Glenn Greenwald
© CAIR CaliforniaGlenn Greenwald
Glenn Greenwald, the civil rights attorney and journalist who helped reveal evidence that the U.S. was spying on its citizens and allies, said it's crucial to safeguard the civil liberties of American Muslims to ensure the rights of all Americans.

Greenwald, who published a series of articles based on documents provided by former National Security Administration contractor Edward Snowden, served as the keynote speaker Nov. 16 at the annual "Faith in Freedom" banquet hosted by the Los Angeles chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

He spoke to the group by video, rather than in person, citing concerns about possible attempts by American officials to prosecute him for his journalistic work.

Greenwald also noted reports, columns and statement issued by groups who questioned his ties to CAIR, portraying his speech as a "propaganda coup" for a group that some right-wing critics have described as having ties to terrorist organizations.

Other critics have called for Greenwald's arrest and questioned whether he hated America

"What really makes me genuinely, in all seriousness, happy about those kind of reactions is that it just underscores for me the kind of demonization that American Muslims are routinely subjected to, even to this day," Greenwald said.

He said CAIR protects the foundational political values of the United States by standing up for Muslims who are singled out for persecution, saying that each period in history where rights have been eroded had a specific group targeted as a threat to security.

"Always, certain marginalized groups are targeted for these abuses in the first instance, whether they be Native Americans or African-Americans or women or communists in the 1950s or Latinos in the immigration debate, and now American Muslims in the wake of 9/11," Greenwald said.

He said totalitarian states rely on indifference to continue civil rights abuses.

"They want people to believe that as long as these abuses stay confined to one specific, marginalized minority group, then there's no reason to object to them and there's lots of reasons to support these abuses," Greenwald said.

That's not just morally twisted, he said, but it endangers everyone's freedoms.

"Abuses of liberties never stay confined to the single group to which they're originally applied," Greenwald said. "They always spread far beyond the original application, and by allowing it to happen to American Muslims, now we allow civil liberties of all Americans to be degraded and threatened and jeopardized."

Watch this video of Greenwald's speech posted online by CAIR LA: