FBI in Detroit Profiles Muslims and Arabs in Spite of 12 Whites Engaged in Terrorism

As part of a new ACLU project to FOIA and map all the racial profiling the FBI has been doing, it liberated a Detroit FBI document describing its efforts to set up a “Domain Management” assessment (which seems to be a nice euphemism for racial profiling). It describes what it claims is the distinct counterterrorism threats in Michigan.

There are more than forty groups designated as terrorist organizations by the US State Department. Many of these groups originate in the Middle-East and Southeast Asia. Many of these groups also use an extreme and violent interpretation of the Muslim faith as justification for their activities. Because Michigan has large Middle-Eastern and Muslim population, it is prime territory for attempted radicalization and recruitment by these terrorist groups. Additionally, Sunni terrorist groups always pose a threat of attack on U.S. soil since it is the stated purpose of many of these groups. The Detroit Division Domain Team seeks to open a Type IV Domain Assessment for the purpose of collecting information and evaluating the threat posed by international terrorist groups conducting recruitment, radicalization, fund-raising, or even violent terrorist acts within the state of Michigan.

Of course, MI is not just home to a lot of Arab-Americans and Muslims. It’s also home to a bunch of right wing militias and all-around nutjobs. So using racial profiling to find terrorists–the FBI admittedly uses State’s list of international terrorists, which of course excludes domestic right wing terrorist groups–would miss the white terrorists we have in MI.

To give you an idea of what that would miss, I checked out all the press releases the Detroit FBI Office and US Attorney’s Office has put out since this document was written on July 6, 2009 to see what kind of crimes related to or possibly related to terrorism we’ve had in the state. Here’s what it showed.

  • October 28, 2009: 11 members of “Ummah” arrested, Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah killed. (Ultimately the FBI backed off their claim these folks had any tie to terrorism.)
  • October 29, 2009: Mujahid Carswell (AKA Mujahid Abdullah) taken into custody by Canada’s RCMP for immigration violations.
  • October 31, 2009: Mohammad Alsahli (aka Muhammad Palestine) and Yassir Ali Khan taken into custody by Canada’s RCMP for immigration violations.
  • December 25, 2009: The Undie-Bomber tried to bring down a plane.
  • January 22, 2010: Syrian Mohamad Mustapha Ali Masfaka lied to Customs and Border Patrol agents about his ties to Holy Land Foundation; he was later convicted.
  • March 29, 2010: Nine white members of the Hutaree militia arrested for seditious plot to overthrow the government.
  • June 7, 2010: A 73-year old white man, Russell Hesch, and his son sent a letter to Bart Stupak threatening to paint the Mackinac Bridge with his blood in retaliation for voting for Obama’s health insurance reform.
  • April 21, 2011: A 42-year old white schizophrenic from the Upper Peninsula, Gary John Mikulich, planted a bomb outside the Federal Building.
  • August 3, 2011: Someone left a Molotov cocktail outside an abortion clinic in Detroit.
  • September 12, 2011: A Frontier Airlines flight was diverted because two men of Indian descent and a Saudi-Jewish woman, Shoshana Hebshi, had made a passenger suspicious.
  • September 23, 2011: A white St. Joseph man, Reed Berry, was arrested for ramming an FBI surveillance car; the agents were investigating him for alleged ties to a Foreign Terrorist Organization. (This was no in DOJ press releases, but since he was accused to foreign terrorist ties, this clearly fits.)
  • September 26, 2011: A white 64-year old man, John Lechner, arrested for having as much explosives as took down the Oklahoma City Murrah Federal building and talking about mercenaries. (Note, this was not in any FBI or DOJ press releases I could find.)

So while the FBI has been profiling Muslims (including, arguably, the African-American mosque the FBI labels the “Ummah”; while Shoshana Hebshi and the two Indian men were clearly profiled on 9/11, this was not by the FBI), 13 white people in Michigan have been alleged to engage in some kind of terrorism: The 9 members of the Hutaree, Russell Hesch threatening Stupak’s life, Gary Mikulich making a crazed bomb attack on the Federal building, John Lechner’s stash of 4000 pounds of explosives, plus the ties to a foreign terrorist organization the FBI alleges Reed Berry has (his attorney says they were surveilling Berry for protected speech). And that’s assuming the still unsolved clinic bomber was not white.

Not only will profiling result in the harassment of people like Hebshi and the extreme over-reaction of the FBI with Luqman.

But in MI, it also risks missing what–setting aside Luqman’s mosque–has actually been the majority of terrorists and alleged terrorists in recent years. That’s not just dumb. It’s dangerous.

