Let me start by saying, I am disgusted that private corporations can place citizens on a terrorism watchlist. Mall of America is an example of the police state run amok. We have a Bill of Rights and private corporations are compilicit with authorites in trampling our rights.
"I'm not real sure I'd go to the mall. I mean they might accuse me of being a terrorist," says Dale Watson, who used to run the counterterrorism program at the FBI.
Bloomington, Minn. – On May 1, 2008, at 4:59 p.m., Brad Kleinerman entered the spooky world of homeland security.
As he shopped for a children’s watch inside the sprawling Mall of America, two security guards approached and began questioning him. Although he was not accused of wrongdoing, the guards filed a confidential report about Kleinerman that was forwarded to local police.
The reason: Guards thought he might pose a threat because they believed he had been looking at them in a suspicious way.
Najam Qureshi, owner of a kiosk that sold items from his native Pakistan, also had his own experience with authorities after his father left a cell phone on a table in the food court.
The consequence: An FBI agent showed up at the family’s home, asking if they knew anyone who might want to hurt the United States.
Mall of America officials say their security unit stops and questions on average up to 1,200 people each year. The interviews at the mall are part of a counterterrorism initiative that acts as the private eyes and ears of law enforcement authorities but has often ensnared innocent people, according to an investigation by the Center for Investigative Reporting and NPR.
The mall calls its counterterrorism unit RAM, or Risk Assessment and Mitigation. The unit is staffed with private security personnel.
In many cases, the written reports were filed without the knowledge of those interviewed by security. Several people named in the reports learned from journalists that their birth dates, race, names of employers and other personal information were compiled along with surveillance images.
There is no way for the public to know exactly how many suspicious activity reports from the Mall of America have ended up with local, state and federal authorities. CIR and NPR asked 29 law enforcement agencies under open government laws for reports on suspicious activities. Only the Bloomington Police Department and Minnesota’s state fusion center have turned over at least a portion of the paperwork.