(DHS) Magical mystery tour: Doing the work the Star Tribune won’t do

St. Paul’s Hassan “Jaamici” Mohamud is a legal assistant who withdrew as a member of Mohamed Farah’s defense team in the case of the “Minnesota men.” The “Minnesota men” made headlines around the country when they were charged and subsequently convicted of seeking to join ISIS in Syria.

Hassan Mohamud wears many hats. His home base is the Minnesota Da’wah Institute, where he serves as the imam. Mohamud was born in Somalia. He memorized the Koran at the age of thirteen. He is an expert in Islamic law. In 2009 the local FOX affiliate found Mohamud advising Muslims to avoid the “hellfire that comes with living in America.”

SheikhExpounds At a pretrial hearing held in the case of the “Minnesota men,” Mohamud was revealed to have behaved unprofessionally by seeking to dissuade one of his client’s codefendants from accepting a plea deal. Mohamud’s unprofessional behavior resulted in his withdrawal from the case. Before his disgrace in the case, however, Mohamud occasionally turned up in the news as a Somali “community leader.” In the photo at right he was holding forth outside the federal courthouse in Minneapolis in his accustomed style.

As a “community leader,” Mohamud had been invited to participate in the annual tour of secure areas at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airpot given by the Department of Homeland Security (Customs and Border Protection officials, as it turns out) to local Somali Muslim leaders. As Jack Paar used to say, I kid you not.

Mohamud took part in such a tour in 2015 and was invited to participate again in 2016. This time around, however, he was “uninvited” a few hours before the tour took place. The Star Tribune reported that the disinvitation discouraged Mohamud “because, he said, his mosque has sponsored several events bringing together Homeland Security and the Muslim community.” Mohamud asserted his disinvitation derived from his criticism “of U.S. anti-terror tactics in Minnesota.” On the contrary, however, it’s probably what got him invited in the first place.

That chain of events sparked my interest in the 2016 MSP Airport tour for Somalis only. I sought information from the DHS Office of Civil Rights (OCR) under the Freedom of Information Act. OCR provided a few heavily redacted pages and rebuffed the administrative law judge when he requested an explanation of the redactions.

I wrote about the story along the way, most recently in “(DHS) Magical mystery tour (and why I need a lawyer).” Theresa Bevilacqua of Dorsey & Whitney’s Minneapolis office answered my plea for help and filed a FOIA lawsuit on my behalf challenging OCR’s response to my FOIA request earlier this summer.

I thought at the time that the Star Tribune might take an interest in the lawsuit. If asked about it, I had planned to respond that we are only doing the work the Star Tribune won’t do. However, the Star Tribune hasn’t asked.

Because the Customs and Border Protection official to whom I spoke last year directed me to OCR, I neglected to file a separate FOIA request with CBP. On Ms. Bevilacqua’s advice I have now done so and CBP has formally responded. CBP has produced 29 redacted pages with claimed FOIA exemptions stamped over the redactions. An extremely helpful guide to FOIA exemptions is posted online here. The CBP is also withholding 31 pages in their entirety. I have administratively appealed the CBP’s response to my FOIA request as a predicate to adding it to my current FOIA lawsuit.

I have a little bit more to say about what’s going on here, but at the moment I want to invite readers to take a look at the documents as produced by CBP via Scribd (below, I hope).

2017-068244 JUL 19 2017 by Scott Johnson on Scribd

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