Update: Added Lechner–h/t Lakeeffectsnow.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

21 replies
  1. BoxTurtle says:

    None of the whites you mentioned were charged with terrorism, no matter how terroristic their plots.

    The GOP would go to the mat to prevent ANY antiabortion group from being labeled terrorist and you can bet they’ve said that to the FBI. The FBI knows Obama won’t back them, since it offends the GOPers whose votes Obama desperately wants.

    if you don’t count 911, I think there have been more deaths by antiabortion violence than muslem violence.

    Boxturtle (Heck, I think there are more high school shooting death than Muslim inspired deaths)

  2. emptywheel says:

    @BoxTurtle: Actually, the Hutaree WERE charged w/WMD. They’re one of just two white terrorist groups I know that have been.

    That said, it was pretty disgusting how they crafted Hesch’s plea bargain such that he wouldn’t lose his pension.

  3. bmaz says:

    Oh, hello, is there anybody in here??

    Hi there, my name is bmaz. Been a little scarce for a couple of days, but Marcy just reminded me how much not just Emptywheel denizens, but the entire world, is clamoring for this here blog to go ALL TEBOW, ALL THE TIME!

    Your wish, my fine friends, is my command. Very special BABY JESUS Trash is a coming!

  4. lakeeffectsnow says:

    where does this guy fit in your list in the post ??

    Federal authorities say a Michigan man bought and hid more than 4,000 pounds of explosives with enough potential firepower to equal the Oklahoma City bombing and told an undercover informant that “when the government takes over, we will be mercenaries.”

    John Francis Lechner, 64, was arrested last week on a charge of possessing explosives while facing other charges and ordered held following a US District Court hearing. His attorney said Lechner, a builder and farmer from Sault Ste. Marie in the Upper Peninsula, obtained the materials years ago for construction projects.

    http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gvtTEBfzQbexD_iZ1q5Iz3FVXhRA?docId=6e2d7417aae54f3fae793ecc998378ca

  5. emptywheel says:

    @lakeeffectsnow: Thanks. I’ve added him–I forgot about him.

    I think West and Northern MI kind of falls through the cracks on FBI news. Or maybe they just don’t like to draw attention to the white terrorists around.

  6. orionATL says:

    why, violence as as american as apple pie. we just rarely label it “terrorism”.

    recently i ran across this amazing factoid while reasing up on an unrelated matter at wikipedia:

    “…At that time [mid-1989] pipe bombs were a common occurrence (over 200 each year) in San Diego County and a largely homegrown threat according to the local sheriff’s department…”

    the larger context of this quote is:

    “…Nine months after the downing of Iran Air Flight 655, on March 10, 1989, Rogers’ wife Sharon escaped with her life when a pipe bomb attached to her minivan exploded, while she was driving.[5] The van was recorded in the name of Will Rogers III, and many people jumped to a conclusion and suspected that terrorism was involved. Five months later, the Associated Press reported that the most likely suspect had a personal vendetta against Capt. Rogers and that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had ruled out terrorist activity.[15] At that time pipe bombs were a common occurrence (over 200 each year) in San Diego County and a largely homegrown threat according to the local sheriff’s department.[16] As of 2007, the bombing of Rogers’ van remains an unsolved case…”

  7. emptywheel says:

    @orionATL: I left out gangs from this, though the only exciting gang bust was a biker gang.

    SD had crystal meth pretty significantly by the 1980s. So I’m guessing those pipe bombs weren’t all one-offs.

  8. orionATL says:

    @emptywheel:

    so you’ve heard of this? i had not an inkling and was astonished when i read it.

    i understand the context now; it’s like the d.c. woundings and murders of the ’80s.

    god what carnage that was; parents were scared to death for their kids.

  9. orionATL says:

    this is O.T., but considering the amount of thought this weblog has put into the human aspect of the mortgage crisis, i think it belongs here:

    http://www.rwjf.org/humancapital/product.jsp?id=72972&cid=XEM_205596

    the topic, as you will see if you go there, is the effect on physical and mental health of losing one’s home to foreclosure.

    the study suggests to me that a phenomenon as wide-spread as mortgage foreclosure can have a very large effect on the health of the nation – on, e.g., citizens like our my neighbor, a woman in her 50’s, who lost her husband to cancer, is epileptic, and has had to scrap for work recently. she won’t say, and we won’t ask, but we fear she is in the process of losing her home.

    fyi, the robert wood johnson foundation is a major funder of public health studies in the u.s. :

    http://www.rwjf.org/

  10. P J Evans says:

    @orionATL:
    Some friends of mine had an interesting weekend a couple of years back, when someone threw a pipe bomb (fortunately, it was a dud) into the house next door. Something to do with one of the neighbors who worked at a halfway house, and gang members. The neighbors moved out, and the house hasn’t had long-term residents since.
    It should count as terrorism, but I doubt that the LAPD told the FBI about it.

