DETROIT — A civil rights group filed a federal lawsuit Thursday challenging the placement of five Detroit-area Muslims on a national watch list of suspected terrorists and their associates.
The watch list violates due process, said Lena Masri, an attorney for the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and the lawsuit asks a U.S. District judge in Detroit to declare it unconstitutional.
The lawsuit also wants the government to notify people going on the watch list and give them a chance to contest the designation.
“Persons placed on the federal watch list have no means of removing themselves or challenging the basis for their inclusion,” the lawsuit said. “Indeed, people on the federal watch lists only learn of their placement when they feel the web of consequences burdening their lives and aspirations, and they never learn why.”
The National Counterterrorism Center says 1.1 million people were in the watch list database at the end of 2013. Online publication The Intercept reported earlier this month that it obtained a secret 2013 government document and found Dearborn was second behind New York City in the number of listed names. The Detroit area, including Dearborn, is home to about 150,000 Muslims.
Masri said the list disproportionately targets American Muslims.
The lawsuit names the following as defendants: U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, FBI Director James Comey, Homeland Security Director Jeh Johnson and Terrorist Screening Center Director Timothy Healy. Yaseen Kadura, Naji Abduljaber, Abdus Samad Tootla, Alaa Saade and Ahmed Saleh Abusaleh are named as plaintiffs.
The government has 60 days to respond to the lawsuit after being served, according to Masri. The Associated Press left a phone message Thursday for the Detroit U.S. attorney’s office seeking comment.
The government doesn’t need evidence of a terrorism link to place someone in the database, which feeds to smaller lists that restrict travel.