4 Muslims Seek Damages for Time on Government No-Fly List

NEW YORK — Four Muslim men who have accused FBI agents of putting them on a no-fly list because they refused to become informants want to pursue damages against the agents even though the travel ban has been lifted, the men’s lawyers told a federal judge Friday.
Plaintiff lawyer Robert Shwartz told U.S. District Judge Ronnie Abrams that “various FBI agents punished (the men) and put them on because they refused to become informants at their mosques.” As a result, they were unable to travel to see loved ones, lost job opportunities and suffered the “stigma of being treated as threats to aviation security,” he said.

First Muslim lawmaker appointed to House Intelligence Committee

Lauren French for POLITICO: “Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi announced in a closed-door meeting Tuesday she would name the first Muslim lawmaker to the House’s Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Carson would be the first Muslim to serve on the committee and was the second Muslim to be elected to Congress. He already serves on the Armed Services Committee and worked for the Department of Homeland Security’s Fusion Center — the clearinghouse established by the federal government to streamline data sharing between the CIA, FBI, Department of Justice and the military.
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Human rights report takes at U.S. terrorism prosecutions, criticizes FBI tactics

July 21, 2014

A new human rights report offers a blistering assessment of the Justice Department’s role in the fight against terrorism, taking aim at tactics used to identify and prosecute suspects.

In a lengthy examination of U.S. terrorism prosecutions, Human Rights Watch, working with Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute, said the FBI and the Justice Department have created a climate of fear in some Muslim communities through the use of surveillance and informants.

The group accused the government of using sting operations, which some critics described as entrapment, to target people with mental or intellectual disabilities and said that such tactics have driven people away from mosques.

“The report clearly shows, in many respects, the American public is being sold a false bill of goods,” said Andrea Prasow, deputy Washington director at Human Rights Watch. “To be sure, the threat of terrorism is real,” she said. “But in many of the cases we documented, there was no threat until the FBI showed up and helped turn people into terrorists.”

Marc Raimondi, a Justice Department spokesman, said: “The Department of Justice has been a steadfast ally of our nation’s civil rights groups for decades. The report itself acknowledges that the legal process used in the cases it highlighted is not only lawful but is also specifically approved by federal judges. . . . We do not and cannot target individuals solely for engaging in activities protected by the First Amendment, which includes free speech and religion.”

Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, more than 500 people, or about 40 cases a year, have been prosecuted in federal courts on terrorism charges. As of October, Human Rights Watch said, U.S. prisons held 475 people indicted in connection with or convicted of terrorism or terrorism-related offenses.

Of those serving sentences, the report said, 49 people were held in high-security prisons, 137 in administrative facilities and 237 in medium- or low-security prisons. According to the report, 44 terrorists were serving time at a supermax prison in Florence, Colo.

Human Rights Watch said some prisoners were being held under harsh conditions that included prolonged solitary confinement and severe restrictions on their communication with family members and others.

As an example of what it called abusive detention conditions, the group cited the case of Pakistani national Uzair Paracha. He was held in solitary confinement for nearly two years before he was convicted in New York in 2006 — on charges of providing material support for terrorism — and sentenced to 30 years.

Among the recommendations in the report, Human Rights Watch said the FBI should ensure that investigations are not opened on the basis of “religious behavior, political opinion, or other activity protected by the right to freedom of expression under international law.”

The group also asked that the Bureau of Prisons end prolonged solitary confinement.

U.S. Spied on 5 American Muslims, a Report Says

July 10, 2014

WASHINGTON — A new report based on documents provided by Edward J. Snowden has identified five American Muslims, including the leader of a civil rights group, as having been subjected to surveillance by the federal government.

The disclosure of what were described as specific domestic surveillance targets by The Intercept online magazine was a rare glimpse into some of the most closely held secrets of counterespionage and terrorism investigators. The article raised questions about the basis for the domestic spying, even as it was condemned by the government as irresponsible and damaging to national security.

