Over the past year, the NSA has faced a lot of criticism for overstepping the constitution to spy on its own citizens. Now the secretive organization faces a new charge: racism.
The latest leaks to come from Edward Snowden demonstrate just how poorly government agencies view Muslims–even peaceful Muslims who are American citizens.
In training materials, the NSA went so far as to refer to a hypothetical target of surveillance as “Mohammed Raghead.” It’s the kind of thing that would never be tolerated in a document that could be accessed by the public. However, since these classified papers are shrouded in secrecy, why not have a little “fun” with some racial slurs?
Though some might consider racial slurs minor in the grand scheme of all of the abuses of power perpetuated by the NSA, the Snowden leaks are indicative of greater systematic problems. While seemingly all Americans are subject to these unconstitutional surveillance practices, the newly revealed documents show just how closely government agencies are watching Muslims in the United States.
The leak includes the names of five American Muslims who faced “sustained surveillance” for their activism, which generally amounted to promoting civil liberties within their communities and not the “terrorism” that the NSA allegedly suspected. In fact, none of the targets were ever charged with a crime–before or after the surveillance.
An NSA spokesperson was unwilling to verify whether the leaked documents were even real, but did say, “Any use of racial or ethnic stereotypes, slurs, or other similar language by employees is both unacceptable and inconsistent with NSA policy and core values.”
However there was no apology for or condemnation of spying on the Muslim community in general, presumably because they know they can get away with it. Indeed, many in the media have focused on the use of the slur rather than the institutionalized racism the NSA exhibits on the whole. The idea that calling someone a name is wrong while excusing the NSA for treating a whole group of innocent people like criminals is pathetic.
“The federal government has targeted Americans, even those who have served their country in the military and government, simply because of their faith or religious heritage,” said Muslim Advocates, an American law firm, in a public statement. “The report clearly documents how biased training by the FBI leads to biased surveillance.”
Much like the NYPD, which was similarly caught monitoring Muslim residents to collect terrorism intelligence despite having no ties to terrorists, the NSA is guilty of profiling and banked on a lack of accountability to get away with it. While the “raghead” slur isn’t necessary to see the racism at play, it leaves no mistake just how bigoted the American surveillance state is and how the people in charge are — behind the scenes — more concerned with upholding stereotypes than liberties.
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