Despite years of denying he’s one of Hamas’ top terrorist operatives in the U.S., Nihad Awad has failed to convince the NSA and FBI.
The federal agencies have spied on the Council on American-Islamic Relations chief as a terrorism target, newly leaked NSA records reveal.
Last decade, the FBI obtained a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant to monitor Awad’s electronic communications, the records show. Starting in November 2006, agents in the bureau’s Washington field office began collecting messages from at least two of Awad’s CAIR email accounts and at least one of his personal email accounts..
Attorneys at the FBI’s National Security Branch convinced the Justice Department’s Office of Intelligence and a FISA Court judge that the agency had probable cause to investigate Awad as a terrorist target who “may be engaged in certain criminal activity on behalf of a foreign power.”
As detailed in the bestseller “Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld That’s Conspiring to Islamize America,” which obtained sensitive internal documents from CAIR’s national headquarters as part of an undercover operation, Awad at the time routinely traveled to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other Mideast countries, raising millions of dollars for CAIR while promising to influence American policies dealing with Israel and the war on terror.
Neither CAIR nor Awad, who is a Palestinian born in Jordan, are registered foreign agents.
In 2007, the Justice Department implicated CAIR’s national office along with its then-chairman Omar Ahmad, who co-founded CAIR with Awad, as “unindicted co-conspirators” in a major Hamas terrorism case.
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FBI agents swore during the trial that CAIR is a “Hamas front.” They presented wiretap evidence putting Awad at a secret meeting in Philadelphia with key Hamas leaders. According to the recordings, the Hamas operatives hatched a scheme to create CAIR to support the terrorist group, which recently kidnapped and slaughtered three teens in Israel and is now firing rockets into Israel. Agents also presented a Hamas phone tree listing Awad as a key contact.
In 2008, the FBI suddenly broke off formal community outreach efforts with CAIR. The termination of communications was dramatic in light of CAIR claims to represent the entire Muslim community in America.
The FBI explained that it will not do outreach with CAIR until “we can resolve whether there continues to be a connection between CAIR or its executives and Hamas,” which has been a U.S.-designated terrorist group since 1995.
Awad said he is “outraged” and “angry” that the government continues to investigate him.
“I don’t feel free in this country,” he said in a video statement posted on CAIR’s website. “I feel that I’m being targeted because of my religious identity and solely because I am vocal.”
Added Awad, “We are paying the price for speaking up” as Muslims.
He compared himself to civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., noting that he also was spied on by the FBI.
When CAIR asked the U.S. Court to remove it from the “Unindicted Co-Conspirator List,” the federal judge, Jorge Solis, wrote in his unsealed ruling, “The government has produced ample evidence to establish the associations of CAIR with Hamas.” The matter was sent to the appellate court, which ruled unanimously to keep CAIR on the unindicted co-conspirator list because of the overwhelming evidence against it.
“The government provided a massive amount of documentary and testimonial evidence linking CAIR to the Hamas conspiracy,” said a veteran FBI agent who helped investigate CAIR in Washington.