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5 Metro Detroit Muslims sue the federal government over placement on terror watchlist

A Muslim civil rights group is suing the federal government on behalf of five Michigan plaintiffs who are challenging their placement on the government’s “terror watchlist.”

The Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations filed the suit in Detroit federal court Thursday, “challenging the government’s broad and unchecked power…to secretly designate American Muslims to be added onto the terror watchlist without due process,” said CAIR-Michigan attorney Lena Masri.

Masri is representing the five Detroit area American Muslims who say they were placed on the centralized list of all “known and suspected terrorists” in the US.

Components of that larger database include the “no-fly list” and “selectee list” mandating secondary screening and detention at airports.

Masri said her clients weren’t given any notice about being put on the watchlist, violating their right to due process. “And they have not been given any recourse or legal mechanism to contest their designation,” she added.

The lawsuit asks the court to provide that kind of recourse—and to declare the watchlist itself unconstitutional.

“The government is only held to the vague standard of reasonable suspicion to add somebody to the watchlist. The designations are not based on any factual or concrete evidence,” said Masri, adding that the list contains a “high and disproportionate” number of Muslims.

A disproportionate number also appear to be from Michigan.

Recently-leaked government documents detailing the terror watchlist named suburban Dearborn as a “hotspot” with the second-largest number of suspected terrorists of any city nationwide—behind only New York City. 

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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