CB 1000

15 July 2014
Much ado about what? Looking under the hood of Glen Greenwalds latest revelations.
by Karim Immanuel Chemlal
Karim Immanuel Chemlal
Karim is an Australian writer and Political Activist. Specialising in Futurism, Science Fiction, Politics, Fantasy and History, Karims forth coming book "Amok Rising" will be published in 2016.

“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.”

[dropcap size=big]A[/dropcap]fter an aborted start to publishing the latest in the Snowden files on July 1st Snowdens list was finally published over a week later.So far only 5 names have been published of prominent Muslim Americans targeted by the NSA though as many as 200 Americans have been targeted for surveillance by the NSA in the 7000 files on NSA surveillance.

Their identities are Nihad Awad, Executive Director of CAIR, the largest Muslim civil rights organisation in the country; Faisal Gill, who served with the Department of Homeland Security and ran for public office in Virginia as a Republican; Asim Ghafoor, a defence attorney who has taken on terrorism-related cases; Hooshang Amirahmadi, an international relations professor at Rutgers University; and Agha Saeed, a former political science professor at California State University and National Chairman of the American Muslim Alliance.

Those five identities so far released are something which many critics say was probably a ‘no brainer’ for both those on the list and anyone else following this case.

Even so the ramifications of the revelations ‘so far’ are still quite serious for both Muslim Americans and the government which has already been successfully sued during the Al Haramain litigation by a current target in Greenwalds revelations.

Asim Ghafoor the plaintiff of the litigation served as an attorney representing a Saudi charity. A charity whose assets were frozen over allegations of ties to Osama bin Laden. In 2004, while the case was ongoing Ghafoor discovered his calls were being monitored after a Treasury department goof resulted in a phone log being sent to Charity lawyers showing the government had been eavesdropping on Asim while he was in communication with his clients. Almost five years later, Ghafoor was awarded more than $20,000 in damages and the government was ordered to pay his legal fees of $2.5 million. The compensation judgements were later overturned in the appeals court as the law did not allow for Asim to receive such compensation even though the NSA were found guilty of violating Asim’s civil rights.

The fact that he is now in 2014 one of the targets of NSA surveillance again is indeed no surprise but it highlights the US governments determination to not allow legal limitations to proscribe its investigation of potential links to terrorism. Faisal Gill, another target of the NSA and Asim Ghafoor’s fellow lawyer is also linked to Iran as well as having worked for Sudan in diplomatic functions, though this certainly does not give the US government the legal right to invade their privacy. Hooshang Amirahmadi, is another one of the NSA targets, who despite having a Middle Eastern background, doesn’t consider himself a Muslim. He has dual citizenship as an Iranian and an American, but identifies himself as an atheist. Nonetheless he opposes sanctions in Iran and policies that foment regime changes as foreign policy goals. Amirahmadi believes he was targeted over his diplomatic connections though and not his ethnicity. He has since declined to be interviewed further on this matter.

Why these men were chosen to be spied upon over other prominent Muslim Americans lawyers and diplomats is still a matter for speculation.

The real issue in this snippet of a revelation can be seen in light of the court decisions made in 2009 freeing the US government of any fiscal consequences of being caught violating its citizens rights. Basically the US government can be caught breaking the law and judged guilty of such crimes. But after that the buck stops there with no legal method of actually seeking damages and punishing the US government for breaking its own laws and violating its citizens rights.

It is plausible to wonder if the U.S government is less concerned about being caught in such future revelations with the legal precedent set that the plaintiffs have no legal pathway to redress their injuries and incentivise the government to cease and desist from its illegal surveillance. With 4 year electoral cycles and short term attention spans by much of the media going public its not clear if delayed punishment at the polls will be enough to mitigate or halt this extra judicial intrusion by governmental surveillance apparatus.

Fortunately the cat is far from being out of the bag with revelations by Greenwald that there are many more revelations to come!

Greenwald and Hussain participated in a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” thread on the 9th of July where a Reddit participant asked if there were other targeted groups beyond Muslim leaders. Greenwald responded:

“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.”

The Reddit chat also revealed that Greenwald and Hussein are being very careful to seek the permission of those revealed on the list of domestic surveillance targets before publishing their identities which may explain the limited list in this latest revelation.

It is possible though that Greenwald may well be drip feeding us the revelations, though to be frank his explanation on needing to seek permission from those on the list is both legally and ethically plausible.

Even so, for a journalist to use such a strategy to draw out the turbulence and impact of the Snowden files, maximising their effect as they cascade into public awareness, is far from unheard of. And to be honest, who can blame him.


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