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Abstract

Operation Boulder, a United States government surveillance program deployed in 1972 under the direction of then-President Richard M. Nixon, launched a large-scale federal investigation of both Arab immigrants to the U.S. and Arab-Americans.1 In this context, the term “Arab” is used to mean a person originating from an Arabic-speaking country in the Middle East or North Africa, while “Arab-American” refers to a person of Arab lineage who was born in the United States. For the purposes of this paper, the Arabs and Arab-Americans referred to are only those residing in the United States. Before the project was canceled due to its overuse of resources, Operation Boulder led to the investigation of 150,000 Arabs.2 During the operation, government agents employed invasive and discriminatory tactics in their investigations of Arab immigrants and Arab-Americans. Further, a combination of historical evidence and contemporary analysis indicates that these federal investigations intended to suppress and divide Arab communities. However, though the U.S. government was able to dampen community activity initially, their surveillance tactics ultimately resulted in mobilization and cooperation within the Arab community in the U.S., resulting in a strengthened ethnic and cultural identity.

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