NSA spy campaign against Muslims exposed

On the one hand, the U.S. government, through its Supreme Court, has decided that corporate bosses, if their religious biases are “sincerely held,” can use them to deny fundamental reproductive rights to women workers, namely insurance funding for contraceptives.

On the other hand, that same U.S. government continues to wage a non-stop campaign of racist surveillance and repression against Muslims because of their religious beliefs.

Recent documents released by whistle­blower Edward Snowden reveal that the NSA and the FBI monitored the e-mails of five Muslim Americans. (firstlook.org/theintercept, July 9) They include:

• Faisal Gill, a longtime Republican Party operative who served in the government under President George W. Bush.

• Asim Ghafoor, attorney who defended clients charged with terrorism.

• Hooshang Amirahmadi, an Iranian- American professor of international relations at Rutgers University.

• Agha Saeed, former political science professor at California State University and an activist for Muslim civil liberties and Palestinian rights.

• Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the largest Muslim civil rights organization in the country.

Snowden released an NSA spreadsheet named “FISA recap” — short for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. That worksheet lists the email addresses of these five men. The FISA law was enacted in 1978 when news reached the public that J. Edgar Hoover and presidents from both parties used U.S. intelligence agencies to spy on dissidents and political enemies.

FISA restricts such surveillance only to targets who “are or may be engaged in or abetting espionage, sabotage or terrorism;” a judge must approve them. For U.S. citizens, as all five are, the surveillance can last only 90 days before it must be renewed.

Yet for all five men, NSA spying continued for years between 2002 and 2008. There is absolutely no evidence that any of them did anything that met the FISA criteria that would merit such spying. And there is no evidence that the NSA went before a FISA judge before spying on them.

When Asim Ghafoor was asked why the government spied on him for many years, he responded: “I believe 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” [to Mecca].

FBI training manuals uncovered by Wired magazine in 2011 show that 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.

Another Snowden-released 2005 NSA document explains to intelligence agents how to properly format internal memos to justify FISA surveillance. In the place where the target’s real name would go, the memo offers a fake name as a placeholder: “Mohammed Ragh – – d.”

The Snowden FISA worksheet shows more than 5,000 email addresses that were subject to NSA and FBI spying. And of course this is only one part of a racist, anti-Muslim campaign conducted by the U.S. government.

Last year Rasmea Yousef Odeh was arrested by agents of the Homeland Security Department and charged with “Unlawful Procurement of Naturalization.” (fightbacknews.org, May 28) The 65-year-old Odeh is a leader in Chicago’s Arab and Muslim community. Earlier that year Odeh received the “Outstanding Community Leader Award” from the Chicago Cultural Alliance, which described her as a woman who has “dedicated over 40 years of her life to the empowerment of Arab women, first in her homes of Palestine, Jordan and Lebanon, where she was an activist and practicing attorney, and then the past 10 years in Chicago.”

In the 1970s Odeh was imprisoned and tortured by the Zionist state of Israel. Now the U.S. government is seeking to banish her for speaking out for Arab people’s rights.

Exposed for all the world to see, it is time for all workers to stand against these secret government campaigns of racist repression against Muslim people. n