Broad coalition demands accounting of surveillance of Muslim leaders

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Coalition calls for accounting of U.S. surveillance on U.S. Muslim leaders.

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:

Access

American Civil Liberties Union

American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee

Amnesty International

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

Free Press

Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders

Human Rights Campaign

Human Rights Watch

Interfaith Alliance

Islamic Society of North America

Lambda Legal

Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund

Muslim Advocates

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."