Obama administration denies spying on Muslim-Americans based on First Amendment activities

Documents from Edward Snowden show that Muslim- American activists and leaders were among those targeted by Nation Security Agency surveillance. Among those spied upon was Nihad Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a prominent Muslim rights organization. (The Intercept, July 9, 2014, by Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain)

A number of civil rights organizations condemned the spying as reminiscent of spying on civil rights leaders in the 60s and 70s. The ACLU wrote “The story raises profound questions about the surveillance authorities of the government, including its ability to selectively target a political, ethnic, or religious group. In this case, it’s American Muslims.  But we already know that the FBI is engaging in a much more expansive racial and ethnic mapping program that should worry us all.” (American Civil Liberties Union, July 9, 2014, by Laura W. Murphy)

The Obama administration issued a guarded statement in response to the allegations: “It is entirely false that U.S. intelligence agencies conduct electronic surveillance of political, religious or activist figures solely because they disagree with public policies or criticize the government, or for exercising constitutional rights.” The statement affirmed that no American would be spied upon “based solely on First Amendment activities, such as staging public rallies, organizing campaigns, writing critical essays, or expressing personal beliefs.” (Business Insider, July 9, 2014, by Brett Logiurato)