The New York Times reports that “Minnesota TSA manager says he was told to target Somali Americans.” Let me say at the outset I find the story incomprehensible. The TSA manager referred to in the headline was allegedly asked to do something that he declined to do. Nothing happened. To borrow the title of the Bob Dylan song, nothing was delivered.
The term “profiling” is thrown around without definition. The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport lies in the background. As the story is written, it is difficult to understand the genesis of the controversy. The Times leaves the congressional hearing out of which it arises to the bottom of the story. The Star Tribune follows up with more local handwringing. Disparage the controversy at the risk of being called “Islamophobic.”
Times reporter Ron Nixon opens the story this way:
A Transportation Security Administration manager here said he was instructed by his supervisor to provide the names of Somali-American leaders visiting the agency’s local office so they could be screened against national security databases for terrorist ties, a disclosure that quickly drew accusations of racial profiling.
In a midyear performance evaluation, David McMahon, the supervisor of Andrew Rhoades, an assistant federal security director, wrote that he had advised Mr. Rhoades to check potential visitors to the agency’s offices with the field intelligence officer to determine “if we want them in our office space or meet elsewhere.”
Mr. McMahon, a deputy federal security director, wrote that he “reminded employee [sic] that with our current world affairs that we need to be mindful of those we interact with.”
Mr. Rhoades, who works with Somalis in the Twin Cities area, said he considered the remarks racial profiling and reported the incident to the T.S.A.’s Office of the Chief Counsel and the Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. He has also contacted members of the Minnesota congressional delegation and the Office of Special Counsel, an independent agency that protects federal employees from reprisal.
“I have never been asked to give the names of anyone else who visited the office to the intelligence officer,” Mr. Rhoades said.
The Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties said Tuesday that it had opened an investigation into the allegations.
In a statement, the T.S.A., an agency in the Department of Homeland Security, said it did not tolerate racial profiling.
“We are reviewing this complaint and will take appropriate action if there is evidence that any T.S.A. officer acted inappropriately,” the agency said. “However, it would be unfair and irresponsible to infer or conclude that profiling is a common T.S.A. practice based upon a single interaction between one employee and his supervisor.”
This will ring a bell for Power Line readers:
Officials said they have hosted Somali elders at the airport to explain how the agency carries out its mission and attended community meetings to resolve grievances. T.S.A. officials say they have also recruited Somalis as screeners and for other jobs. And the agency has assigned people like Mr. Rhoades to help address problems like people having trouble getting on a flight, or those who feel they have been singled out for extra screening.
Somali leaders give the agency credit for its outreach, but they say the instructions by a T.S.A. manager to pass on the names of those seeking redress at the agency’s offices to an intelligence officer is a setback.
“Why would you want to check the terror watch list for people who are coming to your office to seek help?” said Sheikh Sa’ad Musse Roble, president of the World Peace Organization in Minneapolis, who has spoken at the White House and serves on several local law enforcement task forces to counter violent extremism, including one led by the United States attorney for Minnesota, Andrew M. Luger. “You are assuming that they have done something wrong.”
The Somali presence throughout MSP lends a black humor to the security theater to which passengers are subjected. The Times omits to note that one of the ten “Minnesota men” who has pleaded guilty to charges of seeking to join ISIS recently worked on the tarmac at MSP for two contractors over a period of nine months. One of the contractors he worked for de-iced planes. This particular “Minnesota man” loved rocket-propelled grenades; he dreamed of using them to shoot planes out of the sky on their path into or out of MSP.
The information emerged at a December hearing in the case of the “Minnesota men.” I wrote about it on Power Line and in in the Weekly Standard “Judging the ‘Minnesota men.” I don’t think it has been disclosed to readers of the Times.
We are still awaiting the TSA Office of Civil Rights’ response to my FOIA request for basic information regarding the tour of security at the airport provided to “Somali elders” (as the Times call them), most recently this past February. TSA is dragging its feet producing information about the tour.
I specifically asked the Office of Civil Rights about background checks on tour participants. Readers may recall that a local Somali imam and member of the defense team for one of the “Minnesota men” was removed from the most recent tour shortly before he was to participate, I think for reasons that in retrospect have proved good and sufficient.
The OCR told me: “We cannot comment on individual cases due to privacy concerns. However, the Department of Homeland Security does not at any time nor for any reason bar a participant from an event based on protected First Amendment activity [contrary to the disinvited defense team member/imam’s allegation]. If an event takes place at a secure facility, a security or background check may be run on an individual before he or she is allowed to enter a secure location.” TSA advised all those “Somali elders” participating in the tour that they were required to submit necessary information for security vetting.
Minnesota Fifth District Rep. Keith Ellison makes a cameo appearance in the Times article. He unloads the usual deep thoughts of a race hustler: “The Somali-American community, and all Minnesotans, deserve to know if T.S.A. officials are engaging in racial, ethnic or religious profiling.”