Muslim Community Association of Ann Arbor et al. v. John Ashcroft and Robert Mueller: The First Challenge to The USA PATRIOT Act
DETROIT - As a United States citizen, I decided to join the ACLU lawsuit today because I care about what's happening to this country and to the Constitution.
I was born in Syria and came to the United States legally in 1987. I received a Masters in Engineering from the University of Missouri and a Ph.D. in Engineering from Oregon State University. I became a United States citizen in 1998. My wife Eiman is a citizen and so are my two daughters, who are 13 and 10, and my son, who is 7. I work as an engineer for a Fortune 100 company.
Like the others who have joined in this lawsuit today, my experience with intrusive government questioning and suspicion is direct and personal. And I believe the FBI has no right to investigate me or my fellow Arab and Muslim immigrants if we have done nothing wrong. But because of the secretive nature of the USA PATRIOT Act, I may never know that the government is looking through my medical history, or examining my children's school records, or asking the library for a list of the books that I've borrowed. And my doctors, my children's schoolteachers, and my local librarian are all prohibited by law from even telling me if the FBI has asked for records relating to my family or me.
I believe that I have been singled out for FBI attention because of my religion and country of origin, and because of my involvement in rallying local communities and civil right groups to support some of my friends who were imprisoned for minor immigration violations.
I have joined this lawsuit as a representative of the Muslim Community Association (MCA). In that capacity, I served for two years as a board member in the Michigan Islamic Academy, an MCA affiliate. I am also currently a board member of the Council on American-Islamic Relations of Michigan and a co-founder of Free Rabih Haddad Committee.
The FBI has contacted me twice in recent years. On the first occasion, which was approximately four years ago, I was on an employment-related consulting assignment in Indiana when the FBI came looking for me at my home in Michigan. When the FBI discovered that I was not at home, they left their cards with my wife, asking that I contact them on my return. I did so, but the agents never followed up after I told them that I did not feel comfortable speaking with them without an attorney present.
The FBI contacted me again sometime in March of this year. This time, the FBI said that they were not singling me out but rather were interviewing many people in the area to find out whether anyone had learned of conspiracies against the United States. I told them that I would have contacted them myself if I had learned of any such conspiracies.
However, because of the secrecy of the PATRIOT Act, I know that there is a good chance the FBI is now investigating me in ways that may never come to light. When I applied to become a citizen of this country I was required to study the Constitution and I know that this is not right. I feel I have an obligation to stand up for my country and I am not afraid to point out when my government is in the wrong.