DEARBORN (WWJ/AP) – Arab-American activists in a Detroit suburb are fuming over a report that says Dearborn is No. 2 in the number of known or suspected terrorists and their associates.
An online publication, The Intercept, obtained a secret 2013 government document and found Dearborn was second behind New York City.
U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade joined activists at a news conference Friday.
“It is unfortunate that recent reports have suggested a negative perception about an entire community. I can assure the public that Dearborn is filled with great American patriots — U.S. service members, police officers, teachers, lawyers, doctors, business people, laborers and good neighbors. Efforts are underway to revise the existing redress process regarding the No Fly List.”
The National Counterterrorism Center says there were 1.1 million people in the database at the end of 2013. The government doesn’t need evidence linking someone to terrorism in order for the person to be in the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, or TIDE, which feeds to smaller lists that restrict travel.
Dearborn has less than 100,00 residents compared to New York, which has a population of more than 8 million.
The Michigan branch of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee is concerned about hostility toward Arab Americans after the report.
“We believe that such labeling is likely increase the hostility towards the Arab-American community from both citizens and government officials who may feel such behavior is justified,” ADC-Michigan Director Fatina Abdrabboh said in a statement.
The federal government has yet to comment on the case.
The growth of the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment is a result of the government’s response to a failed attempt to blow up a commercial airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day in 2009. The terror operative’s name was included in the database before the attack but not on a list that would have prevented him from boarding a U.S.-bound flight. Since then, the government lowered the standards for placing someone on the no-fly list, and intelligence agencies have become more diligent about submitting names to the TIDE database.
Of the 1.1 million people in the TIDE database, 25,000 are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents, the National Counterterrorism Center said.
The database was created after the September 2001 terror attacks after it became clear that the government’s terror watch list was ineffective. The watch list was once maintained in a Rolodex and in paper notebooks, according to edited photographs provided by the National Counterterrorism Center.
Other terror watch lists derived from the TIDE database have also grown. As of November 2013, the Terrorist Screening Database consisted of 700,000 people, according to a government official. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive numbers.
Questions about the watch list surfaced in a recent civil lawsuit out of Virginia challenging the constitutionality of the no-fly list. The government disclosed that there were 1.5 million nominations to the watch list over the last five years. Weeks later, a government official explained that a “nomination” meant new names as well as changes or updates to existing names on the list, and the figure in the court document should not have been interpreted to mean that 1.5 million people had been added to the watch list in the last five years, as The Associated Press reported July 18.
In August 2013, there were more than 73,000 people affiliated with al-Qaida in Iraq on the terror watch list, according to a document marked “secret,” obtained by The Intercept. That al-Qaida affiliate represented the largest group of people associated with a known terrorist group on the watch list at the time.
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