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USJudge says terrorism watch list violates civil rights of Muslims

13:35  09 september  2019
13:35  09 september  2019 Source:   freep.com

Judge Rules Terrorism Watchlist Violates Constitutional Rights

Judge Rules Terrorism Watchlist Violates Constitutional Rights A federal judge ruled on Wednesday that a federal government database that compiles people deemed to be “known or suspected terrorists” violates the rights of American citizens who are on the watchlist, calling into question the constitutionality of a major tool the F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security use for screening potential terrorism suspects. © Stephen Chernin/Getty Images Being on the watchlist can keep people off planes, block them from entering the country, subject them to greater scrutiny by the police and deny them government benefits and contracts.

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CAIR said FBI agents are telling Muslim Americans they can get off the terrorism watch list if they agree to become informants and spy on their A federal judge ruled Wednesday that an FBI watch list of more than 1 million “known or suspected terrorists ” violates the constitutional rights of

Anans Elhady of Dearborn was driving back into Detroit over the Ambassador Bridge in April 2015 after vacationing in Canada.

Judge says terrorism watch list violates civil rights of Muslims© Mandi Wright, Detroit Free Press Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Michigan, applauds the judge's ruling against the terrorism watch list, saying it discriminates against Muslims. Photo from Jan. 2006.

At the border, Elhady was surrounded by Customs and Border Protection officers, handcuffed, and then put in a freezing cold cell for more than 10 hours without shoes or a jacket, a lawsuit alleges. The then 21-year-old Elhady, a U.S. citizen, was repeatedly interrogated, asked about his family and friends.

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A federal judge ruled Wednesday that a government database identified of “known or suspected terrorists ,” violates the constitutional rights of U.S. citizens. The FBI maintained a list of one million people identified as “known or suspected terrorists ." T.J. Kirkpatrick / Bloomberg via Getty Images file.

The government's watchlist of more than 1 million people identified as "known or suspected terrorists " violates the constitutional rights of those The ruling from U.S. District Judge Anthony Trenga grants summary judgment to nearly two dozen Muslim U.S. citizens who had challenged the watchlist with

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

He was taken in handcuffs to a hospital, where he was administered life support.

Elhady, who is Muslim and of Yemeni descent, said he had similar negative encounters with law enforcement during border crossings and airplane travel despite having no criminal or terrorism record. His experience is shared by many other Muslims living in Michigan and across the U.S. who say that a FBI terrorism watch list has subjected them to years of profiling, harassment, missed flights, and abuse.

Last week, a federal judge in Virginia appointed by President George W. Bush ruled in his favor, saying the terror watch list created by the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center — which has about 1.2 million people on it — violates the rights of Muslims. People are placed on the list without their knowledge and are unable to redress their grievances, said Judge Anthony Trenga of U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

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Despite a federal judge ’s ruling last September that the U.S. government’s terror watch list violates constitutional rights , an The Terrorism Screening Database, widely known as the watch list , was Matthew Callahan, a staff attorney at Muslim Advocates, a national civil rights organization, says

The plaintiffs said they were wrongly placed on the list and that the government’s process for adding names is overbroad and riddled with errors. He said he will be asking the judge to severely curtail how the government compiles and uses its list . “Innocent people should be beyond the reach of the

In 2016, attorneys from metro Detroit and the Washington D.C. area with the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) filed a lawsuit on behalf of Elhady and about 20 other Muslims — most of them residents of Michigan — against U.S. government agencies.

The judge's 32-page decision on Wednesday  was hailed by Muslim and civil rights advocates as a major victory. For decades, Muslims say they have been subject to profiling and targeted scrutiny by federal law enforcement, asked questions about their worship practices, detained, and threatened in some cases.

"The judge's ruling was a historic victory on behalf of all Americans and one of the most significant victories for the American Muslim community," Lena Masri, National Litigation Director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told the Free Press on Friday. "The list violates the most basic due process rights of Americans because they're being added to a watch list without any type of process or opportunity to contest their status."

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“This is an educational effort with civil rights laws as they play into freedom of religion and exercising freedom of religion,” Killian says in the local news The DOJ political appointee adds in the article that the upcoming presentation will also focus on Muslim culture with a special emphasis on the fact that

Judge Anthony Trenga of the Eastern District of Virginia ruled in favor of 23 Muslim Americans who filed a lawsuit alleging that their inclusion on the Terrorist Screening Database violated their due process rights . Trenga, who was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2008, wrote in his

Masri, who previously was in Farmington Hills, filed the lawsuit for the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations along with Troy attorney Shereef Akeel and another CAIR attorney in Washington D.C.

