The biggest news of the day is from Glenn Greenwald’s new site, The Intercept, in a story co-written by Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain:
The National Security Agency and FBI have covertly monitored the emails of prominent Muslim-Americans—including a political candidate and several civil rights activists, academics, and lawyers—under secretive procedures intended to target terrorists and foreign spies…
The five Americans whose email accounts were monitored by the NSA and FBI have all led highly public, outwardly exemplary lives. All five vehemently deny any involvement in terrorism or espionage, and none advocates violent jihad or is known to have been implicated in any crime, despite years of intense scrutiny by the government and the press. Some have even climbed the ranks of the U.S. national security and foreign policy establishments.
One of the individuals monitored, Faisal Gill, served in the Navy as a JAG officer and even worked in the Department of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush.
The Intercept discovered the surveillance on a spreadsheet, leaked by Edward Snowden, of email addresses that were monitored under the provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA—which, as the article details, can be used to target individuals who merely “may,” in the future, engage in criminal activity.
The article makes a case that the NSA and FBI’s wiretapping was motivated in the cases described not by sound law enforcement principles but by anti-Muslim bias and paranoia. (For instance, some of the Muslims surveilled seem to have been targeted because they provided legal representation for foreign groups—but none of the non-Muslim lawyers who also worked on those cases appear to have been monitored.) One particular document provided by Snowden underlines the idea of potential institutional bigotry in shocking fashion. It’s an instruction sheet for intelligence community personnel on how to “properly format internal memos to justify FISA surveillance.” Look what fake name is used as a placeholder in the “identity” field: