NSA Surveillance of Muslim Leader Fits Same Pattern as FBI Spying on MLK, Say Civil Rights Attorneys

July 9, 2014, New York  – In response to news, reported today by Glenn Greenwald at The Intercept, that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been spying on the Executive Director and co-founder of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Nihad Awad, Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) Executive Director Vincent Warren issued the following statement: 

The NSA’s surveillance of Nihad Awad and CAIR fits the same pattern as the FBI surveillance of Martin Luther King, Jr., Ella Baker, Jesse Jackson, Malcolm X, and other leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. Then it was based on manufactured suspicions of associations with the Communist Party. Now it is seemingly based on unproven claims of tangential associations with Hamas. The government is targeting an organization for its lawful political activity and conflating peaceful support for Palestinians and equal treatment for Muslims in the U.S. with suspicious activity. The NAACP had to go all the way to the Supreme Court to vindicate the First Amendment right to association, which is what protects organizations participating in civic and political activity from government intimidation or interference. Every civic group in this country has the right to peacefully advocate for social justice at home and abroad without fear of government surveillance, intimidation, and harassment. The Church Committee exposed the extent of the infiltration of Civil Rights groups and spying on their members. It is time for a new Church Committee to look into today’s abuses.
Attorneys at the Center for Constitutional Rights have been involved in challenging NSA surveillance since the initial revelations of warrantless spying in December 2005 that cast a chilling effect over their work litigating against the government. In addition, they litigated the Supreme Court case, Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, that challenged material support laws that created a chill on political speech and advocacy intended to promote lawful, non-violent ends by a variety of humanitarian organizations.


The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.


Last modified 

July 9, 2014