The US National Spy Agency (NSA) has “directly” tapped the country’s main communications systems without court-approved warrants, while the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has monitored mosques and private homes of Muslims to monitor “radiation levels”, news reports have revealed.
Citing current and former government officials, the New York Times said the volume of information gathered from telephone and Internet communications by the NSA was much larger than President George W. Bush has acknowledged.
They said the NSA sought to analyze communications patterns to gather clues from details like who is calling whom, how long a phone call lasts and what time of day it is made, as well as the origins and destinations of phone calls and e-mail messages. Some officials described the program as a large data mining operation, the Times said.
Bush has defended an executive order he signed in 2002 allowing eavesdropping without warrants, saying it was limited only to monitoring international phone and e-mail communications linked to people with connections to Al-Qaeda. The 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requires court approval of wiretaps and electronic surveillance.
Bush administration officials declined to comment on Friday, December 23, on the Times report.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) revealed on Tuesday, December 20, that the FBI was using counterterrorism resources to monitor and infiltrate American political organizations that criticize business interests and government policies.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) advocacy group said the report, coupled with news of the domestic eavesdropping, “could lead to the perception that we are no longer a nation ruled by law, but instead one in which fear trumps constitutional rights.”
“The message they are sending through these kinds of actions is that being Muslim is sufficient evidence to warrant scrutiny,” CAIR’s spokesman Ibrahim Hooper told the Washington Post.