The report was based on what The Intercept described as a spreadsheet of 7,485 email addresses said to have been monitored from 2002 to 2008, and one of its writers was Glenn Greenwald, a primary recipient of the trove of documents leaked by Mr. Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor.

The documents did not say what the suspicions or the evidence were against the men that prompted the apparent surveillance.

In interviews on Wednesday, several of the men denied wrongdoing, and Mr. Ghafoor said he believed his Muslim faith was a factor in his being monitored. “I try not to play the race card,” he said. “But there’s really no other explanation.”

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court issues about 1,800 orders annually for domestic surveillance. To obtain a court order to wiretap an American, the government must convince a judge that there is probable cause to believe the target is engaged in a crime on behalf of a foreign power; non-Americans need only be suspected of being foreign agents.

None of the five have been charged with a crime in connection with the apparent monitoring.

The government refused to confirm whether or why any of the five had been monitored. Several dozen rights organizations sent a letter to President Obama on Wednesday expressing concerns about the potential for “discriminatory and abusive surveillance,” but also acknowledged that “we do not know all of the facts,” and asked for “the information necessary to meaningfully assess” the report.

Meet the Muslim-American Leaders the FBI and NSA Have Been Spying On

By Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain

July 9, 2014

The National Security Agency and FBI have covertly monitored the emails of prominent Muslim-Americans—including a political candidate and several civil rights activists, academics, and lawyers—under secretive procedures intended to target terrorists and foreign spies.

According to documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the list of Americans monitored by their own government includes:

• Faisal Gill, a longtime Republican Party operative and one-time candidate for public office who held a top-secret security clearance and served in the Department of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush;

• Asim Ghafoor, a prominent attorney who has represented clients in terrorism-related cases;

• Hooshang Amirahmadi, an Iranian-American professor of international relations at Rutgers University;

• Agha Saeed, a former political science professor at California State University who champions Muslim civil liberties and Palestinian rights;

• Nihad Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest Muslim civil rights organization in the country.

The individuals appear on an NSA spreadsheet in the Snowden archives called “FISA recap”—short for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Under that law, the Justice Department must convince a judge with the top-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that there is probable cause to believe that American targets are not only agents of an international terrorist organization or other foreign power, but also “are or may be” engaged in or abetting espionage, sabotage, or terrorism. The authorizations must be renewed by the court, usually every 90 days for U.S. citizens.

The FBI—which is listed as the “responsible agency” for surveillance on the five men—has a controversial record when it comes to the ethnic profiling of Muslim-Americans. According to FBI training materials uncovered byWired in 2011, the bureau taught agents to treat “mainstream” Muslims as supporters of terrorism, to view charitable donations by Muslims as “a funding mechanism for combat,” and to view Islam itself as a “Death Star” that must be destroyed if terrorism is to be contained.

Other former and current federal officials say such beliefs are not representative of the FBI or Justice Department. But blatant prejudice against Muslim-Americans is also documented in the Snowden archive.

In one 2005 document, intelligence community personnel are instructed how to properly format internal memos to justify FISA surveillance. In the place where the target’s real name would go, the memo offers a fake name as a placeholder: “Mohammed Raghead.”

[CLICK TOREAD MORE]

New Mexico Iraqi woman hurt in possible hate crime

June 13, 2014

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — An Iraqi Catholic refugee who was assaulted in her Albuquerque apartment appears to be the victim of a hate crime by an attacker who yelled obscenities about Muslims, police said.

According to Albuquerque police, a man last week forced his way into the home of Seham Jaber, shouting nasty remarks about Muslims and punching her in the head and stomach. The intruder then tore up her family’s citizenship papers in the June 5 attack, investigators said.

“The irony is the individual thought the family was Muslim, and they’re actually refugees from Iraq who are Catholic,” Albuquerque police spokesman Simon Drobik said.

