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Color of Surveillance: Government Monitoring of Religious Minorities

  • Georgetown University Law Center, Hart Auditorium (map)

Across our country’s history – from the surveillance of the Separatists we now know as Pilgrims in 16th and 17th century England, to federal house raids and interrogations of early Mormons in the Utah Territory in the 19th century, to the 20thcentury surveillance of Jewish, Muslim, Quaker, and Sikh communities, to modern post-9/11 surveillance systems –government monitoring has long had a deep and disparate impact on American religious minorities.

The Color of Surveillance: Government Monitoring of American Religious Minorities will trace that history, and ask hard questions about what it means: Is modern surveillance consistent with the intentions of the American founders – or, for that matter, the events that precipitated the migration of English Separatists to the New World on the Mayflower? Do modern counterterrorism initiatives appropriately protect civil rights and civil liberties? How are local communities, advocates, and artists responding to these challenges?

Now in its third year, The Color of Surveillance, organized by the Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law, convenes academic, policy and government experts alongside local and community activists and artists. Prior speakers have included the Pulitzer-winning biographers of Martin Luther King, Jr. and W.E.B. DuBois, Guggenheim award-winning artists, and the general counsel of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.


Welcome & Introduction to The Color of Surveillance: Government Monitoring of Religious Minorities
8:45 – 9:00am

Dean William Treanor, Georgetown Law
Alvaro Bedoya, Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law

Elizabeth I to the Early 20th Century
9:00 – 10:15am

"Hunted": 16th & 17th Century Surveillance of Pilgrims
John Coffey, University of Leicester

Is the United States a Christian Nation?
Brooke Allen, Bennington College

"Mohammedan Barbarism": The Campaign Against Early Mormons
J. Spencer Fluhman, Brigham Young University

The Military Intelligence Division and American Jews
Alvaro Bedoya, Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law

The FBI and the Moorish Science Temple of America
Sylvester A. Johnson, Virginia Tech

10:15 – 10:30am


The 1960s to the Aftermath of 9/11
10:30 – 12:05pm

J. Edgar Hoover, Black Clergy, and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Lerone A. Martin, PhD, Danforth Center on Religion and Politics at Washington University in Saint Louis

The Feeling of Being Watched: A Filmmaker's Response
Assia Boundaoui
Rabia Boundaoui
Xiangnong (George) Wang (moderator), Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law

Post-9/11 Watchlists
Hina Shamshi, ACLU National Security Project

Community Reflections
Members of the Center for Media Justice's National Delegation of MASA Community Activists

12:05 – 1:00pm


Life in Affected Communities
1:00 – 2:45pm

A Conversation on Countering Violent Extremism
Faiza Patel, Brennan Center for Justice
Ayaan Dahir, Young Muslim Collective
Eric Rosand, The Prevention Project
William Braniff, START, University of Maryland
Alvaro Bedoya (moderator), Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law

"Mosque Crawlers" and the Raza and Hassan cases
Asad Dandia, NYU Graduate Student
Farhaj Hassan, Muslims United For Justice
Laura Moy (moderator), Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law

"If they should come for us": A Poet's Response
Fatima Asghar
Renata Barreto (moderator), Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law

2:45 – 3:00pm


Community Action
3:00 – 5:25pm

Organizing after Raza
Fahd Ahmed, DRUM - Desis Rising Up & Moving

Stopping the Digital Muslim Ban: A Case Study
Rachel Levinson-Waldman, Brennan Center for Justice
Natasha Duarte, Center for Democracy & Technology
Yolanda C. Rondon, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
Steven Renderos, Center for Media Justice
Harrison Rudolph (moderator), Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law

Organizing in Silicon Valley
Michelle Miller, Coworker.org
Jameson Spivack (moderator), Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law

Organizing Locally
Brian Hofer, Oakland Privacy

Religious Surveillance and Intersectionality
Brandi Collins-Dexter, Color Of Change

"Stealth Wear": An Artist's Response
Adam Harvey, Artist

Closing Remarks
5:25 – 5:30pm

Reception to follow in Hart lobby


  • Fahd Ahmed of Desis Rising Up and Moving, a grassroots organizer on the issues of racial profiling, immigrant justice, and police accountability

  • Professor Brooke Allen of Bennington College, author of Moral Minority: Our Skeptical Founding Fathers, a New York Times notable book

  • Poet Fatimah Asghar, author of If They Come For Us & co-creator of the Emmy-nominated web series Brown Girls

  • William Braniff of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), studies CVE and alternative counterterrorism approaches

  • Filmmaker Assia Boundaoui, director of The Feeling of Being Watched, a “riveting” account (New York Times) of surveillance of a suburban Muslim community in the 1990s

  • Professor John Coffey of the University of Leicester, a scholar of Tudor and Stuart-era surveillance of the Puritans we now know as Pilgrims

  • Brandi Collins-Dexter of Color Of Change, a civil rights advocate on media, environmental justice, and economic issues

  • Ayaan Dahir of the Minneapolis Young Muslims Collective, a Somali American youth leader and civil liberties advocate

  • Asad Dandia, M.A. candidate in Middle Eastern Studies at New York University and plaintiff in the Raza v. NYPD case

  • Natasha Duarte of the Center for Democracy & Technology, author of Mixed Messages: The Limits of Automated Social Media Analysis

  • Professor Spencer Fluhman of Brigham Young University, author of “An ‘American Mahomet’: Joseph Smith, Mohammad, and the Problem of Prophets in Antebellum America”

  • Artist Adam Harvey, creator of Stealth Wear, a clothing collection “inspired by traditional Islamic dress… reimagined in the context of drone warfare”

  • Syed Farhaj Hassan, a Sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserve and lead plaintiff in the Hassan v. City of New York case

  • Brian Hofer of Oakland Privacy and the Privacy Advisory Commission of the City of Oakland, an advocate for local anti-surveillance legislation

  • Professor Sylvester Johnson of Virginia Tech’s Center for the Humanities, co-editor of The FBI and Religion: Faith and National Security before and after 9/11

  • Rachel Levinson-Waldman of the Brennan Center for Justice, co-coordinator of the Immigrant Surveillance Working Group

  • Professor Lerone Martin of the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics, a scholar on the FBI’s mobilization of African American clergy to discredit Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

  • Michelle Miller of coworker.org, leading facilitator of tech sector employee activism and mobilization

  • Faiza Patel of the Brennan Center for Justice, author of an in-depth critique of federal CVE programs

  • Steven Renderos of the Center for Media Justice, co-organizer of a grassroots petition to IBM opposing the company’s interest in ICE’s “Digital Muslim Ban”

  • Yolanda Rondon of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, a civil rights attorney critical of DHS surveillance initiatives

  • Eric Rosand of the Prevention Project: Organizing Against Violent Extremism, a non-resident Senior Fellow at Brookings, and a former State Department senior CVE official

  • Hina Shamsi of the American Civil Liberties Union, which is challenging watchlists as unfair and discriminatory