The FBI is beefing up its surveillance of Syrian Americans in anticipation of possible backlash if the United States chooses to intervene in Syria.
The FBI sent out a classified bulletin to all law enforcement agencies warning about possible fallout from the Syrian conflict. According to a senior FBI official, hundreds of Syrian Americans may be contacted for interviews with agents in the coming days.
This practice is nothing new for American intelligence agencies. During the 2011 campaign against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya, the FBI interviewed nearly 1,000 Libyan Americans. In 2003, the FBI conducted field interviews with Iraqi Americans about whether they had noticed any suspicious behavior or received information from relatives in Iraq that would be of value to American intelligence officials.
If you think interviewing American citizens for intelligence leads based on their ethnicity seems like a possible waste of time, you’re not alone. James W. McJunkin, a former top F.B.I. counterterrorism official, says the FBI’s interviews with Iraqi Americans in 2003 were largely unproductive.
“We didn’t think the return on investment was especially high given the time and resources required to contact that many people,” McJunkin said.
In related news, the Department of Homeland Security has warned American government agencies and businesses that U.S. military intervention in Syria could trigger a wave of cyber attacks.
A group of pro-Assad hackers known as the Syrian Electronic Army has hacked numerous American websites and social media accounts in recent months. The U.S. Marine Corps, the New York Times, the Associated Press and the Huffington Post have all been hacked by the Syrian Electronic Army in the past year.
A Syrian Electronic Army official recently told BBC that “Military intervention in Syria has many consequences and will affect the whole world.”