SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – More than 60 people testified to being profiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation or harassed by San Francisco International airport security at a Sept. 23 hearing before the San Francisco Human Rights Commission.
At the historic meeting — the first-ever such hearing in the U.S., according to the HRC — the nine-member commission heard from leaders of several civil rights organizations, along with testimony from several Muslim– and Sikh-Americans.
“Islamophobia has hit a fever pitch in the U.S. Arabs and Muslims are facing consistent FBI interrogations in their homes, places of worship and employment, which potentially violate all Fourth Amendment rights,” said commissioner Jamal Dajani who officiated the three-and-a-half hour meeting at San Francisco City Hall.
Earlier in the day, India-West met with FBI agents Joseph Schadler and Pete Lee at the agency’s offices in San Francisco. Schadler, who had requested the meeting following an earlier India-West story about a Pakistani couple who were handcuffed and removed from a flight at San Francisco airport following an anonymou s hoax terrorist threat, flatly denied that the FBI racially profiles Muslim Americans.
Race or religious beliefs alone cannot be the basis for initiating surveillance or an investigation, said Schadler.
On July 28, the FBI made the astonishing revelation that, according to its operating guidelines, the agency needs no suspicion of wrongdoing before it launches an investigation.
“No particular factual predication is required” for the initiation of a preliminary investigation, according to the guidelines, which are available in a redacted version on the agency’s Web site (I-W, Aug. 28).
But Schadler told India-West that there must at least be an allegation before an investigation is initiated.
“You can’t just go out and look at people randomly,” asserted Katherine Russell, FBI legal counsel who was also present at the meeting.
All credible allegations are investigated and an investigation can be opened based solely upon an allegation, reiterated Schadler.
The FBI will go into a mosque or other places of worship to gather information about a suspect, he said, adding that if an informant is used, the credibility of the informer is always considered. Muslim activists have accused the agency of fomenting fear and suspicion in the community by placing informants in mosques.
At the HRC hearing, Michel Shehadeh, executive director of the Arab American Film Festival, testified that one nightmarish evening 22 years ago he was arrested by police brandishing weapons in front of his three-year-old son. Shehadeh was jailed for three weeks for allegedly raising funds for Palestinian terrorist organizations. Upon his release, immigration authorities began a 20-year process to have him deported.
The Board of Immigration Appeals finally dropped the case against Shehadeh two years ago. Judge Bruce Einhorn issued a ruling denouncing the lengthy prosecution as “an embarrassment to the rule of law,” reported The New York Times.
Julia Mass, staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, testified that the FBI’s operating guidelines — known as DIOG — have vastly expanded the agency’s surveillance and investigative technique by requiring no factual basis to initiate either action.
“The FBI’s McCarthyite tactics have got much worse since 2008,” said Mass, explaining that DIOG was ushered in as former president George Bush was leaving office.
“There is no oversight, which creates incredible room for abuse,” she said, adding that the FBI essentially had an open door to racially profile communities it considers suspicious.Reference:: Sikh Philosophy Network http://www.sikhphilosophy.net/united-states/32443-muslims-sikhs-testify-harassment-feds-sfo.html
Stanford Law Fellow Shirin Sinnar testified that border officials routinely racially and religiously profile people as they return to the U.S.
“The worst treatment is at SFO,” said Sinnar.
In 2008, the Sikh Coalition rated SFO as the worst airport in the country for Sikh travelers, who are routinely singled out for secondary screenings.
Eight-year-old Josh Singh – pronounced Jyosh – of Palo Alto, Calif., testified that he is always pulled out for additional screening when he flies. “Can you tell me why I am the only kid who this happens to,” queried the young Singh, who wears a small turban.
His father, J.J. Singh, visibly choked up when describing the ordeal of his 17-year-old son who frequently flies around the country to compete on his high school debate team. Both father and son are routinely pulled out for additional screening, about 99 percent of the time at SFO.Reference:: Sikh Philosophy Network http://www.sikhphilosophy.net/showthread.php?t=32443
“I do not want my kids to grow up in a country that discriminates against them,” said Singh.
Several witnesses testified that the FBI had allegedly threatened to stop their process for naturalization until they agreed to become informants. http://www.indiawest.com/readmore.aspx?id=2537&sid=1