Again and again, counterterrorist authorities focus at Muslims but insist they are not doing so. Muslims decry this hypocrisy and so do I. It's best to be honest and open about necessary preventative actions, however distasteful they may be. This entry notes, in reverse chronological order, some of the more colorful denials.
Defining a "special interest alien": Marisa Taylor of McClatchy Newspapers reveals the contents of a February 2006 Immigration and Customs Enforcement memo in which a number of federal law-enforcement agencies (which include ICE, Customs and Border Protection, and the National Security Agency) which, among other things, suggests an interagency definition of a "special interest alien." That would be an immigrant with terrorist ties or who by nationality, "ethnicity or other factors may have ties or sympathies" with 35 "special interest" countries, most with significant Muslim or Arab populations. As Taylor puts it, this means "an immigrant who doesn't have any known terrorist links and who isn't from a country on the list conceivably could be considered a special interest alien, if his or her ethnic background included a listed country." (March 4, 2008)
The New York Giant fans.
New York City mosques: In a weblog entry ("American Law Enforcement Really Does Profile Muslims – The Siraj Case") and then a column ("Does the Police Department Profile? Should It?"), I explore the information that came out at the terrorism trial of Shahawar Matin Siraj concerning NYPD surveillance of city mosques. (June 13, 2006)
Radiation detection: U.S. News & World Report breaks a story that "In search of a terrorist nuclear bomb, the federal government since 9/11 has run a far-reaching, top secret program to monitor radiation levels at over a hundred Muslim sites in the Washington, D.C., area, including mosques, homes, businesses, and warehouses, plus similar sites in at least five other cities." But, of course, U.S. government officials reject any notion that the secret program specifically targeted Muslims. "We categorically do not target places of worship or entitles solely based on ethnicity or religious affiliation. Our investigations are intelligence driven and based on a criminal predicate." (Dec. 22, 2005) Dec. 24, 2005 update: The verbal battle goes on, with the Council on American-Islamic Relations declaring that "All Americans should be concerned about the apparent trend toward a two-tiered system of justice, with full rights for most citizens, and another diminished set of rights for Muslims" and John Miller, an assistant director of the FBI, replying that the bureau "does not target any group based on ethnicity, political or religious belief" and saying that it was "disappointed at the conclusions" reached by CAIR.
New York Giants sports stadium: "New Jersey officials denied Wednesday that racial or religious profiling had anything to do with the detention of five Muslim football fans at a New York Giants game in September, even as several of the men claimed they were singled out because they prayed at the stadium. An FBI spokesman told The Associated Press the men were interrogated because they were congregating near the main air intake duct for Giants Stadium." (Nov. 2, 2005)
Excel plane leaving Cyprus: An Excel Airways flight from Larnaca to Manchester on Sep. 11 was postponed a day when two apparently Muslim passengers were removed from a flight after one of them, as the plane prepared for take-off, refused to leave the onboard toilet. The other passengers then en masse refused to fly, leaving only the next day and without those two passengers. A spokeswoman for Excel Airways, Sue Lister, denied that the men's ethnicity played a role in the drama. "It was just anti-social behaviour and the captain decided absolutely rightly that they should be offloaded. I know people are using the words suspicion, militant and God knows what else. No. they were disruptive passengers." (Sep. 13, 2005) Aug. 21, 2006 update: In a curious sequeal yesterday, a Monarch Airlines flight from Malaga to Manchester had two apparently Muslim passengers, again male, who aroused the suspicions of the British holidaymakers on their way home, this time because the men were wearing heavy clothing and kept checking their watches. Monarch, however, did not make up a reason to justify the removal of the two.
Razor blades: I review the denial that the Islamic faith of a person who attempted to smuggle razors on to an airplane mattered at "Does Law Enforcement Profile Muslims?" (May 31, 2003)