Press Releases

CAIR Calls on Amtrak, TSA to Abandon Illegal Expansion of Watchlist, Promises Lawsuit if Expansion Occurs

(WASHINGTON, DC, 4/7/2022) – The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today called on Amtrak and the TSA to abandon an illegal expansion of a secret government watchlist — which has been repeatedly challenged by CAIR and other civil rights organizations — to screen passengers.  

CAIR is promising a lawsuit if the expansion goes forward. 

An in-depth report by the National Investigative Unit of Hearst Television revealed that Amtrak has asked, and TSA has agreed, to screen passengers against the terrorist watchlist — a list of more than a million innocent people — almost all of whom are Muslim. The program is part of the Amtrak Rail Passenger Threat Assessment and would compare personal passenger information from Amtrak – which may later include a traveler’s social media profiles – to the government’s terrorist screening database. 

EXCLUSIVE: Amtrak asks TSA to start screening rail passengers against terrorist watchlist for first time

In a statement, CAIR Senior Litigation Attorney Gadeir Abbas said: 

“TSA’s secret watchlist has terrorized the Muslim community since it emerged almost two decades ago. Rather than a program aimed at keeping us safe, the federal government uses the watchlist to relentlessly extract information from the Muslim community, recruit informants and make their watchlist even bigger.  

“These watchlists will bring to train stations the illegal interrogations, detentions and warrantless searches of travelers’ phones and laptops that Muslims are subjected to at airports throughout the country.” 

“It is a startling development, which CAIR stands ready to challenge in court if it is not abandoned.” 

ABC News recently published an investigative report on the watchlist. 

Video: ABC News Interviews CAIR’s Gadeir Abbas About FBI Watchlist that Snares 1.5 Million People  

Prior expansions of the watchlist have directed armed federal air marshals to follow innocent people around at the airport, keeping track of what they eat, whether they fall asleep, and how they use their phones and laptops. 

SEE: TSA’s ‘Quiet Skies’ Program Tracks, Observes Travelers In The Air

In February, CAIR announced an American Muslim’s lawsuit against U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and its agents at Dulles International Airport for repeatedly seizing his electronic devices.  


The federal government’s watchlisting system is based on secret statuses assigned to more than one million people. The federal government disseminates those statuses to private companies, hospitals, universities, every law enforcement agency in the US, and even to foreign governments. 

SEE: Watchlist Disseminated to 1,400 Private entities

For some people, the secret status assigned to them means that, each time they travel overseas, federal agents will be waiting to seize their electronic devices on their return to the United States. The officials that oversee the watchlisting system use the information seized to assign more people the secret list. 

CAIR’s mission is to protect civil rights, enhance understanding of Islam, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.            

La misión de CAIR es proteger las libertades civiles, mejorar la comprensión del Islam, promover la justicia, y empoderar a los musulmanes en los Estados Unidos.           

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CONTACT: CAIR Senior Litigation Attorney Gadeir Abbas, 720-251-0425,; CAIR National Deputy Director Edward Ahmed Mitchell, 404-285-9530,; CAIR Government Affairs Director Robert McCaw, 202-742-6448,; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726,; CAIR National Communications Coordinator Ismail Allison, 202-770-6280,