The Man Likely to Be the New FBI Director Won’t Commit to Not Spying on Mosques and Muslim Leaders in America

With his nonresponses to congressional questions, Christopher Wray, President Trump’s nominee to be FBI director, made the case for surveillance reform this week.

After his nomination hearing on July 12, Wray was asked to respond in writing to several additional questions from members of Congress regarding how he would respond to pressure to surveil Muslim-American community leaders, mosques, and houses of worship.

Call for surveillance reform

These questions should have been softballs. But, shockingly, Wray would not commit to refusing requests for discriminatory surveillance — even in cases where there is no active investigation or suspicion of criminal activity.

Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont asked Wray:

During the Presidential campaign, President Trump repeatedly called for surveillance of mosques in the United States.

How would you respond to an instruction from the White House or Justice Department to conduct general surveillance of mosques unrelated to a specific, ongoing investigation, or to conduct assessments or investigations of Muslim-American civil society leaders?

This was Wray's evasive response: 

I cannot speculate on a hypothetical question about how I would respond to such a request. As in all matters, I would look at the individualized facts of the situation and follow the law and any policies of the FBI and the Department in determining what the next, appropriate steps might be.

 Sen. Christopher Coons of Delaware asked Wray:

Will you commit to instructing the FBI that the agency should not surveil a house of worship unless there is probable cause of criminal activity?

To which Wray responded: 

I cannot speculate on a hypothetical question about how I would respond to such a request. As in all matters, I would look at the individualized facts of the situation and follow the law and any policies of the FBI and the Department.

Wray's answer should have been that surveilling individuals on the basis of their faith, without a shred of evidence to suspect they are engaged in criminal activity, is unconstitutional and un-American. Senators should push Wray to clarify his position on these issues before voting on whether to confirm him.

Wray's non-answer is also particularly disturbing given the FBI’s history of improperly surveilling minorities and civil rights activists — a history which Wray explicitly acknowledged during the nomination process.

In the 1960s, under the guise of protecting national security, the FBI surveilled anti-war protesters and civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. More recently, the National Security Agency has targeted prominent Muslims in America, including a former Bush administration official who previously held a top secret security clearance and prominent advocates for Muslim rights. The government has also monitored Black Lives Matter protesters, cataloguing the locations of peaceful events, accessing text messages, and even secretly filming demonstrations.

These actions are contrary to our constitutional values, and the ACLU will continue to take action to stop such abuses.

In addition, it is important that we reform surveillance laws, many of which lack adequate protections to guard against abuse. For example, Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which is set to expire at the end of the year and is currently being debated by Congress, could too easily be co-opted by the Trump administration to further its anti-Muslim agenda or target critics.

Under Section 702, the government collects hundreds of millions of communications every year, including emails and phone calls that Americans have with family members, business associates, or journalists overseas, without a warrant. By evading the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement, the government avoids ever having to demonstrate that they are only surveilling people because they have facts to suggest that the individual has done something wrong.

The government justifies this warrantless surveillance by improperly claiming it is necessary to protect national security. The government disingenuously claims that it is only “targeting” foreigners, despite the fact that they fully intend to capture Americans’ international communications.

The falsity of these arguments is even more apparent when we look at how Section 702 information is used. The FBI routinely searches through information collected under Section 702 for information about people in the United States, without a warrant and for purposes that have nothing to do with national security. There is little that prevents Section 702 from being used to support fishing expeditions by the government that improperly target journalists, activists, or religious groups — all in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

That means that if President Trump or someone in his administration disregards our rights under the First and Fourth Amendments and the Equal Protection Clause and decides to target mosques, community leaders, or political groups by claiming a “foreign intelligence” purpose, existing policies would not prevent the FBI from searching through 702 databases for the emails or phone calls of associated individuals. From his responses, Wray has made one thing clear — he will not commit to preventing this type of unconstitutional and intrusive surveillance. Indeed, we cannot even be confident that a Wray-led FBI will not use other means to target individuals on the basis of their religion or political opinions.

