Muslim-Americans File Suit Over 'Unjust' Placement on Terrorist Watch List

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Muslim-Americans File Suit Over 'Unjust' Placement on Terrorist Watch List

The federal government has unjustly and disproportionately targeted American Muslims by routinely adding their names to the Terrorist Screening Database without affording them their rights to due process.

Muslim rights groups at Foley Square on February 3, 2011 protesting NYPD surveillance of Muslims in the city. (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

Five Muslim-Americans filed a lawsuit on Thursday in a Michigan federal court charging that they have been wrongly placed on a "terrorist" watch-list, with no due process or avenue for recourse.

The plaintiffs hail from southeastern Michigan and are receiving counsel from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)—a civil rights organization. Their complaint takes aim at numerous top U.S. officials, including Attorney General Eric Holder.

"The lawsuit is seeking relief on behalf of five of our clients who have been placed on different suspected terrorist watch lists, but it is also seeking change regarding the greater issue of how 1.1 million Americans are on these lists and don't have any real redress for getting off of it," Dawud Walid, executive director for CAIR's Michigan chapter, told Common Dreams.

The announcement of the suit follows a recent report by The Intercept, based on classified documents released by an unnamed source in the intelligence community, which finds, "The second-highest concentration of people designated as 'known or suspected terrorists' by the government is in Dearborn, Mich.—a city of 96,000 that has the largest percentage of Arab-American residents in the country." All of the plaintiffs in the case reside in or near Dearborn.

"Being on the terrorist watch list affects people's lives in a range of ways: from having no ability to fly at all to being stopped at the border for multiple hours, to being questioned upon reentry to going through extra screenings and having travel impeded while flying domestically," said Walid. For people who have family living abroad, inclusion on the list can mean being cut off from loved ones.

"The federal government has unjustly and disproportionately targeted American Muslims by routinely adding their names to the Terrorist Screening Database without affording them their rights to due process," said CAIR-MI Staff Attorney Lena Masri in a press statement. "The lawsuit will challenge the government's broad and unchecked power to secretly label individuals as 'known or suspected terrorists' without concrete facts, but based on only a vague standard of 'reasonable suspicion.'"

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