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White House to probe NSA, FBI anti-Muslim slurs

A file photo of the Federal Bureau of Investigation headquarters in Washington. Investigative site “The Intercept” on Wednesday reported that the NSA and the FBI had snooped on the emails of five prominent U.S. activists and attorneys from the Muslim community.

A file photo of the Federal Bureau of Investigation headquarters in Washington. Investigative site “The Intercept” on Wednesday reported that the NSA and the FBI had snooped on the emails of five prominent U.S. activists and attorneys from the Muslim community.   | Photo Credit: Manuel Balce Ceneta

After reports surfaced that training material of the U.S. National Security Agency included racial and religious slurs including anti-Muslim references to imaginary terror suspects the White House has instructed U.S. law enforcement agencies to conduct a review of the same.

On Wednesday The Intercept investigative media outlet, financed by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and staffed by Glenn Greenwald among others, reported that the NSA and the Federal Bureau of Investigation had snooped on the emails of five prominent U.S. activists and attorneys from the Muslim community.

Responding to the allegations in the report, White House Spokesperson Caitlin Hayden said that the administration took accusations of the slurs “extremely seriously,” adding that the administration had “immediately requested that the Director of National Intelligence undertake an assessment of intelligence community policies… and as necessary, make any recommendations, changes or additional reforms.”

The exposé on the NSA’s and FBI’s use of racist slurs is the latest in the series across several media houses, including The Hindu, based on the top-secret NSA surveillance programme documentation supplied by Edward Snowden, former NSA contractor-turned-fugitive whistle-blower.

The Intercept’s report was also followed by 44 human rights and civil liberty organisations writing a protest letter to U.S. President Barack Obama in which they said, “We believe the government has an obligation to explain the basis for its actions… Too often, both in the past and in the present, we have observed the government engaging in patterns of discriminatory and abusive surveillance.”

The organisations also noted that The Intercept's report was troubling in the “broader context of abuse”, in the realm of the government’s surveillance programmes, especially because documents obtained through an American Civil Liberties Union Freedom of Information Act request allegedly showed that the FBI had been mapping a broad spectrum of communities, including American Muslims, African Americans and Latinos “without any basis for individualised suspicion”.

In April this year, following two years of unrelenting criticism for covertly spying on the Muslim community in the greater New York City area for no reason other than their religious affiliation, the >New York Police Department announced that it had ended its controversial surveillance programme.

In June 2012, >local residents of in the New York-New Jersey filed a lawsuit against the NYPD after documents leaked to the Associated Press revealed an aggressive police surveillance programme targeting the city’s Muslim community, involving monitoring and collection data on Muslims at 250 mosques, schools, and businesses, “simply because of their religion and not because they exhibited suspicious behaviour.”

In late 2007, plainclothes officers at the NYPD’s Demographics Unit were assigned to investigate the region's Syrian population, and in doing so they reportedly photographed businesses, eavesdropped at lunch counters and inside grocery stores and pastry shops. “The resulting document listed no threat. And though most people of Syrian heritage living in the area were Jewish, Jews were excluded from the monitoring,” the report said.

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Printable version | Sep 22, 2020 9:18:21 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/world/white-house-to-probe-nsa-fbi-antimuslim-slurs/article6194062.ece

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