(WASHINGTON, D.C., 7/7/2014) -- The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization, today expressed concern about new revelations of the overbroad surveillance authority granted to the National Security Agency (NSA) and other intelligence agencies. CAIR noted that, based on the experience of American Muslim communities in the last decade, such surveillance can significantly undermine legitimate political activities.
That expression of concern is in response to revelations in a Washington Post story published on Saturday detailing its analysis of a cache of internet communications collected by the NSA and concluding that "nine of 10 account holders" were not the intended surveillance targets. Additionally, the Post reported, "nearly half the surveillance files" were marked as "belonging to U.S. citizens or residents."
Among the files were "medical records sent from one family member to another, resumes from job hunters and academic transcripts of school children." Additionally, the files also contained large numbers of pictures of "infants and toddlers in bathtubs, on swings, sprawled on their backs and kissed by their mothers."
In a statement released today responding to the Post's revelations, CAIR said:
"The Washington Post's reporting adds to the already strong case for immediate, significant reform of NSA surveillance programs. The story clearly shows that the NSA's overreach inflicts, 'collateral harm to privacy on a scale that the Obama administration has not been willing to address.'
"Privacy is not the only victim of such overreach.
"As Americans learn that their medical and academic information is easily swept up by a digital government vacuum cleaner, this can have a direct impact on their willingness to engage in political speech and other constitutionally-protected activities, even with their friends on social media. American Muslims have already witnessed this chilling effect on free speech in their houses of worship and among Muslim communities in our nation.
"We know from the past that outspoken public figures like Dr. Martin Luther King and Muhammad Ali were watchlisted and subjected to NSA surveillance. How much more damaging is today's technology when deployed against similar voices?
"The 9/11 terror attacks led to the recent wave of surveillance expansion. While terror attacks by any group are all horrific, they have consistently failed to change American society. On the other hand, the evolving total surveillance society threatens to undo generations of commitment to minimizing government intrusions into people's personal lives."
CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
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CONTACT: Corey Saylor, director, CAIR Department to Monitor and Combat Islamophobia, 202-742-6413, 202-384-8857, [email protected]; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726, [email protected]; CAIR Communications Manager Amina Rubin, 202-341-4171, [email protected]