Jaber, who speaks Arabic, told police the unknown assailant also stole at least $20,000 in gold, which represented her family’s life savings. The assailant also stole jewelry, she said.

The FBI now is investigating the case as a possible federal hate crime, Albuquerque police said Friday.

New York court hears appeal of 9/11 detainees

NEW YORK — A government lawyer representing former Attorney General John Ashcroft and former FBI Director Robert Mueller was grilled by a federal appeals court Thursday over questions about their role in the roundup of hundreds of Muslim and Arab men in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.

At a hearing of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan, Judge Richard C. Wesley expressed disbelief when the Justice Department lawyer, H. Thomas Byron, couldn’t say who decided to put the FBI in charge of a program to detain the men in immigration violations and pressure them to cooperate in the terror investigation.

“Tell me now — who did it?” Wesley demanded.

When Byron said he didn’t know, the judge shot back, “Then maybe the former attorney general of the United States knows. It wasn’t an accident that the FBI took over. … Who made the decision? Someone had to say, ‘It’s the FBI’s call.’”

The hearing stemmed from a decision last year by U.S. District Court Judge John Gleeson to dismiss claims against Ashcroft and Mueller in a lawsuit alleging the detainees were abused for months at federal jail in Brooklyn. The judge allowed claims against jail personnel to go forward.

The lawsuit alleges that in the months following 9/11, Ashcroft and Mueller “met regularly with a small group of government officials in Washington and mapped out ways to exert maximum pressure” on detainees and to convince law enforcement that they were suspected terrorists who “needed to be encouraged in any way possible to cooperate.”

Rachel Meeropol argued Thursday that the dragnet resulted in widespread ethnic and religious profiling of innocent men. Once in custody, the men were held in isolation in a high security unit where the lights were never turned off and they were regularly shackled and strip-searched.

“Everyone who was arrested was subjected to maximum pressure,” she said. “It was an investigation with absolutely no vetting.”

Lawyers for Ashcroft and Mueller have claimed the detentions were legal and based on a legitimate law enforcement effort to locate other potential Sept. 11 terror suspects. They argue the pair never specified how the men should be confined, so can’t be held liable for any abuses.

The three-judge panel put off a decision on the issue.

FBI: Flow of foreign fighters into Syria growing

WASHINGTON — The flow of foreign fighters into Syria has grown in just the last few months, with dozens of Americans joining the country’s conflict along with thousands of Europeans, FBI Director James Comey said Friday.

U.S. law enforcement and intelligence officials have expressed concern about the influence of hard-line jihadists — many of them linked to al-Qaida — among the rebels seeking to overthrow President Bashar Assad. Officials say fighters from the U.S. or Europe looking to join the cause could become radicalized and import those influences and terrorist skills when they return home.

Speaking to reporters at FBI headquarters, Comey said the number of Americans who have either traveled to Syria or sought to do so was continuing to grow. He would not give a specific figure, but he said the number had grown by a few dozen since the start of the year. He said in a similar interview several months ago that dozens of Americans were trying to make their way to Syria.

The FBI also believes that there are Americans in Syria actively trying to bring other Americans over to the country, Comey said.

Comey compared the situation in Syria to that of Afghanistan, several decades ago, when thousands of Muslims worldwide who traveled to the country during the 10-year Soviet occupation returned home with the fervor of jihad and in some cases sought to overthrow their own governments.

“You Might Get Hit by a Car”: On Secret Tape, FBI Threatens American Muslim Refusing to be Informant

New details have emerged about the FBI’s efforts to turn Muslim Americans living abroad into government informants. An exposé in Mother Jones magazine chronicles the story of an American named named Naji Mansour who was living in Kenya. After he refused to become an informant, he saw his life, and his family’s life, turned upside down. He was detained, repeatedly interrogated and ultimately forced into exile in Sudan, unable to see his children for years. Mansour began recording his conversations with the FBI. During one call, an agent informs Mansour that he might get “hit by a car.” Mansour’s story is the focus of a new piece in Mother Jones titled “This American Refused to Become an FBI Informant. Then the Government Made His Family’s Life Hell.” We speak with Naji Mansour in Sudan and Nick Baumann, who investigated the story for Mother Jones.