  11. orionATL says:

    @P J Evans:

    that’s an interesting story to me.

    interesting because i think we either need to begin using another word than “terrorism” to describe persistent violence

    or we need to include violence of the sort you describe as “terrorism”.

    “terrorism” right now is apparently defined by the fbi as any effort by arabs to exact revenge on the u.s. for one or another of our middle east interventions ( israelis, iraquis, iranians, afghanis).

    but the situation you describe, the san diego or d.c. drug wars, the murder of abortion doctors and attacks on abortion clinics, the persistent pistol attacks on police, judges, and virtually any elected official, not to forget bombs or bomb threats to the same,

    really do constitute a pistol/firearms/explosives terrorism of public officials.

    the fbi seems to define tertorism very narrowly and conveniently so thatn it does not incurr the wrath of any significant power group in the congress – a power group that might threaten some of its funding.

    all part of the truely “fundamental” corruption existing today in d.c.

  12. rosalind says:

    OT-ish:

    The heir to the Saudi throne, Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdel Aziz, has died after an illness, state TV said Saturday. He was 85 years old…The report did not say where outside the kingdom he died or elaborate on Sultan’s illness, but he had been in the United States for medical treatment since June.

  13. emptywheel says:

    @orionATL: I agree with you, sort of.

    But the way we’re most likely to get there is in the current push to name drug cartels (and the Yakuza and a few other mobs) transnational crime organizations, which will in turn lead to a virtual war with Mexico. But at the same time, it’ll lead to the same profiling of Muslims we see here with Latinos. Then, only after there’s another McVeigh attack will we treat white terrorists like we do brown ones. After which it’ll be too late to use to dawning realization among whites how oppressive this is to reverse the data squeeze.

  14. joberly says:

    Thanks, EW, for this story and the links to the ACLU FOIA-mapping project. I followed the link to the Minnesota documents and found a three-page memo from the FBI Records Supervisor to the Minnesota ACLU staffer. The memo reported finding 298 pages of relevant material and also promised releasing all 298 pages, but so far, ACLU has not posted any of the pages.

    Why so much from Minnesota? The Minneapolis FBI Office led the “Operation Rhino” investigation of the Somali-based al-Shabaab group. The investigation looked at al-Shabaab’s recruiting of young men from Minneapolis to fight in Somalia. The US Attorney for Minnesota this week just won a conviction of two US citizens this week for aiding al-Shabaab. The two women were indicted for aiding al-Shabaab after the former Secretary of State in February 2008 placed the group on the “Foreign Terrorist” list. The defendants just convicted in Minneapolis collected about $8,600 door-to-door in Minneapolis to send to Somalia. They are facing 15 years in the federal penitentiary.

    Checking the Minneapolis FBI press releases on indictments, convictions, and sentencing of non-Somalis for offenses comparable to the Michigan “all-around nut-jobs,” I found one Twin Cities guy indicted, who pled guilty to using his neighbor’s wi-fi and setting up a false gmail account which he used to threaten Vice President Biden with death “for spending money you don’t have…” That guy got 18 years in federal prison, under a federal law governing threats against the president and the line of succession.

    The other Minnesota nut-job in-the-news is a flight attendant who pleaded guilty last month to setting ablaze the bathroom aboard a flight back in 2008 from Minneapolis to Saskatchewan, because according to the FBI news release, “he was mad at the airline for making him work on that route.” He’s getting a mandatory 20 years.

  15. rosalind says:

    @bmaz:

    Your wish, my fine friends, is my command. Very special BABY JESUS Trash is a coming!

    posted yesterday at 3:24pm. my best guess is while writing his post bmaz was accidentally raptured and is currently re-writing his column to feature REAL JESUS and will be sending it down via celestial wifi shortly.

    or i’m just impatient for some bright shiny trash to deflect from the world’s woes.

  16. emptywheel says:

    @rosalind: Hmm. I’m thinking he got so excited for Baby Jesus he popped some holy wine (alternately, tequila) and forgot to the write the post.

  17. Bob Schacht says:

    @emptywheel: The House of Saud has grown so large that they’ll be forming political parties sometime soon. Up to now, however, the parties have been formed chiefly (1) according to which wife of Ibn Saud you descend from, (2) which son of that wife you descend from. But as the lines of descent grow longer, other considerations are bound to surface.

    Bob in AZ

  18. Jim White says:

    Trying to help, I just tweeted this:

    Did @bmaz accidentally get raptured writing his Baby Jesus Tebow trash talk post? #MustHaveTebowTrash h/t Rosalind

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