Greenwald: GOP Official Spied on by NSA Without Warrants

By:  Thomas R. Eddlem
Greenwald: GOP Official Spied on by NSA Without Warrants

The NSA warrantless surveillance program nominally geared at spying on foreigners has also spied on innocent Americans without a warrant, including a Republican Party operative, a civil rights activist and several university professors.

The revelations by investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald raise the possibility that NSA warrantless surveillance has been used for political — rather than security — purposes.

Greenwald's July 9 revelations — based upon information supplied by whistleblower Edward Snowden — profile five innocent American citizens who were surveiled without the constitutionally-required warrant from a court based upon probable cause: Republican Party operative Faisal Gill, Attorney Asim Ghafoor (a former aide to Democratic Congressman Ciro Rodriguez of Texas), Rutgers University Professor Hooshang Amirahmadi, Former California State University Professor Agha Saeed (an opponent of the USA Patriot Act) and Council on Islamic-American Relations Executive Director Nihad Awad. Greenwald's sample of about 7,500 e-mail addresses monitored by the NSA (the NSA monitors many more than that number) contains 202 addresses positively identified as “U.S. persons,” 1,782 as foreigners and 5,501 persons as of “unknown” national origin.

Greenwald noted that all five Americans surveiled happened to be Muslim, and suggested that this may be a religious test for surveillance. Indeed, FBI training documents revealed by in 2011 view all Muslims as potential radical, bomb-throwing terrorists or allies of those terrorists. And Greenwald's July 9 research reveals an internal NSA training document uses “Mohammad Raghead” as a placeholder for surveillance targets. 

That, plus the surveillance of American-Muslim civil rights organizations such as CAIR, angers Nihad Awad. “I’m outraged as an American citizen that my government, after decades of civil rights struggle, still spies on political activists and civil right activists and leaders,” the CAIR Executive Director told Greenwald. “I’m really angry that despite all the work that we have been doing in our communities to serve the nation, we are treated with suspicion.”

Faisal Gill told Greenwald's researchers that the surveillance of Muslims “just goes to show the hysteria that everybody [in intelligence agencies] feels that every Muslim is, basically, somehow harboring these feelings, and that's just not the case.”

Ironically, Gill has worked for the Department of Homeland Security and holds a top-secret clearance from the federal government.

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