Glenn Greenwald, writing in The Intercept, has listed by name several Americans who were secretly surveilled by the NSA and the FBI, based on information provided by Edward Snowden. This type of surveillance was (and probably continues to be) collected by [mis-]applying laws that are directed at terrorists. The Intercept story is worth a read.
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.
The individuals appear on an NSA spreadsheet in the Snowden archives called “FISA recap”—short for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Under that law, the Justice Department must convince a judge with the top-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that there is probable cause to believe that American targets are not only agents of an international terrorist organization or other foreign power, but also “are or may be” engaged in or abetting espionage, sabotage, or terrorism. The authorizations must be renewed by the court, usually every 90 days for U.S. citizens.
Several of those named are featured in video interviews in Greenwald’s story. One example is this video interview of Faisal Gill:
Under current law, an American citizen can only be directly targeted by the FBI or CIA if such agencies seek a warrant in the FISA court. Warrants are notoriously easy to acquire in public court, but the FISA court has never publicly disclosed any such warrants, although they most certainly exist.
Needless to say, this is abuse of process and will only be stopped if and when the FISA laws are changed to require open hearings of all FISA court proceedings. And now, these targeted individuals will have standing to sue the intelligence agencies over the spying activities because they have proof, via the Edward Snowden documents, that they were in fact surveilled.
When Edward Snowden turned over a trove of NSA documents last year, he explained that he included the spreadsheet of monitored emails because he wanted to give people subjected to electronic surveillance the opportunity to challenge the spying as unconstitutional. For years, the government has succeeded in having such challenges dismissed on the ground that the various plaintiffs lack standing to sue because they could not prove that they were personally targeted.
Thanks to Snowden’s disclosures, those seeking to obtain such a ruling now have specific cases of surveillance against American citizens to examine. So do those charged with reforming the FISA process. Richard Clarke, a former counterterrorism official in the Clinton and Bush administrations, served on the recent White House intelligence review panel convened to address concerns raised by the Snowden revelations. If he had seen the NSA spreadsheet, Clarke says, he would have asked more questions about the process, and reviewed individual FISA warrants.
“Knowing that, I would specifically ask the Justice Department: How many American citizens are there active FISAs on now?” he says. “And without naming names, tell me what categories they fall into—how many are counterterrorism, counterintelligence, espionage cases? We’d want to go through [some applications], and frankly, we didn’t. It’s not something that five part-time guys can do—rummage through thousands of FISA warrants.”
- NSA and FBI spied on prominent Muslim American leaders (boingboing.net)
- Latest Snowden Leaks: FBI Targeted Muslim-American Lawyers (wired.com)
- The Intercept finally publishes its “finale”: Naming five US Muslims monitored by the government (pando.com)
- The NSA and FBI Spied on Prominent Muslim Americans, Leaked Documents Show (time.com)
- Prominent Muslim-Americans came under NSA and FBI surveillance, report claims (gigaom.com)