Photo by Bob Oliver
Barbara McQuade (center), U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, speaks from the steps of Dearborn City Hall Friday about alleged government documents released by the online newsletter “The Intercept” that labeled Dearborn as the U.S. city with the second highest total of residents and visitors on the federal government’s terrorist watch list. City administrators and local civil rights groups are calling for an investigation into the authenticity of the documents.
Website lists Dearborn with second most on watch list
By BOB OLIVER
DEARBORN — City administrators and local civil rights groups are calling for an investigation into a report released online last week that Dearborn has more residents on the federal government’s terrorist watch list than any other U.S. city outside of New York City.
On Aug. 5, “The Intercept” online newsletter posted what it termed secret documents from the National Counterterrorism Center’s Directorate of Terrorist Identities, one of which said that as of 2013 there were more than 20,800 living in the United States as both permanent residents and visitors who were believed to be known or suspected terrorists.
Dearborn has a population that includes about 40 percent of Arabic decent, the highest concentration in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, a group the website said “has been disproportionately targeted for watchlisting.”
Standing on the steps of City Hall Friday, Mayor John O’Reilly Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan Barbara McQuade, Police Chief Ronald Haddad and many others spoke against the report and said it needs to be verified before it can be considered credible.
O’Reilly said the fact that Dearborn was slotted in with the big cities is a sign that the document is wrong.
“There can’t be any truth to this,” O’Reilly said. “We’ve had Arab-Americans living in this community for over 100 years and as citizens they have always been active and engaged in the community. The idea that there are suspects undercover and invisible in the community is impossible.”
He said the report gives outsiders the wrong impression of the city.
“People who don’t know our community will see the report and have a poor idea of the city,” O’Reilly said. “It’s a shame.”
According to the site, the top five cities in terms of suspected terrorists being monitored were New York, Dearborn, Houston, San Diego and Chicago.
All of the city except Dearborn, which has a population under 100,000, are major metropolitan areas, and the report does not break down each city to state how many people living there are being monitored.
McQuade said there has not been an individual from Dearborn convicted on terrorism charges.
“I haven’t seen this document but the numbers I’ve been told don’t jibe,” McQuade said. “It’s too far-fetched based on the size of the city.”
Haddad said he didn’t want to comment on the report directly, but that in his six years as chief the level of cooperation and trust between the community and police department has been “great.”
“Every day we have citizens that are willing to report crimes they see and are willing to stand up in court,” Haddad said. “Our community stands together against violence.”
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee Director Fatina Abdrabboh said the document shows that racial profiling is still prevalent in society.
“We’ve come a long way as a society, but this pulls us back,” Abdrabboh said. “The thing about racial profiling is that it’s not effective. This needle-in-a-haystack approach to monitoring hasn’t made us any safer. Thirteen years after 9/11 we still have discrimination.”
Council on American-Islamic Relations Executive Director Dawud Walid said his group has written a letter to U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Detroit) signed by several local leaders asking for an inquiry into the validity of the document with the U.S. Department of Justice.
“We want this investigated,” Walid said. “Is this document valid? We need to know the veracity of this document and we’re asking Conyers to have this investigated.”
(Bob Oliver can be reached at [email protected])