Government Spying On Five Muslim Activists Is A Manufactured Scandal

Ryan Mauro | National Security Analyst, Clarion Project

A coalition of 45 groups led by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is enraged over Edward Snowden’s latest revelation that the U.S. government monitored the emails of five Muslim-American public figures. CAIR, whose leader was among those monitored, is falsely portraying legitimate intelligence-gathering on people with extremist ties as widespread persecution of Muslims.

The coalition’s letter stated that the U.S. government is “targeting entire communities — particularly American Muslims — for secret surveillance based on their race, religion, ethnicity or national origin.”

CAIR asserted that “The Obama administration continues to allow some government agencies to treat all Americans as objections of suspicion” and “an outrageous continuation of civil rights era surveillance of minority community leadership by government elements who see threats in all patriotic dissent.”

The numbers tell a far less dramatic story.

The NSA documents show that 7,500 email addresses were monitored between 2002 and 2008. Only 202 of them are listed as belonging to “U.S. persons.” A single person of interest may own several of these monitored emails.

The journalists who broke the story, Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain, were able to figure out the identities of five Muslim-American activists based on the listed email addresses. CAIR and its allies are taking the monitoring of a handful of extremist-linked activists and giving the impression that all 2.75 million Muslim-Americans are being victimized.

The Director of National Intelligence has released a statement saying it is “patently false” that activists were monitored solely because of their use of the First Amendment. The intelligence agencies must go before the FISA Court and prove to a judge that probable cause exists to believe the subject is linked to terrorism or is an agent of a foreign power.

There is no indication at all that this process was violated or that the intelligence community’s classified evidence is insufficient. On the contrary, there is plenty of publicly-available information to suggest that this monitoring was justified and much of it is included in the Greenwald article.

The Executive-Director of CAIR, Nihad Awad, had his emails monitored from 2006 to 2008. The Justice Department designated CAIR as an unindicted co-conspirator in the trial of the Holy Land Foundation, a Muslim Brotherhood entity whose officials were found guilty of financing Hamas.

The Justice Department listed CAIR as an entity of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood and, more specifically, its secret Palestine Committee. This is a body that the Brotherhood set up to covertly assist Hamas.

In 1993, the FBI wiretapped a secret Brotherhood/Hamas meeting in Philadelphia that was attended by Awad and another future CAIR founder. The participants discussed using deception and agreed to form a new organization with cleaner tracks to influence the media.

CAIR was born the next year. Its extremism and questionable finances are well-documented.

Another monitored activist is Agha Saeed. He spoke at a conference for an Islamic organization with a sordid history in 1999, where he cited a U.N. resolution to defend Palestinian resistance “by using all means including armed resistance.”

In 2000, Hillary Clinton received a $50,000 donation for her Senate campaign from Saeed’s organization and returned it after the speech received attention. She said his speech was “offensive and outrageous.”

Saeed, by his own admission to Greenwald, is also a friend of Sami al-Arian, who was convicted of materially supporting the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group.

The third and fourth activists are Faisal Gill and Asim Ghafour, who formed a law firm together and did business with the government of Sudan, traveling to the country in 2007. The State Department has designated Sudan a State Sponsor of Terrorism since 1993.

Ghafour previously represented a Saudi charity linked to Al-Qaeda. Gill was a spokesman for the now-defunct American Muslim Council. It was led by Abdurrahman Alamoudi, a supporter of Hamas and Hezbollah who was convicted in 2004 on terrorism-related charges.

Finally, American Iranian Council President Hooshang Amirahmadi was monitored. He says that Hamas and Hezbollah are not terrorist organizations. His program at Rutgers received funding from the Alavi Foundation, a charity that the U.S. government found to be a front for the Iranian regime.

Given this public information, it isn’t hard to believe that the intelligence community has classified evidence that warranted the monitoring of these five activists.

CAIR and its allies accuse virtually every criticism and every counter-terrorism action of being a persecution of Muslims. It is part of their strategy to present themselves to Muslims as the force that will protect them from an adversarial U.S. government and society.

This is not a genuine scandal. This is propaganda by an Islamist organization on the defensive.

Ryan Mauro is the national security analyst for the Clarion Project.

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