Early this morning, The Intercept published a story showing that the NSA and FBI have targeted American citizens for surveillance not because “there is probable cause to believe that [they] are not only agents of an international terrorist organization or other foreign power, but also ‘are or may be’ engaged in or abetting espionage, sabotage, or terrorism,” but because they are Muslim-Americans.
The story, written by Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain, names five American citizens who were surveilled by the FBI and NSA, according to new documents released by Edward Snowden. None of the men met any of the criteria which would have allowed the NSA or FBI to monitor them under the Foreign Intelligence Service Act, or FISA. All were of Muslim heritage.
Greenwald and Hussain took to Reddit this morning to participate in an Ask Me Anything. Here are the five most important topics they elected to discuss.
On the Allegations That the NSA, NYPD, and FBI Nurture Cultures of Racism Against Muslims
Hussain believes there is "ample ample evidence...that there was a highly conspiratorial and bigoted attitude towards Muslim-Americans among the agencies which were surveilling and scrutinizing them." He also wrote that, for proponents of the War on Terror, combatting terrorism takes on a religious fervor: "I absolutely believe that there are religio-cultural components to the propagation of the War on Terror," he wrote, "many of which just happen to be masked behind secular rationale.” Greenwald despaired that the agency can ever be righted, writing, “I don't see how you expunge such a deeply ingrained belief in their culture."
On the Likelihood of an Expanding Surveillance Dragnet
Hussain was not optimimistic that the dragnet which his story alleges has encircled Muslim-Americans won't expand to include all Americans. “The most egregious civil rights abuses historically tend to start with unpopular subgroups within society before inevitably broadening to target the entire population, once such practices become normalized and entrenched," he wrote. "If such practices become the norm, it is inevitable that other groups (especially those who engage in any form of dissent) will be subject to similarly intense levels of government scrutiny."
On Whether They Believe Their Investigations Will Spur Change
Greenwald was optimistic that the wheels are already in motion, “There has been a major, profound debate around the world, not just in the US, about a variety of key topics: the dangers of state surveillance, the value of individual privacy in the digital age, the menace posed by government secrecy, the actual role of the US (and Obama) in the world), the proper relationship between journalists and those who wield the greatest power," he wrote. "I can't predict what change will happen from all of this, but I know it will be significant.”
On the Issue of Censorship on Reddit
Greenwald accused Reddit moderators, whom he believes to be "partisan Democrats who want to conceal these stories because perceive that it reflects poorly on Obama," of censoring his stories. “Reddit is practicing censorship, pure and simple," he said. "It's pitiful."
On Whether More Revelations Are to Follow
Greenwald hinted at more to come. “I get in trouble every time I talk about our reporting before it's ready, but suffice to say: Muslims, while the prime target of post-9/11 abuses, are not the only ones targeted by them, and there is definitely more big reporting to come from the Snowden archive,” he said.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Murtaza Hussain’s name in the headline. The article has been fixed to reflect the proper spelling but, due to a glitch, the error persists in the URL.