POV: The Feeling of Being Watched

(Rochester, NY) – In the Muslim American neighborhood outside of Chicago where journalist and filmmaker Assia Boundaoui grew up, most of her neighbors think they have been under surveillance for over a decade. While investigating their experiences, Assia uncovers tens of thousands of pages of FBI documents that prove her hometown was the subject of one of the largest counterterrorism investigations ever conducted in the U.S. before 9/11, code-named “Operation Vulgar Betrayal.” Directed by Assia Boundaoui, The Feeling of Being Watched airs Monday, October 14, 2019 at 10 p.m. on WXXI-TV. 

With unprecedented access, The Feeling of Being Watched weaves together the personal and the political as it follows the filmmaker’s examination of why her community—including her own family—fell under blanket government surveillance. Assia struggles to disrupt the government secrecy shrouding what happened and takes the FBI to federal court to compel them to make the records they collected about her community public. In the process, she confronts long-hidden truths about the FBI’s relationship to her community. 

The film takes a personal storytelling approach, following Assia as she pieces together this secret FBI operation, while grappling with the effects of a lifetime of surveillance on herself and her family. The film places viewers in the director’s shoes as she faces bureaucratic obstacles to collect public information, even encountering resistance from some of the community members. After realizing that her inquiries have put her on “the watch list,” Assia takes legal action to uncover the FBI’s motives for unwarranted surveillance of her family and her Muslim American neighbors.

Caption: When journalist Assia Boundaoui investigates rumors of surveillance in an Arab-American neighborhood outside Chicago, she encounters one of the largest counterterrorism probes conducted before 9/11 — one that has had profound impacts on the community
Credit: PBS



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