The Intercept is reporting that the NSA is unsurprisingly spying on countless American citizens without there being any reasonable justification for doing so. This is being reported based on the documents that Edward Snowden gave Glenn Greenwald including a “FISA recap” spreadsheet that details thousands of email addresses being monitored. Out of those email accounts being monitored, 202 addresses were marked as US persons, while 1,782 were marked as non-US persons and 5,501 were marked as unknown or simply left blank. The Intercept identified five Americans on the list from their email addresses and helped build the story that we’re reporting on today.
The NSA is monitoring the emails (and likely more) of multiple Muslim-Americans even though they have never had any ties to any terrorist groups or anti-American sentiment. There was, however, one lawyer involved in the spying on Americans who represented clients in terrorism cases, but that is merely a breach of due process. A breach where the NSA could pass on confidential information to the prosecution and help create a case where there is none. Obviously, such lawyers would probably suspect that they’re already being watched, but not by the NSA. Even so, he is one of five Americans basically put on a ‘watch list’ for who they are and what they do, not a justification for being spied on as an American.
The five Americans that are being spied on were discovered in Edward Snowden’s leaked NSA documents. These five men, that are Americans, Faisal Gill, Asim Ghafoor, Hooshang Amirahmadi, Agha Saeed and Nihad Awad are all obviously people that could easily be considered Muslim Americans. But the fact is that with the exception of Asim Ghafoor, none of these men have ANY remote ties with terrorists in any way, shape, or form. In fact, Asim Ghafoor only does because its part of his job as a lawyer to represent them, which is still an American thing to do in order to ensure due process.
These men’s email addresses were found in a FISA recap spreadsheet which basically broke down who was and wasn’t being spied on and whether or not their account owners were American, non-American or unknown. Unfortunately for all of us Americans, it doesn’t really seem to make much of a difference whether or not people are American if the NSA really wants to spy on them. Because the truth is that the FISA courts are basically granting the NSA any and all permissions that they need to ‘do their job’. In the 35 years that the FISA court (FISC) has been in existence, the court has approved 35,434 government requests for surveillance, while rejecting only 12. Giving you merely a small idea of how strictly these requests are really being ‘judged’.
What’s worse is that some of these men have grown up and served their country, like Faisal Gill, who has served in the military and worked for the White House under President George W. Bush. In fact, he was a staunch supporter of the Republican party and their ideals. He also did lots of work under the Department of Homeland security and after he was done working there, the NSA spied on him, while George W. Bush was still president. In fact, after he left the Department of Homeland security, where he had very high level security clearance, the spying on him began.
The Intercept interviewed some of these men to talk about the spying and their experiences, and there are some really powerful words being said, especially towards the end.
The problem with all of this is that our government, The NSA, the FBI and the FISA courts that enable them are really toeing a very dangerous line. If it is okay to spy on American citizens with basically no supporting evidence (as it appears that these men were) then what prevents the NSA, CIA, FBI and other government agencies from monitoring everything we do, waiting until we trip up?
Just because these men are Muslim-Americans should not mean that they are suddenly dangerous to Americans and our freedom. In fact, singling them out because of what religion they are might be one of the most grave transgressions the NSA has committed so far. We already know that the NSA is spying on people that use Tor, so who’s next? Tor Users, American Muslims… Communists? Chinese-American Immigrants? Mexican-Americans? Where does it end?