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Minneapolis Airport: DHS Refuses to Divulge Names of ‘Muslim Community Members’ Who Got All-Access Tour of Security Measures

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Like many things “counter-jihad,” this story starts with a sharp eye seeing something that doesn’t seem quite right. “See something, say something.” In this case, a reporter for a local newspaper connects dots that our collective radar may have otherwise missed. The reporter writes a great piece that gets shared on social media (h/t Dr. Bill Warner @PoliticalIslam). The Geller Report spots a thread in that piece and runs with it. In short order, the greater community of counter-jihadists is aware of a problem that requires answers.

In short, on February 18, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security gave a group of “about 50 imams and other members of the Muslim community” [hereinafter "Muslim community members”] a behind-the-scenes tour of Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport. From all appearances, it seems that this beneficent tour exposed security policies and procedures to the “Muslim community members.”

The tour comes to our attention after the conviction in Minnesota Federal District Court on June 3, 2016 of three Somali-Americans who tried to leave the United States to join ISIS. Ten Muslims were originally charged in the case. Six pled guilty and one became a cooperating witness. One of the men who pleaded guilty and the cooperating witness, two were employed on the tarmac at Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport.

A report during the trial noted that the Government intended to offer evidence that Sheikh Hassan Ali Mohamud Jami, a member of the defense team and a law school graduate but not a licensed attorney, had been known to preach jihad. That report further noted that “Last month, Mohamud was uninvited from a behind-the-scenes security tour with about 50 imams and other members of the Muslim community at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.”

Via City Journal:

A sidebar to the story of the ISIS-affiliated Somali men convicted on terrorism charges last year in federal district court in Minneapolis: one of the men who pleaded guilty and cooperated with the prosecution had worked on the tarmac at Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport (MSP) and could have done serious harm. So had the one who turned informant and was never charged in the case. When his FBI interlocutors persuaded him to turn, he had a question for them: “Can I get my job at the airport back?”

That’s not all. In his March 29, 2016 Star Tribune story, Stephen Montemayor reported in passing that local imams and Muslim “community leaders” had received a “behind-the-scenes security tour” in February last year at MSP. Montemayor mentioned the tour when he noted that Hassan Mohamud—also known as “Sheikh Hassan,” an imam working as a legal assistant for one of the defendants—had been “uninvited” from the tour.

What was that tour for Muslims only all about?

Indeed, what was that tour all about? Also, who were the privileged “Muslim community members” given this backstage visit at the Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport?

Reporter Scott W. Johnson sought answers and soon found himself in a bureaucratic rabbit-hole. Eventually the Department of Homeland Security Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties advised him he had to submit a Freedom of Information Act request to get the information he sought. His reward after “two FOIA requests, two appeals of the responses to my FOIA requests, and one FOIA lawsuit filed in federal district court here” was “78 heavily redacted pages.” (See the FOIA reply here)

The identity of the “Muslim community members” were among the redactions. DHS gives a multitude of statutory reasons for not revealing the identity of the “Muslim community members.” The most bizarre, which we hope to cure right now:

“The FOIA and the case law require that we balance the individual’s privacy right against the public interest in disclosing the individual’s private information.  Thus, we must weigh whether those individuals’ right to privacy in detailed information (such as names, demographics and contact information) outweigh the public interest in the planning and execution of the meeting that occurred in February, 2016.  But for some Minnesota-based media articles written about the meeting, there was no national interest in the meeting. [E[Emphasis added- The Geller Report]p>

Well, courtesy of The Geller Report, the Department of Homeland Security is herewith advised that that there is now at least a modicum of national, indeed international, interest in the identity of those “Muslim community members.” Given the fact that at least one invitee who preached jihad was “disinvited” from that tour, presumably for security reasons, the public has a vested interest in vetting the “Muslim community members” who did attend that tour. Among many other interests, the public should know how and why any “community members,” Muslim or otherwise, are chosen by the government to be privy to otherwise confidential security matters at our nation’s airports.

Hopefully we need not await a jihad attack before the identities of those “Muslim community members” are revealed in a post-incident 9/11 Commission-style report.

The court case which seeks, in part, the identity of those “Muslim community members” is Johnson v. DHS, et al. #0:17-cv-01612. As of this writing, the case is proceeding in Federal Court under a “pretrial scheduling order” with discovery due by 11/15/2017.

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