Muslim infant searched by airport security after being placed on terrorist watch list: advocacy group

The Council on American Islamic Relations is accusing the U.S. government of placing a 7-month-old baby on the terrorist watch list, which resulted in his diapers and baby bag being searched at an airport, the Detroit Free Press reports.

The baby, now 4 years old, was labeled as a known or suspected terrorist by the FBI on a federal watch list intended to screen potential terrorists, according to the paper. The child is one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed this week claiming that U.S. Muslims have been unfairly targeted.

Scared baby (Shutterstock)
“He was 7 months old when his boarding pass was first stamped with the ‘SSSS’ designation, indicating that he had been designated as a ‘known or suspected terrorist,’” the lawsuit reads. “While passing through airport security, he was subjected to extensive searches, pat-downs and chemical testing. Every item in his mother’s baby bag was searched, including every one of his diapers.”

The “SSSS” on boarding passes alerts security personnel of a suspected terrorist.

Another plaintiff in the case, Anas Elhady, 22, claims he is “is routinely referred to secondary inspection, handcuffed and detained by CBP [Customs and Border Protection] at land border crossings when he attempts to re-enter the United States from Canada.”

Last year, while trying to return to Detroit from vacation in Canada, Elhady claims he was thrown into a “small, freezing cold holding cell with bright lights” without his jacket and shoes, according to the lawsuit.”
He is routinely selected for “prolonged detention and questioning for approximately four to twelve hours each time. Moreover, he is routinely asked questions about his religious beliefs and practices, what sect of Islam he belongs to, what mosque he prays in, among other things.”

As a result of his detention in the cold cell last year, Elhady fell unconscious and had to be taken to a hospital after he began “shaking uncontrollably,” according to the Free Press.

A spokesman for the FBI told the paper he couldn’t’ comment on pending litigation or on who is on the list. But the agency defended the list on its website and said people are not targeted solely because of their religion.

“Generally, individuals are included in the Terrorist Screening Database when there is reasonable suspicion to believe that a person is a known or suspected terrorist,” the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center wrote. “Individuals must not be watch-listed based solely on race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, or First Amendment-protected activities such as free speech, the exercise or religion, freedom of the press, freedom of peaceful assembly, and petitioning the government for redress of grievances.”

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