CAIR resents FBI’s release of suspicious ferry passengers

Anyone who knows these men or their whereabouts are asked to call the FBI at (206) 622-0460:

Two men wanted by FBI for questioning

The FBI says it does not know their names, ethnicity, place of origin, or even their religion; they just acted suspiciously and a ferry boat captain took their photographs:

10:29 PM PDT on Monday, August 20, 2007
By CHRIS INGALLS / KING 5 News (Seattle)

SEATTLE – The FBI is asking for the public’s help to identify two men who have been seen acting suspiciously aboard Washington State ferries recently. The FBI released a bulletin late Monday, including photographs of the two men. One of the photos shows the men side-by-side and the other is a solo shot of one of them. They were snapped by a ferry employee who thought the pair acted suspiciously. “They had more than the average interest in the working parts of the ferry, the layout of the ferry, the size of it — more than you would see in normal passenger,” said FBI spokesperson Robbie Burroughs.

Despite the FBI’s claim to know little about the pair, the release of their photos has upset some in the Puget Sound area who self-identified themselves based upon their ethnicity or affiliation:

Dozens of Muslims and Arabs have complained to community leaders about the photographs. The fallout has led to a meeting planned today between Muslim- and Arab-American community leaders and law-enforcement officials.

“We need to get some type of apology from them and figure out how to get back to where we were,” said Rita Zawaideh, head of the Arab-American Community Coalition.

Community leaders also expect to raise questions about another recent incident. On Aug. 12, leaders say half a dozen men of South Asian and Middle Eastern descent were stopped and questioned for up to six hours as they left a ferry in Seattle following a trip to the Olympic Peninsula. Those men contacted Zawaideh to report the incident as profiling.

David Gomez, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI’s Seattle office, said he was aware of an incident in which five or six ferry passengers were questioned, but wasn’t clear whether it was the same one.

Zawaideh said she met with FBI officials about the August incident three days before the agency released the photos of the two men. But the FBI didn’t bring up that subject.

“Why not ask us then and we would have had a way to ask people in the community,” she said.

Gomez said the agency needs to address certain sensitive issues, but “people in those communities have to get over this sensitivity toward feeling victimized.”

Many passengers have been stopped and questioned recently, as the ferry system has stepped up security once the FBI concluded the men might be watching the system. The stops are based on activities, not skin color, Gomez said.

Two days ago, a Seattle Times photographer, who is white, was stopped and questioned after taking photographs near the Mukilteo ferry terminal.

The FBI didn’t take the photos of the two men to the Arab- and Muslim-American community because the agency doesn’t know if the men are Middle Eastern, Gomez added.

“That seems potentially prejudicial to me, and in some ways worse than simply putting [the photos] out the way we did,” Gomez said. “It is not us saying these guys look Middle Eastern.”

Zawaideh countered: “They’re not saying these men are Arabs, but insinuating they are.”

Both Zawaideh and S. Arsalan Bukhari, president of the Seattle chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), say their organizations have been receiving more reports lately involving allegations of discrimination.

The one on the right looks a lot like someone I know yet I also know that he has never been in the Seattle area. By the way, he is American born, of Irish and Italian desent, and Catholic. One should not assume too much from a photograph. Perhaps people ought to judge others based upon their actions don’t you think?

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