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The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations is requesting an investigation of the TSA at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport after allegations of racial profiling. The announcement was made Monday afternoon at Abubakar Islamic Center.
Andrew Rhoades, an assistant federal security director for TSA at MSP Airport, has accused his agency of racial profiling at its headquarters near Mall of America. Rhoades is also TSA's liaison with the Somali community in the Twin Cities. He claims his boss, federal security director Cliff VanLeuven, asked him if he was "going native" after he met with community leaders at a local mosque.
Rhoades says another boss, deputy federal security director David McMahon, told him to check with an intelligence officer to see if Somali community members visiting TSA headquarters were on any watch list. In a job performance review of Rhoades obtained by the FOX 9 Investigators, McMahon writes, "Reminded the employee that with our current world affairs that we need to be mindful of those we interact with and advised that employee should check with the FIO (field intelligence officer) on potential visitors to determine if we want them in our office space or meet elsewhere…"
Rhoades says that's not a practice they conduct with anyone else and believes it is racial profiling.
According to Minneapolis architect Mohammed Lawal, the racial profiling at the airport goes beyond the TSA office. The frequent flyer says, since 9/11, he and his family have run into trouble at US customs.
"They took all of our passports that time, took us to a small room, we didn't have access to a bathroom we didn't have access to water and I thought the TSA agent was fairly assertive with how he handled me," he said. "They say your name appears to be a match or appears to have a flag but that comes after much debate and questioning about why why why."
Lawal was born in the US and has lived in Minneapolis for 30 years. He believes he is flagged because of his first name--Mohammed.
"It's embarrassing frankly," he said. "Embarrassing to be pulled aside, it's embarrassing to be singled out, it's embarrassing that my 11-year-old has to sit and be a part of that."
He is currently working with Homeland Security to get his name taken off any watch list, but he says it has been a lengthy and discouraging process.
"I would prefer that they just select every third seat so that everyone can experience what it feels like to go through additional security."
"The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) does not tolerate racial profiling. TSA takes allegations of racial profiling seriously. We are reviewing this complaint and will take appropriate action if there is evidence that any TSA employee acted inappropriately. However, it would be unfair and irresponsible to infer or conclude that profiling is a common TSA practice based upon a reported single interaction between one employee and his supervisor."
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