Investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald has released another bombshell today by releasing the names of five prominent Muslim-Americans who were spied on by the NSA and FBI. In an article in the Intercept published on Wednesday, July 9th, Greenwald continues to release more information from documents supplied by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
Names derived from FISA Recap
Greenwald carefully combed through through documents provided by Snowden to discover that federal law enforcement authorities had been spying on a number of Americans since 2002 with only token “oversight”. The names of Americans targeted for surveillance by the NSA and FBI include (Greenwald received permission to release the names of the five below):
- Faisal Gill, a former Republican 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 well-known 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 supports Muslim civil liberties and Palestinian rights;
- Nihad Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
The names of all five of these individuals show up on an NSA spreadsheet called a “FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) recap”.
Before an American can be surveilled, FISA requires the Justice Department to convince a judge on the top-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that probable cause exists to believe the individual is an agent of an international terrorist organization or other foreign power, and also “are or may be” engaged in or abetting espionage, sabotage, or terrorism. Furthermore, the authorization for surveillance must be renewed every 90 days for U.S. citizens
The FISA recap spreadsheet lists 7,485 email addresses monitored between 2002 and 2008. Many of the email addresses on the NSA list are seemingly connected to foreign citizens the government believes are linked to Al Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah. Included among the Americans on the list are a number of individuals accused of terrorist activity.
Wide latitude in NSA spying on U.S. citizens
However, despite the supposed “safeguards” of the rights of Americans by FISA courts, all five Americans whose email accounts were monitored by the NSA have all led public, outwardly exemplary lives. Moreover, all five deny any involvement in terrorism or espionage, and none advocates violent jihad or is known to have been implicated in any crime. A couple have even been active in the U.S. national security and foreign policy sector.
“I just don’t know why,” said Faisal Gill, whose personal and business email accounts were apparently monitored while he was a Republican candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates a few years ago. “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.”