The FBI Is Trying To Recruit Muslims As Snitches By Putting Them On No-Fly Lists

April 22, 2014

 

Awais Sajjad, a lawful permanent U.S. resident living in the New York area, learned he was on the no-fly list in September 2012 after he tried to board a flight to Pakistan at John F. Kennedy International Airport and was turned back.

At the airport, FBI agents questioned Sajjad, a Muslim, before releasing him. But they later returned with an offer. In exchange for working for them, the FBI could provide him with U.S. citizenship and compensation. The FBI, the agents reminded Sajjad, also had the power to decide who was on the no-fly list.

When he refused, the FBI agents “kept him on the list in order to pressure and coerce Mr. Sajjad to sacrifice his constitutionally-protected rights,” according to an amended lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court in New York.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Sajjad and three other men, accuses the United States of violating their rights by placing or keeping them on the no-fly list after they declined to spy on local Muslim communities in New York, New Jersey and Nebraska.

“The no-fly list is supposed to be about ensuring aviation safety, but the FBI is using it to force innocent people to become informants,” said Ramzi Kassem, associate professor of law at the City University of New York. “The practice borders on extortion.”

The Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility project, which Kassem supervises, and the Center for Constitutional Rights filed suit on behalf of the men.

In the case of; Dr Rahinah Ibrahim, who is not a national security threat.

It took a lawsuit that has stretched for eight years for the feds to yield that admission. It is one answer in a case that opened up many more questions: How did an innocent Malaysian architectural scholar remain on a terrorism no fly-list—effectively branded a terrorist—for years after a FBI paperwork screw up put her there? The answer to that question, to paraphrase a particularly hawkish former Secretary of Defense, may be unknowable.

Last week, there was a depressing development in the case. A judge’s decision was made public and it revealed that the White House has created at least one “secret exception” to the legal standard that federal authorities use to place people on such lists. This should trouble anyone who cares about niggling things like legal due process or the US Constitution. No one is clear what the exception is, because it’s secret—duh—meaning government is basically placing people on terror watchlists that can ruin their lives without explaining why or how they landed on those lists in the first place.

Ibrahim’s attorney, Elizabeth Pipkin, said she can’t say for sure how the authorities first became interested in her client. “That was speculation on our part,” she said. “The sad thing is, even after eight years of litigation, we weren’t able to get to the bottom of what was the underlying information that lead an FBI agent to her door and brought this whole thing about.”

But as great as a “Feds Suck at Googling” headline would be, it could be even more simple and ridiculous. According to one judge, an FBI agent made a basic paperwork error by filling out the form the opposite way from the instructions: ticking the lists she thought Ibrahim should not be on rather than the ones that she should. That screw up might be to blame for turning eight years of her life into a hellish pit of litigation.

In 2007, a Justice Department audit found that the “management of the watchlist continues to have weaknesses” and that the department needed “to further improve its efforts for ensuring the accuracy of the watchlist records.”

U.S. citizens have also been stranded abroad and never told why they couldn’t fly home. Yahye Wehelie, who was raised in Fairfax County, couldn’t leave Egypt for weeks in 2010; he was stopped in Cairo on his way to Yemen to find a wife.

In a previous interview with The Washington Post, Wehelie said FBI agents asked him if he was willing to inform on the Muslim community in his area when he got home.

Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/lawsuit-alleges-fbi-is-using-no-fly-list-to-force-muslims-to-become-informants/2014/04/22/1a62f566-ca27-11e3-a75e-463587891b57_story.html

Vice.com: http://www.vice.com/read/no-fly-list-rahinah-ibrahim-danny-mcdonald?utm_source=vicefbus