20 Years After Patriot Act, Surveillance of Arabs and Muslims Is Relentless

Originally published by TRUTHOUT.

TRUTHOUT—The U.S. is now more than 20 years beyond the Patriot Act of October 2001. The immediate aftermath of 9/11 brought a heavy U.S. state focus on Arabs and Muslims in the U.S., rationalizing an expansion of policing and surveillance activities against them. It also inspired the convergence of shared struggles for liberation out of a growing consensus that we cannot abolish policing without abolishing U.S. militarism and empire building.

The “anything goes” context of 9/11 opened up possibilities for expanded forms of policing and surveillance that are unconstitutional. The National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), also known as “special registration,” put in place by the Department of Justice in 2002, targeted Arabs and Muslims as well as those from the Middle East and South Asia. Overly broad interpretations of “material support” laws denied people — generally Arabs and Muslims — their freedom and even threatened some forms of humanitarian aid.

But none of this was entirely new. All this was preceded by President Richard Nixon’s “Operation Boulder,” which law professor Susan M. Akram has described as “perhaps the first concerted US government effort to target Arabs in the US for special investigation with the specific purpose of intimidation, harassment, and to discourage their activism on issues relating to the Middle East.”

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