In a story he touted for weeks as “the most important in the archive” of NSA documents given to him by NSA leaker Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald reported Wednesday that five Muslim American political activists have been subject to surveillance by the FBI or NSA.
The story casts the five as victims of unjust persecution solely because they are Muslims (with one exception), or because of their political activity.
“The five Americans whose email accounts were monitored by the NSA and FBI have all led highly public, outwardly exemplary lives,” Greenwald and co-author Murtaza Hussain write.
That’s not true in several cases, as we will show. But the story falls well short of Greenwald’s hype, in part because it offers no evidence that the surveillance continued after 2008. And all the surveillance described resulted from court-approved warrants and not some unchecked rogue operation. What Greenwald and Hussain do not mention is telling, too.
If the problem were as rampant as they portray it, plenty of other prominent Muslim activists should have been identifiable. But no one from the Islamic Society of North America, which was founded by Muslim Brotherhood members in America, is mentioned. The same is true for the Muslim American Society – which was linked to the Brotherhood in court testimony by Abdurrahman Alamoudi, once the most prominent Muslim political activist in America – along with the Islamic Circle of North America, the Muslim Public Affairs Council and other organizations which share the same faith and engage in the exact kind of political activity as those spotlighted.
In addition, Greenwald and Hussain acknowledge there are many unknowns.
For example, “it is impossible to know why their emails were monitored,” they write, but at the same time, the story’s entire premise is that there could be no cause beyond some form of discriminatory focus to target people engaged in activity protected by the First Amendment.
Sources acknowledged “that political speech is sometimes viewed as a sufficient reason to launch an investigation,” the story says. The example provided?
“If you are a political activist calling for violent jihad–yes, that could trigger an investigation,” a former FBI lawyer told them.
One would hope so.