NLG Resources Inform Revelations of NSA and FBI Monitoring of Muslim-Americans
Lawyers Group Demands Action from White House
NEW YORK -- The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) joins 45 organizations in calling on President Obama for “a full public accounting of practices” that systematically target American Muslims, and an investigation into these abuses as detailed in an article published yesterday at The Intercept. The NLG categorically opposes secretive, legally tenuous surveillance – especially when motivated by racial, political, or religious profiling, and calls for an investigation of these disturbing revelations.
At the center of the three-month investigation by The Intercept is an official NSA spreadsheet called “FISA [Foreign Intelligence Security Act] recap” listing 7,485 email addresses of surveillance targets monitored between 2002 and 2008.
From professors to former top-ranking US intelligence officials, five men were labeled as threats to national security for no other apparent reason than their Muslim heritage. One of these men, attorney Asim Ghafoor, was surveilled because he represented clients accused of terrorism charges. As the Guild has noted in the past such government retaliation violates two fundamental tenets of the US legal system – attorney-client privilege, and the right to counsel.
More than four decades ago, the NSA and FBI aggressively investigated and spied on longtime NLG member and former president of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, attorney Abdeen Jabara, while representing Arab-Americans targets of government surveillance and repression. Jabara sued the FBI for monitoring his legal and political activities supporting Arab organizations and causes, which forced the NSA for the first time ever to acknowledge spying on an American. In the April 2014 report Breach of Privilege: Spying on Lawyers in the US, Jabara explained to the NLG the long lasting impact that surveillance had on his legal work: “I felt I had to be more circumspect in how I would do my own political work and what I should advise clients.”
The NLG continues its range of transparency and privacy rights work. Guild members are currently litigating Panagacos v. Towery, the case of the US Army infiltrating, spying on, and disrupting peace organizations in the Pacific Northwest.
This past spring, we launched a FOIA project that seeks to reclaim some of the 30,000 files the FBI collected on NLG members from 1940-1975, and described in the NLG/FBI lawsuit Settlement Agreement.
The National Lawyers Guild is also a plaintiff in a class action lawsuit brought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) against the NSA’s bulk telephone data collection program and its chilling effect on free speech. Read more about the case, First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles v. NSA, here.
At its annual Law for the People Convention in Chicago this September, the NLG will continue the discussion on these issues, with seminars that include “Guilty Until Proven Innocent: How Federal Law Enforcement Circumvents Constitutional Rights of the Muslim Community;” “FOIA: How to Successfully Bring Sunshine to Records the Government Doesn’t Want You to See;” and “Surveillance Self-Defense for Legal Workers and Lawyers.”
The National Lawyers Guild was formed in 1937 as the nation’s first racially integrated bar association to advocate for the protection of constitutional, human and civil rights.