A broad-based coalition of 45 organizations led by the American Civil Liberties Union is calling on the president to "provide a full public accounting" of surveillance against U.S. Muslim leaders.
The demand was prompted by new revelations, reported by journalists Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain and contained in documents secured by the ACLU, of U.S. intelligence targeting for surveillance leaders in the Muslim community in the United States. The White House has called for a review of training and policy materials for racial or religious bias but, according to the coalition, not yet offered a position on the surveillance concerns.
According to the reports, thousands of U.S. community leaders, activists and organization representatives came under surveillance by federal intelligence agencies. Greenwald reported on July 9 that the National Security Agency spied on organizational emails, phone records, member and donor lists, and civil rights strategies, among other information.
The coalition, in a letter to President Barack Obama, wrote, "The First Look report is troubling because it arises in this broader context of abuse. Documents obtained through an American Civil Liberties Union Freedom of Information Act request show that the FBI has been mapping a broad spectrum of communities, including American Muslim communities, the African American community and Latino American communities, without any basis for individualized suspicion. Under the guise of community outreach, the FBI targeted mosques and Muslim community organizations for intelligence gathering. It has pressured law-abiding American Muslims to become informants against their own communities, often in coercive circumstances. It has also stigmatized innocent Muslims by placing them on the No Fly List and other watch lists. In short, the government's domestic counterterrorism policies treat entire minority communities as suspect, and American Muslims have borne the brunt of government suspicion, stigma and abuse."
The letter continued, "These practices hurt not only American Muslims, but all communities that expect law enforcement to serve and protect America's diverse population equally, without discrimination. They strike the bedrock of democracy: that no one should grow up fearful of law enforcement, scared to exercise the rights to freedom of speech, association and worship."
The coalition includes:
American Civil Liberties Union
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
Arab American Institute
Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Asian Law Caucus
Brennan Center for Justice
Center for Community Change
Center for Constitutional Rights
Council on American-Islamic Relations
Defending Dissent Foundation
Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders
Human Rights Campaign
Human Rights Watch
Islamic Society of North America
Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund
Muslim League Fund of America
Muslim Public Affairs Council
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
Legal Defense Fund
National Center for Lesbian Rights
National Center for Transgender Equality
National Coalition on Black Civic Participation
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
National Immigration Law Center
National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild
National Lawyers Guild
National Network for Arab American Communities
National Religious Campaign Against Torture
National Security Network
National Urban League
New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute
New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good
Partnership for Civil Justice Fund
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund
The Sikh Coalition
South Asian Americans Leading Together
Transgender Law Center
T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
"The FBI has apparently been targeting American Muslim religious leaders for surveillance on seemingly bias-based suspicion of terrorism," said Rea Carey of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "Our nation's history is scarred with examples of secret surveillance of entire communities based purely on bias: it was wrong to surveil gay men and lesbians in the 50s, it was wrong to surveil African-American Civil Rights leaders in the 60s; it was wrong to surveil women's rights leaders in the 70s, and it is wrong today to surveil civil rights leaders of the American Muslim community. We stand with a broad coalition of religious and civil rights leaders in calling on President Obama to initiate an investigation and end this practice immediately."
Abed Ayoub, policy director, of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said on July 10, “The magnitude of these revelations is shocking. The Obama administration, through its directives and instructions, has shown zero regard for protecting the Constitutional Rights of the Arab- and Muslim-American communities."