In fact, the second-highest concentration of people designated as “known or suspected terrorists” by the government is in Dearborn, Mich.—a city of only 96,000 that has the largest percentage of Arab Muslim residents in the country.
Detroit News Whenever Nasser Beydoun flies on business each month, he expects a long wait. The prominent business owner from Dearborn, a former chairman of the American Arab Chamber of Commerce, is used to extra screenings, which he says is likely from inclusion on a government watch list. “It’s kind of degrading your government is associating you with terrorism just because you’re Arab-American Muslim.”
Still, it came as a surprise when he learned that newly obtained government documents suggest that, in the government’s eyes, Dearborn is second only to New York among U.S. cities as having the most people suspected of links to terrorism.
The Intercept, an online magazine, posted secret documents from the National Counterterrorism Center’s Directorate of Terrorist Identities showing that as of 2013, there were 20,800 Americans and non-Americans permanently living in the United States who were believed to be known or suspected terrorists.
News of the terror list fanned worry of Arab-Americans in Dearborn, some who say they already feel under a spotlight in the fight on terror in a post-911 world.. “It will give people the wrong idea about Dearborn and about its citizens,” said lifelong resident Maha Mustafa, who is of Palestinian descent. Some people, she said, “don’t take the time to educate themselves about us and who we are and what we believe.” (Good thing they don’t or you would really feel the hatred)
The report provides a glimpse into the scope of secretive terror monitoring practices in the United States and the number of people on controversial watch lists. Critics say officials are too willing to accept names for those lists without adequate vetting.
New York, a city of more than 8 million, ranked first among cities with the most “known or suspected” terrorists in the United States, followed by Dearborn — a city of fewer than 100,000 whose population includes one of the largest concentrations of Arab Americans. Next, behind Dearborn, were Houston, San Diego and Chicago.
It’s not clear how someone gets on the list. The Associated Press reported the government “does not need evidence that links someone to terrorism in order for the person to be included in the database.”
After a Nigerian man, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, tried to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas 2009, the list expanded dramatically; it has added 430,000 suspected terrorists and deleted 50,000 names, the documents show.
The FBI has spent a significant amount of time in Dearborn since the Sept. 11 attacks, investigating various terror-related allegations and working with the community. Arab-Americans often complain they are unfairly scrutinized by law enforcement.
Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said evidence shows terrorism is not emanating from Dearborn. And he said the latest disclosure would have a “further chilling effect in our community, where people become worried about going to their mosque or community events.”
The document “in no way jibes with the reality of who is committing terrorism,” he said Wednesday. The document suggests the Obama administration is “targeting the Muslim population in general, but especially Dearborn, which is the most dense population of Arab Americans, as perpetual suspects.”
“Not only is it problematic in labeling an entire community but it should raise questions about how our federal resources are being used,” Walid said, adding the FBI should “stop focusing on Dearborn and sending FBI agents and informants into our community. It doesn’t make sense.”
Nabih Ayad, an attorney and board chairman of the Arab-American Civil Rights League, said he has handled “dozens and dozens” of cases involving residents who were targeted by authorities. Having a suspected terror list like this one is counterintuitive and “plays into the negative stereotypes that (Americans) already have against Arabs,” Ayad said. “It plays against the Arab men and women of this community who work hard everyday and are good citizens.”
Last year, an FBI terrorism squad investigated whether a Dearborn resident and local Lebanese concert promoter was involved in kidnapping Syrians in Beirut. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has convicted several Dearborn men who admitted sending money to aid Hezbollah, a group that has sponsored terrorist acts in the Mideast. The FBI also placed a Dearborn man on its list of most-wanted terrorists.
Faouzi Ayoub is accused of using a phony passport to try to travel to Israel to detonate a bomb on behalf of the terror group Hezbollah. Prosecutors say on Oct. 8, 2000, he tried to use a fake passport that carried the phony name Frank Mariano Boschi, according to the indictment. He tried to enter Israel to conduct a bombing for the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah.