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The NSA and FBI monitored the e-mails of prominent Muslim American leaders and attorneys, including the head of the largest American Muslim civil rights group, The Intercept reported yesterday.
According to HomeLand Security News Wire critics of the surveillance programs of the NSA and other government agencies said the revelations proved their contention that these programs should be more closely monitored. The Brennan Center for Justice noted that despite assurances from officials that the government uses its intelligence authority only to target “bad guys,” these new NSA documents indicate that the FBI collected, sometimes for several years, the e-mails of prominent Muslim American civil rights leaders and activists. According to the story, the FBI obtained authorization from the secret FISA court for some targets by alleging that they were agents of foreign powers, apparently based on their civil rights, legal, and political work.
There is also a suggestion that in at least one case, there was no warrant at all. The Brennan Center says that the monitoring of lawyers’ e-mails raises concerns that some of the information collected may be protected by the attorney-client privilege, which the intelligence agencies are bound to respect.
“Since 9/11, American-Muslim communities have been fair game for law enforcement tactics of the sort that were used against African American civil rights groups in the 1960s and ’70s,” said Faiza Patel, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center. “By targeting the leaders of these communities for secret full scale monitoring, the FBI has taken this tactic to another level. How can any of us who work to advance justice for American Muslims feel free to do our work if we fear the government is watching our every step?”