Bush administration with a top-secret security clearance.

Remarking on the article during a question-and-answer session on Reddit later that day, Greenwald wrote that the NSA’s surveillance doesn't stop there.

“I get in trouble every time I talk about our reporting before it's ready, but suffice to say: Muslims, while the prime target of post-9/11 abuses, are not the only ones targeted by them, and there is definitely more big reporting to come from the Snowden archive,” Greenwald wrote during his Reddit “Ask Me Anything” segment.

Since June 2013, Greenwald and a select group of other journalists have worked carefully to analyze a collection of classified NSA documents handed over by Snowden, a former contractor for the spy agency who has since taken residence in Russia after being granted asylum there. Reports in the year since have revealed that the NSA’s surveillance apparatus has targeted not just foreign extremists who pose credible threats to national security and defense, but systems administrators, online gamers, seemingly every person in The Bahamas with a telephone and users of the Tor anonymizing browser, incidentally and routinely scooping up personal details of Americans along the way. Last week, the Washington Post attributed Snowden documents when the paper reported that “[o]rdinary internet users, American and non-American alike, far outnumber legally targeted foreigners in the communications intercepted by the [NSA].”

Wednesday’s article, the latest in the series, revealed that the US intelligence community has covertly monitored the emails of Muslim-Americans, including five profiled by The Intercept who “vehemently deny any involvement in terrorism or espionage, and none advocates violent jihad or is known to have been implicated in any crime, despite years of intense scrutiny by the government and the press.”

Hours later, the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence and Department of Justice offered a joint statement calling The Intercept’s allegations “entirely false,” and insisting that “No US person can be the subject of surveillance based solely on First Amendment activities, such as staging public rallies, organizing campaigns, writing critical essays or expressing personal beliefs.”

“With limited exceptions (for example, in an emergency), our intelligence agencies must have a court order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to target any US citizen or lawful permanent resident for electronic surveillance.”

Also on Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union announced that a coalition of 45 civil rights, human rights, privacy rights and faith-based organization have written US President Barack Obama condemning The Intercept’s allegations and demanding “a full public accounting of these practices.”

“These practices hurt not only American Muslims, but all communities that expect law enforcement to serve and protect America’s diverse population equally, without discrimination,” the statement reads in part. “They strike the bedrock of democracy: that no one should grow up fearful of law enforcement, scared to exercise the rights to freedom of speech, association and worship.”

“I was surprised by all five names we identified,” Greenwald admitted during Wednesday’s Reddit AMA. “I can't believe that a FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] court or multiple layers of DOJ would, for instance, approve the email monitoring of the Exec Dir of the largest Muslim American civil rights organization in the country which, if anything, is notorious for being too moderate and too cooperative with the US Govt.”

Comments (42)


Weaver 26.07.2014 02:48

We've already had a recent case where the IRS was caught persecuting Tea Party members. The persecution wasn't great, but it's a recent example of the tendency for abuse.

Look up John Edgar Hoover, first Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He's famous... for blackmailing others.


Weaver 26.07.2014 02:41

Talal Itani,

Imag ine if an out-of-context comment of yours were exploited by an eavesdropper seeking a promotion. "We've found a bad Muslim, here's the evidence, let's arrest him as an unlawful combatant [meaning he has no right to a trial]."

You surely don't believe everyone who is arrested is actually guilty. We have trials, excluding the new exception for "terrorists&quo t;, to reduce wrongful imprisonment, but no system is without flaw and without corruption.


Weaver 26.07.2014 02:37

I certainly care if I'm monitored. The concern isn't that a person would be caught striving to act illegally. That's a red herring concern.

The concern is abuse. Federal monitoring could be used to persecute political opponents. That might mean persecution of an ethnic or religious group, persecution of an ideological group, or persecution of supporters of a political opponent.

I t could also be used to gather blackmail information, for example details of an affair, which could later be manipulated for money or control. Additionally a person might say something privately in humor or anger, or out of context.

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