Lawsuit claims Muslims including a 4-year-old are unfairly on terrorist watch list

A lawsuit filed last week claims that thousands of Muslim Americans, among them a 4-year old, have been unfairly put on a federal watch list designed to screen potential terrorists.

The class-action complaint criticizes the Terrorist Screening Database, a list of about 1.5 million people overseen by the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center. It’s one of several lawsuits that have been filed in recent years challenging the list, saying that it’s unconstitutional in how it’s compiled and used.

The lawsuit was filed by the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic two Michigan lawyers and an attorney in Washington against the FBI center and other federal agencies. More than half the 18 plaintiffs listed in the complaint live in southeastern Michigan.

“Our federal government is imposing an injustice of historic proportions upon … thousands,” says the lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Virginia, which is where the list is compiled. “Through extra-judicial and secret means, the federal government is ensnaring individuals. … The secret federal watch list is the product of bigotry and misguided, counterproductive zeal.”

In addition to being unable to fly in some cases, Muslims are being jailed, interrogated and threatened by federal agents, the lawsuit alleges. In other cases, FBI agents pressure people on the list to become informants if they want to get off the list, the complaint says. Another problem is the lack of redress, with many Muslims unable to get off the list and unsure how they got on it, plaintiffs said.

The Terrorist Screening Center was established in 2003 by Attorney General John Ashcroft. Since then, the “watch list has swelled,” with more than 1.5 million nominations to the watch list submitted by federal agencies since 2009, 99 percent of which have been approved, said the lawsuit.

The lawsuit said such a list is too broad, targeting Muslims because of their faith, and ends up being ineffective in protecting the U.S.

“The federal watch list diminishes, rather than enhances, our national security because the number of innocent Americans on the list is becoming so voluminous that the purpose of having a list is significantly undermined as all are being treated as the same,” says the complaint.

A spokesman for the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, Dave Joly, said it couldn’t comment on pending litigation, and can’t comment on who’s on the list. On its website, the FBI defended the list, saying it doesn’t target people solely because of their religion or ethnicity.

“Generally, individuals are included in the Terrorist Screening Database when there is reasonable suspicion to believe that a person is a known or suspected terrorist,” says the Terrorist Screening Center. “Individuals must not be watch-listed based solely on race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, or First Amendment-protected activities such as free speech, the exercise or religion, freedom of the press, freedom of peaceful assembly, and petitioning the government for redress of grievances.”

Plaintiffs said they often see a “SSSS” designation on their boarding passes, which signifies to the airlines and federal officials they are suspected terrorists. The designation is shared with state and local agencies, making it difficult for the plaintiffs in other areas of life, such as interactions with local police, said the lawsuit.

The lawsuit says many are either placed on what’s called a Selectee List, which subjects them to extra scrutiny, or the more stringent No-Fly List, which prevents the traveler from flying.

One of the plaintiffs is a 4-year-old boy from California, listed in the lawsuit as “Baby Doe.”

“He was 7 months old when his boarding pass was first stamped with the ‘SSSS’ designation, indicating that he had been designated as a ‘known or suspected terrorist,'” said the lawsuit. “While passing through airport security, he was subjected to extensive searches, pat-downs and chemical testing.”

“Every item in his mother’s baby bag was searched, including every one of his diapers.”

Another plaintiff, Anas Elhady, 22, of Dearborn, Mich., said he “is routinely referred to secondary inspection, handcuffed and detained by CBP (Customs and Border Protection) at land border crossings when he attempts to re-enter the United States from Canada.”

“CBP officers routinely subject him to a prolonged detention and questioning for approximately four to twelve hours each time. Moreover, he is routinely asked questions about his religious beliefs and practices, what sect of Islam he belongs to, what mosque he prays in, among other things.”

Elhady said he filed a request with the agency to get off the list, but the problems persisted.

In 2015, as he was trying to cross back into Detroit over the Ambassador Bridge after a vacation in Canada, he was thrown into a “small, freezing cold holding cell with bright lights” without his jacket and shoes, said the lawsuit.

“After several hours, Mr. Elhady knocked on the door repeatedly and begged for someone to help him. His pleas for help were ignored. Afterward, his body began shaking uncontrollably and he fell unconscious.”

Elhady said he was then taken to a hospital. Later, on Dec. 2, an FBI agent contacted “Elhady and informed him that his phone was being tapped and that all his calls were being listened to by the FBI,” reads the complaint.

“Elhady’s boarding pass continues to be stamped with the ‘SSSS’ designation when (he) travels by air, indicating that he has been designated as a ‘known or suspected terrorist.'”

Akeel, the Troy attorney helped file the lawsuit, said: “Americans young and old are being placed on the list without proper accountability. There is a swelling group of second-class American citizens being formed here at an alarming rate.”

