TSA whistleblower claims orders were to profile Somali imams

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Minnesota is home to one in three Somalis in the US, according to MPR News, and Somali leaders in the Twin Cities claim that members of their community are subject to higher scrutiny and harassment from TSA agents.

In an effort to address these concerns, Andrew Rhoades, an assistant federal security director for the TSA, met with Somali imams and others in the local Somali community. Rhoades’s good intentions, however, were being undermined by his superiors.

Testifying at Wednesday’s House oversight committee hearing, Rhoades said his supervisors had ulterior motives for the meetings.

“Recently I was asked to profile Somali imams and community members visiting my office,” Rhoades said, adding, “I will not do this,” City Pages reported.

Rhoades told legislators that his TSA supervisors wanted to screen Somali-Americans through databases to check for terrorist ties, the Star Tribune reported. The problem with this, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota) wrote in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, is that Somalis would be screened for terrorist connections “by the same office designed to address their complaints.”

Rhoades went on to describe a toxic work climate fostered by the TSA, a “culture of misconduct, retaliation, lack of trust, cover-ups, and the refusal to hold its senior leaders accountable for poor judgment and malfeasance.”

His testimony described a “punitive” system of punishing employees through transfers and demotions. In one case, Rhoades claims that a female staffer was transferred after filing a sexual harassment complaint against a co-worker. When a male employee refused to cover up the harassment, he was allegedly demoted by two positions.

Rhoades himself was reassigned after being suspected of leaking information to a news station. He also claims that after meeting an imam at a mosque, a supervisor accused him of “going native.”

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