Responding to a recent report in the San Diego Union-Tribune of a major security breach at Camp Pendleton, a coalition of Muslim and civil liberties groups called on Congress to conduct a full, impartial investigation of the theft of records of the surveillance of Muslim communities and mosques. The news report detailed evidence of a ring that operated for years, stealing surveillance files to give to local law enforcement--and perhaps to private defense contractors for financial gain.
The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties, the ACLU of Southern California, the California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California sent letters expressing strong concerns over the possible civil rights violations posed by the alleged monitoring of U.S. citizens on the basis of their religious affiliation.
The letter to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, and to House committees on the Judiciary and on Oversight and Government Reform asks our represenatatives to address the following areas of concern:
- Whether and to what extent is surveillance being conducted and information compiled on law-abiding Muslim residents and citizens of Southern California, based solely on their religion.
- Who authorized this surveillance of the Southern California Muslim community and why?
- To what extent has information on residents' lawful activities or unverified suspicions about residents been collected without any indication of criminal activity--in violation of federal law--and unlawfully shared between government agencies and/or with private contractors?
- To what extent has local law enforcement engaged in unlawful surveillance or unlawfully obtained access to classified files held by the United States?
- What risks do mass surveillance programs pose to citizens, and what procedures and protections can be implemented to prevent future security breaches like those at Camp Pendleton?
- Whether and to what extent have United States military forces participated in domestic surveillance operations in violation of the Posse Comitatus Act?
The groups called on the congressional committees to hold public hearings on the security breach.
The United States is home to between seven and ten million American Muslims who are law-abiding citizens and contribute daily to their country and their communities. Holding the entire American Muslim community suspect not only threatens civil liberties and raises the specter of unconstitutional religious profiling; it also undermines public safety by eroding the community's trust in law enforcement.
The San Diego breach revealed not only flawed security, but unchecked surveillance and monitoring programs that must be subjected to Congressional oversight.