- The Washington Times - Monday, January 27, 2003

In an effort to detect potential terror links between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, the U.S. government plans to question as many as 50,000 Iraqis living in the United States, the chairman of the Iraqi-American Council told United Press International yesterday.
FBI agents are to fan out across the country and interview tens of thousands of Iraqi-Americans, most of whom have lived here since the 1991 Persian Gulf war, Aziz al-Taee said.
"We are concerned about the consequences," Mr. al-Taee told UPI.
Last month the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service launched a nationwide program to register, photograph and fingerprint more than 75,000 men 16 years and older from more than a dozen Arab and Islamic countries. This edict did not include those holding U.S. citizenship or permanent residence status.
According to the Iraqi-American Council, more than 300,000 Iraqis currently live in the United States, many of whom are American citizens or permanent residents, holding a "green card."
Mr. al-Taee said the government was more interested in those who immigrated here since the 1991 Gulf war.
"I would not be surprised," said a U.S. State Department official about the FBI investigation of Iraqis. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, he added: "Iraqis would know more about Iraq than anyone else."
"Our position about this is that Iraqi-Americans should not be ethnically targeted," Mr. al-Taee said. "We object to the fact that any ethnicity should be targeted."
Similar concerns about Arabs being singled out since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks have been voiced by other Arab-American and Muslim groups.
Mr. al-Taee told UPI his organization has contacted the Justice Department and voiced its concerns about a possible backlash.
"The average American does not know the difference between a pro- and an anti-Saddam Iraqi," Mr. al-Taee said. He said he feared overzealous law-enforcement agents might vent their frustrations on Iraqi-Americans, especially if war with Iraq were to break out.
Also yesterday, Newsweek magazine reported that the FBI has asked its 56 field offices to tally the number of mosques in their regions as part of a demographic study connected to efforts to track down terrorists.
FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III ordered each office to conduct the study, which will be used to set goals for counterterrorism investigations and secret national security wiretaps, the weekly said in a story for the edition due out today.
Agency officials defended the mosque count, telling Newsweek they have uncovered evidence some mosques serve as cover for terrorist activity.
"This is not politically correct, no question about it," one top FBI official told the magazine. "But it would be stupid not to look at this, given the number of criminal mosques that may be out there."

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