AUGUST 02, 2016
The Obama administration gave Somali Muslims behind-the-scenes tours at a major U.S. airport after the group complained to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson about feeling harassed and profiled, government records obtained by Judicial Watch reveal. The special security tours not offered to any other group occurred at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport after Department of Homeland Security (DHS) roundtable meetings with local Somali leaders to obtain feedback for “modifications to practices that would allow for operations to be more culturally sensitive.”
On at least two occasions—December 18, 2014 and February 18, 2015—federal authorities granted the unprecedented excursions of the facility’s sterile and secure areas, according to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) records obtained by Judicial Watch. The DHS agency that conducted the expeditions, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), provided the Muslim participants with “an in-depth, on-site tour and discussion of CBP’s airport, including both inbound and outbound passenger processing,” the TSA files state. Besides multiple roundtable meetings between CBP and Somali community leaders including imams, the records show that a luncheon and “cultural exchange and educational brief” also took place between December 2014 and February 2015 so that attendees could ask about the agency’s “specific practices” at the airport.
The roundtable events and airport tours were organized by Abdirizak Farah, who is identified in the records as a policy advisor in the DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL). Farah joined DHS in 2010 with an annual salary of $89,033 and by 2015 his yearly pay increased to $130,453, according to a government database. The TSA’s “Somali liaison officer” in Minneapolis, Andrew Rhoades, told Judicial Watch that the special airport tours were organized for Somali Muslims after they complained to Johnson that they felt “harassed and profiled” by CBP at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport. The DHS secretary had “a sympathetic ear to that,” Rhoades said, adding that no other group has been granted such airport access by DHS. “Now, I will say we’ve never done that, or we don’t do that, to let’s say the Hmong community living here in Minneapolis, uh, the Christian community, the Catholic community, the Irish… whatever you want to call it. This has been the only one,” Rhoades said.
The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is the nation’s 17th busiest in terms of passenger traffic, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). It gets more than 35 million passengers annually and nearly 200,000 metric tons of freight. The region has a large Somali Muslim community and Somalia is a terrorist nation that’s largely controlled by the extremist group Al Shabaab. In June three Somali-American pals from Minneapolis were convicted by a federal jury of conspiring to commit murder in Syria on behalf of the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and to provide material support to the designated foreign terrorist organization. Six of their buddies pleaded guilty and one was charged in absentia, presumed dead in Syria. Back in 2013 a mainstream news outlet reported that the Al Qaeda affiliate that terrorized a Kenyan shopping center and murdered scores of innocent people included Somalis from Minnesota. Among them was 22-year-old Ahmed Mohamed Isse of St. Paul and 24-year-old Abdifatah Osman Keenadiid of Minneapolis.
The FBI and Congress have launched probes into the radicalization of the Somali American community in Minnesota. Al Shabaab recruits young men in local mosques and ships them off to train and fight in Somalia. Last fall the area’s largest newspaper published a story confirming that Minnesota leads the nation in the number of people who have left or sought to leave the country to fight with terrorists aligned with ISIL or ISIS. An attorney who attended the June trial of the convicted Somali-Minnesotans explains in a newspaper column that the broader terrorist ring consists of young first-or-second-generation Somali-Americans who freely took advantage of educational and employment opportunities in the Twin Cities. Their social lives centered on local mosques, they supplemented their education with Islamic studies, are observant Muslims and want to live under the caliphate declared by ISIL. “They yearned to wage jihad and to die as Islamic martyrs,” the column states, adding that “they hate the U.S.” Many of them traveled through Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport while pursuing terrorist causes.
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