Department of Homeland Security gave Muslim group first ever security tour of major airport

by WorldTribune Staff, August 8, 2016

The Obama administration granted a group of Somali Muslims unprecedented behind-the-scenes access to a major U.S. airport, a report said.

According to government records obtained by Judicial Watch, the Somali group “complained to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson about feeling harassed and profiled” and that Johnson had a “sympathetic ear” for their concerns.

Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport
Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport

The special security tours, not offered to any other group, occurred at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, which processes more than 35 million passengers annually and nearly 200,000 metric tons of freight.

Minneapolis-St. Paul has a large Somali Muslim community and Somalia “is a terrorist nation that’s largely controlled by the extremist group Al Shabaab,” the report said.

Three Somali-Americans from Minneapolis were convicted in June by a federal jury of conspiring to commit murder in Syria on behalf of the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and to provide material support to the designated foreign terrorist organization.

In 2013, a report said the Al Qaida affiliate that terrorized a Kenyan shopping center and murdered scores of innocent people included Somalis from Minnesota.

“The FBI and Congress have launched probes into the radicalization of the Somali American community in Minnesota,” the report said.

“Al Shabaab recruits young men in local mosques and ships them off to train and fight in Somalia. Last fall the area’s largest newspaper published a story confirming that Minnesota leads the nation in the number of people who have left or sought to leave the country to fight with terrorists aligned with ISIL.”

Related: Express check-in? DHS intel worker arrested for bringing loaded handgun to the office, June 11, 2016

An attorney who attended the June trial of the convicted Somali-Minnesotans said that “the broader terrorist ring consists of young first-or-second-generation Somali-Americans who freely took advantage of educational and employment opportunities in the Twin Cities. Their social lives centered on local mosques, they supplemented their education with Islamic studies, are observant Muslims and want to live under the caliphate declared by ISIL.

“They yearned to wage jihad and to die as Islamic martyrs,” the attorney said, adding that “they hate the U.S.”

Homeland Security on at least two occasions – Dec. 18, 2014 and Feb. 18, 2015 – “granted the unprecedented excursions” of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport’s sterile and secure areas, according to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) records obtained by Judicial Watch.

The DHS agency that conducted the tours, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), provided the Muslim participants with “an in-depth, on-site tour and discussion of CBP’s airport, including both inbound and outbound passenger processing,” the TSA files state.

Besides multiple roundtable meetings between CBP and Somali community leaders including imams, the records show that a luncheon and “cultural exchange and educational brief” also took place between December 2014 and February 2015 so that attendees could ask about the agency’s “specific practices” at the airport.

The TSA’s “Somali liaison officer” in Minneapolis, Andrew Rhoades, told Judicial Watch that the special airport tours were organized for Somali Muslims after they complained to Johnson that they felt “harassed and profiled” by CBP at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport. The DHS secretary had “a sympathetic ear to that,” Rhoades said, adding that no other group has been granted such airport access by DHS.

“Now, I will say we’ve never done that, or we don’t do that, to let’s say the Hmong community living here in Minneapolis, uh, the Christian community, the Catholic community, the Irish… whatever you want to call it. This has been the only one,” Rhoades said.