Houston Chronicle – December 24, 2005
Spying: It's an affront to the constitution,
and the rights of American Muslims
BY ALAMDAR S. HAMDANI
For more than four years I have watched FBI agents pose inappropriate questions to my clients. In the name of the War on Terror, agents have questioned thousands of Muslims, often U.S. citizens, in violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution.
These agents have approached Muslims in their homes, businesses, and even places of worship, as part of intelligence gathering missions in reaction to 9/11. And, working in pairs, one taking notes while the other asked the questions, agents have probed activities, religious or otherwise, that would not be scrutinized if the subjects of the interrogation had been non-Muslims.
For instance, because two Muslim men, both of them U.S. citizens speaking with Arab accents, complained to an apartment manager about the apartment complex's sales staff, the FBI approached the men. During the interview the agentsasked about what occurred at the complex, but also attempted to ask the men which mosque they attended, who else attended that mosque, whether they prayed five times a day, what their political views were and whether they were Sunni or Shiite.
Asking such questions without a compelling reason places an impermissible "chilling effect" on First Amendment activities such as the rights to free speech or free association. In other words, agents often insinuate that because a person belongs to a particular religious group or holds a particular belief, that that person is somehow involved with terrorist groups.
Couple that suspicion with confused interviewees who speak English as a second language, and people can become afraid of attending a mosque or voicing political views. Worse yet, they are sometimes detained for simply misunderstanding a question.
Based upon recent revelations, these interviewees could also have become targets of the National Security Agency's domestic spying program…..
Reuters – December 27, 2005
U.S. secret surveillance up sharply since Sept. 11
WASHINGTON - Federal applications for a special U.S. court to authorize secret surveillance rose sharply after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and the panel required changes to the requests at an even greater rate, government documents show.
President George W. Bush acknowledged this month he had secretly ordered the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on the international phone conversations and e-mail of Americans suspected of links to terrorists without approval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
The domestic spying order has set off a furious debate over whether the war on terrorism gives Bush a blank check when it comes to civil liberties and whether the president, in fact, broke the law.
The Justice Department's reports to the U.S. Congress on the surveillance court's activities show the Bush administration made 5,645 applications for electronic surveillance and physical searches from 2001 through 2004, the most recent year for which figures are available. In the previous four years, the court received a total of 3,436.
The 11-judge panel modified 179 of the Bush administration's requests. By contrast, only one was modified in the preceding four years. The court has reportedly handled almost 20,000 applications since it was set up and has rejected only a handful.
Reasons for the modifications were not stated and could range from minor alterations to more substantive changes.
The highly classified court was set up by the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, in the wake of Cold War spy fears and President Richard Nixon's misuse of U.S. intelligence agencies to spy on the anti-Vietnam War movement and other political dissidents.
The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations has filed a Freedom of Information request with federal agencies seeking government records relating to Bush's executive orders authorizing surveillance of Americans.
The group said on Tuesday it also filed a similar request with the Justice and Energy Departments for information on the secret radiation monitoring of Muslim sites in six U.S. cities, first reported by U.S. News and World Report.
The magazine reported last week that more than 100 sites, including private homes, were monitored without court approval as required by FISA.
"We are concerned that, under this secretive program, our government has overstepped constitutional bounds by intruding on private property without any probable cause or valid court orders," CAIR's national legal director, Arsalan Iftikhar, said in a statement…..