NJ mayor, Muslim group sue FBI over secret terror watch list
🔵FBI accused of unfairly targeting Muslims in ‘secret watchlist’
🔵Mayor dealt with 2 years of travel delays
🔵 After clearing list, mayor was rejected for White House visit
A longtime mayor in North Jersey has joined a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice, urging the end of a 20-year watchlist largely targeting Muslims, many of them U.S. citizens.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations on Monday held a news conference, anchored by Prospect Park Mayor Mohamed Khairullah.
In May, Khairullah was invited to attend a White House Eid celebration but then turned away after failing to obtain security clearance.
NJ mayor: 'This watch list has a ripple effect'
The Muslim mayor shared his family’s struggles with exhaustive screenings and searches and costly delays each time they flew between 2019 and 2021.
Finally, after a land border crossing back to the U.S. from Canada, where he was detained for roughly four hours of vetting, Khairullah said a supervisor told him “I think we fixed your problem.”
“No one has told us why I was on the watch list, no one has officially said that I am off the watch list,” Khairullah continued, “And the fact that we were refused access to the White House indicates that this watch list has a ripple effect.”
“Defendants create, maintain, administer, and use the watchlisting system without congressional approval and oversight, targeting Plaintiffs and thousands of other American Muslims in the shadowy corners of federal agency power,” according to the lawsuit filed by CAIR attorneys, on behalf of Khairullah and 11 other plaintiffs.
It also marks the 20th anniversary of the terrorism screening dataset, first created in the wake of the 2001 Sept. 11 attacks.
“When we go through an airport, we’re on pins and needles, because you don’t know what’s gonna happen,” the mayor said, noting that once while traveling to Texas after the death of his father, his family missed a connecting flight amid all the extra screenings and searches.
Their delays during that bereavement trip cost them roughly $6,000 out of pocket.
'The U.S. government needs to clear my name'
“It violates my constitutional right as an American to due process, because there are people out there who think I am a bad person — this was caused by the U.S. Government,” Khairullah said on Monday.
"The U.S. government needs to clear my name and the name of others who are being harassed and intimidated through airport and border crossings.”
“Plaintiffs are law-abiding Muslim American citizens, lawful permanent residents, and asylees. They work hard, pay their taxes, pursue their education, and care for their families," according to the suit filed in federal court in Massachusetts. "They have never been indicted, charged, or convicted of any terrorism-related offense.”
The national office of the FBI declined to comment on Monday, citing “ an effort to protect the integrity of pending litigation.”