The investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security said Thursday it has begun an inquiry into allegations of racial profiling at the Transportation Security Administration’s Minneapolis office.
The Office of the Inspector General’s probe comes at the behest of Andrew Rhoades, an assistant federal security director for TSA, who said he was pressured by his supervisor to profile Somali-American imams and community members visiting his Twin Cities office. Specifically, he was asked to provide the names so they could be screened through national security databases for terrorist ties.
Rhoades refused. “Those in the community of Minneapolis know I would never betray their trust by profiling them,” he said during testimony last week before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Rhoades also testified that his supervisor accused him of “going native” after he attended a meeting at a local mosque.
The inspector general’s office said Thursday it would conduct an investigation and then publish a report. A spokeswoman, Arlen Morales, said the investigation will likely take three to six months.
U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., and local Somali and Muslim leaders called on the Department of Homeland Security, of which TSA is a part, to launch such an investigation, which is concurrent with a probe by the department’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.
“We welcome this investigation and hope it results in the accountability and transparency needed to rebuild trust in the Minnesota TSA,” said Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, in a statement. “Racial and religious profiling is unconstitutional, immoral, ineffective and undermines the core principles of our democracy.”
Rhoades is an Army veteran who has worked at TSA for 14 years. His current job involves establishing relationships with East Africans in Minnesota.
Reached Thursday, Rhoades said in an e-mail, “I cannot build goodwill and demonstrate a genuine desire to help [Somali-Americans] if they are not wanted in my office.”