Judge Trenga is asking the U.S. government and CAIR attorneys to come up with possible solutions to changing how the terrorist watch list is compiled so that it doesn't violate constitutional rights and discriminate. They have 60 days to file their proposals, Masri said.

In his ruling, Trenga wrote: “The vagueness of the standard for inclusion in the TSDB (Terrorist Screening Database), coupled with the lack of any meaningful restraint on what constitutes grounds for placement on the Watchlist, constitutes, in essence, the absence of any ascertainable standard for inclusion and exclusion, which is precisely what offends the Due Process Clause."

Trenga cited the case of Elhady of Dearborn in his ruling.

When Elhady tried to cross the border at other times, he was questioned for four to 12 hours, asked about his religious practices, what mosque he prays in, and what sect of Islam he belongs to.

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How does this violate Constitutional Rights ? Where’s your trial? the FBI says this list is essential to the security of our nation and that it has identified know terrorists and kept them out of our country and while not perfect does a great Judge Rules Terrorism Watchlist Violates Constitutional Rights .

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The Terrorist Screening Center was established in 2003 by former Attorney General John Ashcroft. The terrorist watch list later grew to more than 1.5 million people at one point, said CAIR attorneys.

Trenga wrote that the "listing is disseminated to and used by federal, state, and foreign government agencies and officials to support various diplomatic and security functions and does trigger a variety of other consequences, including restrictions on an individual's ability to travel."

In his decision, Trenga granted CAIR's request for a summary judgement before the case went to trial.

The lawsuit was brought against several U.S. government agencies and officials, including the director of the FBI's Terrorist Screening Database, the director of the Department of Homeland Security's Traveler Redress Inquiry Program, administrator of the Transportation Security Administration, director of the FBI, and the acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Justice Department attorneys are defending the federal agencies in the lawsuit.

Spokesman for the FBI and the Department of Justice declined Friday to comment. The Department of Homeland Security's media office did not respond to an email seeking comment.

On its website, the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center said placing people on their terrorist list is not "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."

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Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said he hopes the judge's ruling can bring some relief for Muslim Americans.

"We feel vindicated," Walid said Friday. "We complained for years of unwarranted targeting of the Muslim community by the FBI, and the federal judge basically agreed with some of our concerns in terms of finding the federal terrorism watch list to be illegal. So we hope that this will get some relief for American Muslims flying in airports and crossing international borders."

Walid said that this summer while traveling by plane, he received a boarding pass with "SSSS" marked on it, which indicates that a traveler may be a suspect and subject to questioning that lead to flight delays, even if the traveler has no criminal record.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit said they see the "SSSS" designation on their boarding passes, which signifies to airlines and federal officials they may be 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, according to the the lawsuit.

"Many of the people targeted are religious leaders and community activists," Walid said. "We hope this ruling helps curb the modern-day McCarthyism that the FBI has been improperly engaged in."

One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit is a 7-month-old baby 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,'" reads 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."

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There are other government databases that civil rights groups have been challenging through legal action. The No Fly List is a separate, smaller list — a subset of the Terrorist Screening Database — that Muslim groups have contested in lawsuits.

In some cases, Muslims are being pressured by the FBI to become informants after they are questioned at the border or at airports. CAIR said FBI agents are telling Muslim Americans they can get off the terrorism watch list if they agree to become informants and spy on their communities.

Several months after he was stopped in April 2015, Elhady said an FBI agent contacted him on Dec. 2 "and informed him that his phone was being tapped and that all his calls were being listened to by the FBI," reads the lawsuit.

Judge Trenga said in his decision that "Elhady has also had his phone confiscated multiple times at the U.S. border, been pressured to reveal its password to border agents, been questioned about its contents, and been told by an FBI agent that his cellphone conversations were being monitored."

"When Elhady attempted border-crossings, CBP officers told him 'Are you serious? Someone like you should have stopped crossing the border by now.'"

Masri said she hopes that Trenga's ruling last week can lead to real changes.

"There should be at the very least court oversight over any restrictions of the fundamental right of movement of citizens who have never been charged or convicted," Masri said. "Innocent people are being caught up."

Contact Niraj Warikoo: nwarikoo@freepress.com, Twitter @nwarikoo

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Judge says terrorism watch list violates civil rights of Muslims

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