Newly published material leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals that the U.S. government spied on five prominent Muslim-Americans for several years, despite a lack of evidence that they posed a potential threat to national security.
According to a report published by journalists Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain in The Intercept, the men were targeted under FISA, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, though all five are U.S. citizens and reside in the country.
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Among the list is Nihad Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which is the largest and most influential Muslim rights organization in the U.S., and Faisal Gill, a prominent Republican who once held a top secret clearance during the George W. Bush administration.
Gill was under surveillance during the same time period he obtained that clearance, the report says.
The FBI monitored each of their email accounts, some for a period of several years, despite the fact all of the men “vehemently deny involvement in terrorism or espionage,” according the report published late Tuesday evening online.
The individuals' names all appear in an NSA spreadsheet that was part of the cache of classified material leaked by Snowden to Greenwald and other journalists.
The file lists the FBI as the agency that was actively engaged in monitoring the email accounts, along with 7,485 other email accounts belonging primarily to foreign surveillance targets, between 2002 and 2008.
According the report, “it was unclear whether the government obtained any legal permission to monitor the Americans on the list.”