Spy watchdog: UK under threat from jihadi bomb makers with ‘devilish technical skill’

July 5, 2014

Britain faces a new attack from jihadi bomb makers with the skill to make explosive devices concealed in mobile phones and tablet computers, parliament’s intelligence watchdog says today.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, warns that the British public has grown complacent about the threat of a terrorist attack on UK soil and that the lack of vigilance is “seriously disturbing”. The former Foreign Secretary, who received a secret intelligence briefing on the latest transatlantic airline bomb plot, says he has “no doubt” that extra security searches at airports are necessary.

Having occupied large swathes of Iraq, the Islamic State (Isis) is also now in a position to fund the research and development of more technologically advanced bomb-making equipment.

This week, the Department of Homeland Security in Washington will issue guidance to airports across Europe asking that new security checks on flights heading to the US are implemented. It is likely to lead to more stringent checks on passengers at British airports and longer queues, coinciding with the summer holiday getaway.

Writing in today’s Sunday Telegraph, Sir Malcolm says that in his position as chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, the parliamentary committee which oversees the secret operations of MI5 and MI6, he has been shown the evidence gathered by intelligence agencies which underpin a series of new security measures being introduced at British airports and across Europe.

His comments coincide with a stark warning made by Lord Carlile, the government’s former reviewer of terror legislation, who told The Sunday Telegraph that the Islamic State (Isis) now had funding on a par with a “large multinational corporation”. Lord Carlile said: “There is evidence Isis and its followers are capable of making much more sophisticated bombs. The step-change now is that Isis is very well-funded. The public needs to be aware this is a major terrorist organisation with funding comparable to a large multinational corporation and that they have the capacity to do research and make sophisticated bombs.” Lt Gen Sir Graeme Lamb, the former head of Britain’s Special Forces, writing for the Telegraph website, said it was imperative that the Home Office begin funding “novel science and security technologies” to combat ever more sophisticated bomb-making capabilities.

While intelligence about a growing terror threat against civilian airliners has been growing for some time, the decision to order increased checks was made in the past week. The latest terror alert was sparked by US intelligence picking up signals that al-Qaeda’s Yemeni and Syrian branches were colluding to try to bring down an aircraft.

Richard Dawkins attempts to shame Twitter after Bin Laden honey criticism

November 5, 2013

 

Richard Dawkins has responded to Twitter derision after his honey was confiscated at Edinburgh airport, condemning his critics for their unwillingness to believe his public-spiritedness.

He had pointed to the restriction as proof “Bin Laden has won”, slamming the “inflexible rule-bound airport security.” He tweeted “Of course I know the airport security rules. My point is those rules are stupid advertising displays of dundridge zeal. Bin Laden has won.”

He later sought to clarify his remarks, posting: “Do you idiots seriously think I give a damn about my stupid honey? It’s the PRINCIPLE I care about. Get it? Principle, not honey, principle.”

Dawkins’ blaming of Bin Laden proved most amusing with those the scientist labelled “the tweeting twerps” seizing upon the hash tag #TweetLikeRichardDawkins.

However Dawkins dismissed ideas that he was overreacting by comparing the confiscation of honey with terrorist atrocities, writing “aren’t our rule-merchants playing into Bin Laden’s dead hands by their futile displays of stable-door-shutting?”

 

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/richard-dawkins-attempts-to-shame-twitter-after-bin-laden-honey-criticism-8922553.html

Veils are not appropriate in classrooms or airport security, says Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg

It is not appropriate for students to wear a full veil in the classroom or for people to go through airport security with their faces covered, Nick Clegg has said. But the deputy prime minister said he did not want to see a state ban on the wearing of religious items of clothing in particular circumstances. His comments came as a Liberal Democrat minister said the government should consider banning Muslim girls and young women from wearing the veil in public places.

 

The Home Office minister Jeremy Browne called for a national debate on whether the state should step in to prevent young women having the veil imposed upon them. His intervention was sparked by a row over the decision by Birmingham Metropolitan College to drop a ban on the wearing of full-face veils amid public protests. Browne said he was “instinctively uneasy” about restricting religious freedoms, but he added there may be a case to act to protect girls who were too young to decide for themselves whether they wished to wear the veil or not.

 

He told the Daily Telegraph. There is genuine debate about whether girls should feel a compulsion to wear a veil when society deems children to be unable to express personal choices about other areas like buying alcohol, smoking or getting married.

“This is a free country and people going about their own business should be free to wear what they wish. I think it is very un-British to start telling people what pieces of clothing they should wear.

