Judicial Watch, the Washington-based government watchdog, released documents with many details redacted that describe “community engagement tours,” including security briefings, in secured areas of at least three major U.S. airports – Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Columbus, Ohio — given to members of the Somali community, including individuals who were the subject of federal investigations, by Homeland Security Officials.
Tom Fitton, the president of Judicial Watch, said the fact that the feds blocked out information in the documents speaks to the recklessness of the airport tour program, which drew from a community heavily recruited by the Islamic State.
Records turned over to the watchdog also show that three of the invitees had had investigations against them, which had since been closed, and another invitee had an active investigation pending.
According to the documents delivered to Judicial Watch, the briefings provided to the Somali groups were so sensitive that in 14 instances the agency redacted portions of the records under FOIA exemption (B)(7)(e), the law-enforcement “risk circumvention” exemption, which reads: “Exemption 7(E) of the Freedom of Information Act affords protection to all law enforcement information that would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions, or would disclose guidelines for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions if such disclosure could reasonably be expected to risk circumvention of the law.”
“Logically, information that is too sensitive to provide to Judicial Watch and the public should not have been given to a ‘community engagement tour,” Fitton said.
“The U.S. government has been aware for years that Minnesota is a hotbed of Somali terrorist-cell activity. The behind-the-scenes tours and security briefings of the Minneapolis airport very well could have created a threat to public safety,” he said.
The material that was withheld from Judicial Watch included a section entitled: “TSA Overview — Processing [Redacted].” The invitees were provided briefings of the Global Entry system, the Automated Passport Control system, secondary screening procedures, baggage-screening procedures, and given tours of the holding cells and interview rooms.
The records came in response to a May 2016 Freedom of Information Act request, which sought records, documents, and communications regarding a Feb. 18 “Community Engagement Tour” in Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport.
Mohamed Farah is one of the “Minnesota men” charged with seeking to join ISIS. His trial is set for the second week of May before Judge Micheal Davis. Imam and law school graduate Hassan Mohamud is a member of Farah’s defense team. Judge Davis has set a hearing on the possible disqualification of Mohamud from Farah’s defense team for preaching jihad. I wrote about the hearing in “Jihad on the defense team.”
In its article on the matter, the Star Tribune mentions in passing: “Mohamud was uninvited from a behind-the-scenes security tour with about 50 imams and other members of the Muslim community at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.”
Eight senior ranking Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection officials were tasked with accompanying and briefing the Somalis on the Feb. 18, Minneapolis airport tour, including the Minneapolis-area port director, the assistant port director, the watch commander; and from the Transportation Security Administration, the local federal security director and deputy. A Homeland Security Department civil liberties senior policy adviser was also flown in from Washington.
In addition to the tours at the three airports, the federal officials encouraged the Somalis to apply for jobs with federal law enforcement and security agencies.