New Greenwald bombshell: NSA spied on 5 politically active Muslim-Americans

The leader of a Muslim civil rights group and a former Bush administration official were among the targets

Published July 9, 2014 2:11PM (EDT)

Glenn Greenwald              (Reuters/Eduardo Munoz)
Glenn Greenwald (Reuters/Eduardo Munoz)

At the very least, the National Security Agency spied on five Muslim-Americans regardless of the fact that they posed no threat to national security, report the Intercept's Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain in a new bombshell revelation from files delivered by former government contractor Edward Snowden.

Email messages of the five men — former Bush administration official Faisal Gill, prominent attorney Asim Ghafoor, Rutgers professor Hooshang Amirahmadi, former California State University professor Agha Saeed and Council on American-Islamic Relations executive director Nihad Awad — were being monitored from at least 2002 to 2008, the Intercept reports. (Greenwald has claimed on Twitter that the program that authorized surveillance may be still ongoing.)

According to the Intercept, all five of the men being surveilled have "led highly public, outwardly exemplary lives," and all five vehemently deny any involvement with terrorist organizations and categorically assert their love for and loyalty to the United States. “I just don’t know why [I was a target],” Gill, who once worked in the Bush White House, told the Intercept.

“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,” Gill continued.

More from the Intercept:

Given that the government’s justifications for subjecting Gill and the other U.S. citizens to surveillance remain classified, it is impossible to know why their emails were monitored, or the extent of the surveillance. It is also unclear under what legal authority it was conducted, whether the men were formally targeted under FISA warrants, and what, if anything, authorities found that permitted them to continue spying on the men for prolonged periods of time. But the five individuals share one thing in common: Like many if not most of the people listed in the NSA spreadsheet, they are of Muslim heritage.

“I believe that they tapped me because my name is Asim Abdur Rahman Ghafoor, my parents are from India, I travelled to Saudi Arabia as a young man, and I do the pilgrimage,” says Ghafoor, when told that no non-Muslim attorneys who defended terror suspects had been identified on the list. “Yes, absolutely I believe that had something to do with it.”

The FBI—which is listed as the “responsible agency” for surveillance on the five men—has a controversial record when it comes to the ethnic profiling of Muslim-Americans. According to FBI training materials uncovered byWired in 2011, the bureau taught agents to treat “mainstream” Muslims as supporters of terrorism, to view charitable donations by Muslims as “a funding mechanism for combat,” and to view Islam itself as a “Death Star” that must be destroyed if terrorism is to be contained.

By Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a former Salon staff writer.

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