Sunday, October 01, 2006


For years in Michigan we’ve had the Miss Dig program, a one-call service for homeowners to help protect accidentally striking gas lines or other buried utility lines when excavating in their yards. If you think you’d like to dig a nice hole and plant a fish pond, or lay a trench from the house to wire your garage, call Miss Dig first and the utility companies will come out and plant some flags in your lawn to indicate where the underground lines are running. Public service ads went up on buses and on TV with the slogan “Call Miss Dig.” The program has been a huge success, boasts being the first 24-hour call center in history, and is the only government program in the free world immune from criminal prosecution for using the female honorific, “Miss.”

Anyway, something similar to Miss Dig is now being attempted in Southeastern Michigan federal law enforcement, namely the “Call Mr. Dig” campaign. Only, instead of targeting homeowners getting ready to do some serious spadework, the program is aimed at federal law enforcement officials digging up information anywhere in the vicinity of Arab Americans. Ads advising feds to “Call Mr. Dig” have been plastered up in every interrogation room and donut shop for miles.

It works like this: If special agents have a hot lead on some possible terror-related activity that may involve a raid, an arrest, or a search of some suspicious organization in any way involving the Arab American community, the feds first have to call Mr. Dig to make sure the potential investigation or arrest is not going to make the Muslim community unhappy.

The agents simply show Mr. Dig all their evidence in advance, and then Mr. Dig will tell them whether or not it’s a good idea—not based on the evidence of suspicious activity, but based on the more important effect it will have on the feelings of the Arab community. So far, Mr. Dig has tended to respond to most calls with the “trust, don’t bust” approach to law enforcement, and invariably orders: “STOP DIGGING.”

The main administrator of the Mr. Dig program (also known as the BRIDGES program). is the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, (ADC). The man behind the Mr. Dig persona is the Regional Director of the Michigan ADC, Imad Hamad, though sometimes ADC President, Hon. Mary Rose Oakar can handle calls.

She did so recently when she chided the FBI for raiding the highly suspicious Life for Relief and Development Charity in Southfield, without first calling Mr. Dig. Even after the ADC had to admit a premature media claim was wrong that the charity had been “cleared” of all wrongdoing, it still felt a sense of injury that the FBI raided the organization at all. According to an ADC press release in this Sunday's Dearborn Press & Guide, the ADC held a conference call with the FBI demanding a full accounting of an ongoing FBI investigation of suspected illegal activity at the Life and Relief Charity.

President Oakar said the conference call also was used to complain to the FBI that it should have held a meeting with the ADC first to review the evidence and discuss the timing of its raid, just before Ramadan, and reiterated that:

“the FBI should hold such meetings ahead of any raids in order to assure the communities of the FBI’s intent and provide a venue for the communities to express their concerns.”

In other words, Judge Oakar feels quite reasonably that criminal investigation and arrest decisions deserve at least as much public notice, discussion, and input as the decision to grant a variance to expand a dry-cleaners parking lot. And to think that not so long ago the feds used to think that a town hall meeting to air people’s “concerns” about an upcoming surprise arrest might act as a warning to the suspect—who then might get away or destroy incriminating evidence.

But since the BRIDGES program, the local FBI are getting very good at walking on a lead. (In fairness, they did actually go ahead with the raid on the charity. But the real news in this story isn't that the ADC made one more bullying phone call demanding what they aren't entitled to--they're always demanding what they aren't entitled to--but that the FBI didn't hang up on them. I'll bet if I called demanding more concern for my feelings they'd hang up on me.)

And that's what ADC's call was all about this time--getting better obedience from the feds next time.

So we should just be thankful we now have the “Call Mr. Dig/BRIDGES” program in place. Even if it causes vital terrorism investigations to grind to a halt and lets bad guys operate unmolested, you can rest assured no effort is being spared towards building trust between the federal government and the Muslim community.

And isn't that worth much more to you than national security?

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