 

“I think there are exceptions to that as far as the full veil is concerned – security at airports, for instance. It is perfectly reasonable for us to say the full veil is clearly not appropriate there. And I think in the classroom, there is an issue, of course, about teachers being able to address their students in a way where they can address them face-to-face. I think it is quite difficult in the classroom to be able to do that.”

 

The Tory backbencher Dr Sarah Wollaston said the veils were “deeply offensive” and were “making women invisible”, and called for the niqab to be banned in schools and colleges.

Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, said he was disgusted by Browne’s calls to consider banning Muslim girls and young women from wearing the veil in public places.” This is another example of the double standards that are applied to Muslims in our country by some politicians,” he said. Adding: “We would expect these sorts of comments from the far right and authoritarian politicians and not from someone who allegedly believes in liberal values and freedom.”

Comedian Aasif Mandvi is compelling in new play about Islam and identity, past and present

NEW YORK — “Disgraced,” which opened on Monday night at Lincoln Center’s Claire Tow Theater in a sleek production directed by Kimberly Senior, is a continuously engaging, vitally engaged play about thorny questions of identity and religion in the contemporary world, with an accent on the incendiary topic of how radical Islam and the terrorism it inspires have affected the public discourse. In dialogue that bristles with wit and intelligence, Mr. Akhtar, a novelist and screenwriter, puts contemporary attitudes toward religion under a microscope, revealing how tenuous self-image can be for people born into one way of being who have embraced another.

The lead character, a Pakistani-American corporate lawyer in New York, is played by Aasif Mandvi, the very funny correspondent on Stewart’s “The Daily Show.” Here Mandvi shows a dramatic depth and perceptiveness his TV fans likely never have seen before. (But he’s not new to the stage; he’s also the writer of the Obie Award-winning play “Sakina’s Restaurant.”)

Every exchange, however innocent, seems to reflect the uneasy state of Amir’s identity. He and Emily are serving pork tenderloin and chorizo for dinner, along with a fabulous fennel-anchovy salad. He disses Islam while Isaac defends it. Amir: “Islam is a backward way of thinking.” Isaac: “It happens to be one of the world’s great spiritual traditions.”

But then there’s a sudden turn. Talk of 9/11, of Israel and Iran, of terrorism and airport security, all evokes uncomfortable truths. Add a liberal flow of alcohol and a couple of major secrets suddenly revealed, and you’ve got yourself one dangerous dinner party.

In the end, one can debate what the message of the play really is. Is it that we cannot escape our roots, or perhaps simply that we don’t ever really know who we are, deep down, until something forces us to confront it?

Dutch MP Questions Veiled Women and Airport Security

August 16 2010

Camiel Eurlings, the Dutch Caretaker Transport Minister, questions whether Muslim women are able to pass through airline security systems in the Netherlands without removing their veils. While passengers and airport personnel say sometimes women are not asked to show their faces at customs, the Dutch police responsible for airport security deny the claims and explain that women are asked to remove their veils in a private room, in the presence of a female officer.

Dubai Rejects Full-Body Scanners Because They ‘Contradict Islam’

Dubai airports will not use hi-tech full-body scanners because they “contradict Islam” and violate passengers’ privacy, according to reports — even though the scanners can detect terrorist threats like those posed by the Christmas Day bomber. Neither of Dubai’s two airports will use the scanners “out of respect for the privacy of individuals and their personal freedom,” the head of airport security for the emirate told Al-Bayan daily, AFP reported.

Passport fraud problems neglected in rush to implement full body scanners

Chief of Interpol Ronald Noble reports the biggest problem in travel is passport fraud, the stolen documentation terrorists use to travel the globe. He says 11 million stolen passports have been reported, could be being used by human traffickers, drug traffickers, terrorists, or war criminals.

He says it’s difficult to discern the motivations behind anyone carrying a passport, and if terrorists intend to board planes, they won’t do it with explosives that can be detected.

He feels the solution is better intelligence and better intelligence sharing, not large-scale implementations of full body scanners.

The increased use of body scanners is already occurring across the US as the result of the attempted Christmas Day terror attack by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

Learning airport security lessons from the Christmas Day plot and 9/11

This editorial claims that despite the changes that have been made to airport security since 9/11, an effective system has yet to be developed.

The writer lauds Israeli airport security, which focuses on human guards who conduct face to face interviews with suspiciously-behaving people. A question on outdated CIA intelligence practices is also explored.

Airport security tightened following attempted attack

Travelers will find an increase in random screenings, canine teams, behavior detection officers, and air marshals on flights, due to what Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano describes as a “continued threat” from al-Qaida.

These measures were amongst an array of plans President Obama announced after an intelligence review last week was conducted to assess how Abdulmutallab slipped through US security cracks.