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Lawyers Predict Potential Backlash to Secret Surveillance of Muslims

January 3, 2006
Washington, DC — Lawyers requesting the federal government turn over addresses of sites it had monitored surreptitiously say if records show religious profiling occurred, American Muslims will be more wary of cooperating with the war on terror.
“If this demonstrates that Muslim sites were monitored just because they were Muslim sites, without law enforcement leads, it’s going to have a chilling effect on people’s free speech and hurt the war on terrorism,” said Kareem Shora, legal director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in Washington.
The ADC asked for the addresses in a Freedom of Information Act request made to the FBI and the Departments of Justice and Energy on Tuesday (Dec. 27),the same day the Los Angeles-based Muslim Public Affairs Council urged Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and FBI Director Robert Mueller to meet with American Muslim leaders about civil rights concerns. The Council on American-Islamic Relations in Washington filed a similar FOIA request on Dec. 22.
The requests were made after an article in U.S News and World Report said federal investigators secretly monitored radiation levels at more than 100 mosques, homes, businesses and other Muslim sites without search warrants or court orders.
“Our main purpose was to put the government on notice,” said Arsalan Iftikhar, CAIR’s legal director. He said he believes government agencies will turn over some materials, but that much of the information will be blacked-out. “From all appearances, it seems only Muslim institutions have been monitored,” he said.
The FBI has shown that it takes the concerns of American Muslims seriously, Shora said. Shora cited as an example the FBI’s tracking down perpetrators of hate crimes against Muslims after 9/11. On Dec. 22, the FBI offered a $15,000 reward for information about the bombing of a Cincinnati mosque just two days earlier.
Revelations of secret surveillance seem to have sparked little discussion among American Muslims, said Kamran Memon, a civil rights attorney in Chicago who started the Web site Muslimsforasafeamerica.org as a forum where American Muslims could talk about national security and related issues.
“They may feel like it’s not a big deal since the monitoring has been non-intrusive,” said Memom, who belongs to several American Muslim online discussion groups, or, “They feel that government surveillance and monitoring have become so pervasive that they can’t do anything about it, and they’ve come to accept it, and just go on with their lives.”