But this can be changed and stopped. Congress can step in. The first step is to reform Section 702 to require warrants before searching through the Section 702 database for information about Americans and people living in the U.S. Then Congress must undertake a more substantial reform of government surveillance powers to prevent abuse, discrimination, and chilling of free speech under the Trump administration and beyond.

More information on additional reforms to Section 702 are available here.

Add a comment (3)
Read the Terms of Use

Anonymous

HE CANNOT COMMENT BECAUSE ALL MOSQUES AND MUSLIMS ARE ALREADY SURVEILLANCE.
MUSLIMS SHOULD JUST LEAVE THE US.
THINK ABOUT IT, IF THEY ALL LEAVE, GO BACK TO THEIR OWN COUNTRY, THEY CAN THEN CONVINCE THEIR OWN GOVERNMENTS TO CHANGE POLICY.

THIS STUFF CAN CHANGE THE WORLD.
YOU WANT TO FIX INJUSTICE? LEAVE.

Anonymous

AMERICAN FASCISM

America was built in the image of the Roman Republic. Its capitol, imagery, and goals were set with good intentions on that foundation. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions, however, and our nation is surrounded in brimstone. The time of the Republic has passed in America, as the system grows weak. Arrogance and delusions of infinite power have brought the state to the point of buckling. The damage done to this nation and its people will not be fixed if every issue requires a vote, if every point must be debated, discussed, or deliberated upon. Democracy has failed in this once great nation, now the time for a new Caesar to revive the American spirit has dawned.

A Nation For Our People – An America based on the immutable truths of Blood and Soil. A multicultural nation is no nation at all, but a collection of smaller ethnic nations ruled over by an overbearing tyrannical state. Our America is to be a nation exclusively for the White American peoples who out of the barren hills, empty plains, and vast mountains forged the most powerful nation to ever have existed. Vanguard America stands indomitably opposed to the tyranny of globalism and capitalism, a system under which nations are stripped of their heritage and their people are turned into nothing more than units of cheap, expendable labor. Vanguard America, and our nationalist allies across the Western world, see a world of nations ruled by their own people, for their own people.

A Nation Of Values – In an increasingly materialistic world, it is vital now more than ever to create a society based on preserving and upholding the natural order that binds us. A strong social order based on natural truths is necessary to the health of any society. Human nature should be the foundation of all civilizations, and the starting point for ideologies, not something to be rejected in pursuit of unnatural aims which contradict it. The ideal structure of a family is one in which a hard-working father and nurturing mother instill strong values in the children of our nation. This family structure is, and has proven to be, the strongest core foundation for any nation, and thus any assault on the family must be met with swift and decisive action. We realize that equality does not exist in nature, and a government based in the natural law must not cater to the false notions of equality.

An Independent, United Nation – A nation based upon the values of self-reliance and fellowship must be created which stands entirely apart from the dictatorship of international finance. Like all independent nations, America should strive for a truly national economy. An economy that is self-contained, and free from the influence of international corporations, led by a rootless group of international Jews, which place profit beyond the interests of our people, or any people. Neither for the rich or the poor, ours should be an economy directed to act in the interest of our people and our people alone. America should protect the man’s right to fulfilling work, so that every hardworking man can provide for his wife and children. His labor will be directed to serve the interests of the national community. The chains of debt slavery wrap themselves tight around White Americans, such conditions must be reversed. A new generation of corporate leaders, who hold the interests of White America first and foremost, will naturally rise to the top of this new economy.

The free market is not the enemy, but global finance is. Average businesses will keep their usual functions and retain a profit motive. However, the large multinational corporations that have bled this nation dry will not be allowed to continue their detrimental efforts unabated. Once they are brought to heel, our currency will no longer be manipulated on the whims of the vested few, our jobs and industry will not be exported to foreign nations, and the media and entertainment industries will no longer be allowed to poison the minds of our people.

Disclaimer: Vanguard America is not an advocate of lawlessness, and has not committed, nor endorsed the use of criminal activity to achieve our means. Members who wish to commit criminal acts are expelled, and those left are those who assuredly respect the law.

rau

Beat free cell solitaire by getting all 52 cards into the four suit-oriented structures in the top- right. https://playfreecellonline.net

Sign Up for Breaking News