My Two Census

Formerly the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 US Census, and currently an opinion blog that covers all things political, media, foreign policy, globalization, and culture…but sometimes returning to its census/demographics roots.

So the Census Bureau won’t pay for toilet paper in New York but will pay to rent out a radical mosque in Virginia?

UPDATE: The Census Bureau’s Public Information Office told me:

“Office leasings for the federal government are handled by the General Services Administration (GSA).  Lease payments for the Census Bureau’s Alexandria, Virginia office are made to Phillips Properties of Alexandria, Virginia.”

I’m looking for more details on this situation. I didn’t intend for the headline to appear like a mirror image of FOXNews, but if these claims are valid (the “toilet paper” in the headline is a reference to a piece I ran yesterday about New York), then FOXNews will probably soon be all over this story from AOL News:

By Chanan Tigay

(May 10) — The U.S. government is paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in rent to a Virginia mosque that law enforcement officials have identified as “a front for Hamas operatives,” according to a new report from an Islamic terrorism watchdog.

In preparation for the 2010 census, the General Services Administration leased office space throughout the country for the Census Bureau. According to the report by the nonprofit Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT), one of those spaces is in an Alexandria, Va., building owned by the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center.

Muslims fill up the driveway and pray after the mosque was full at  Dar Al Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Virginia, 2006.

Alex Wong, Getty Images
Worshippers pray in the driveway of the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center, a Falls Church, Va.-based mosque.

The Falls Church, Va.-based mosque was once the home of radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who has been linked to both Fort Hood gunman Nidal Malik Hasan and Christmas Day “underwear bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the IPT says.

According to the report, the lease contract, initially signed in 2008, is worth $582,026 for 25 months.

The IPT bases its claims about the mosque’s terrorist links on documents it obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. Those documents state “that Dar Al-Hijrah was ‘associated with Islamic extremists’ and was ‘operating as a front for Hamas operatives in U.S.’ ” and that “the mosque ‘has been linked to numerous individuals linked to terrorism financing,’ ” the IPT says.

It further quotes from a report, also obtained under FOIA, saying Dar Al-Hijrah “has been under numerous investigations for financing and proving (sic) aid and comfort to bad orgs and members.”

AOL News left phone messages seeking comment from both the General Services Administration and the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center, but they were not immediately returned.

The IPT was founded in 1995 by Steven Emerson, a journalist and terrorism analyst who won a George Polk Award for his documentary film, “Jihad in America.” Emerson’s work has upset many Muslim groups, and the nonprofit Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting has characterized it as an “unrelenting attack against Arabs and Muslims.”

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14 Responses to “So the Census Bureau won’t pay for toilet paper in New York but will pay to rent out a radical mosque in Virginia?”

  1. LCO-AM Says:

    You have got to be kidding me – after all we went through, and then this?!?!?

  2. Dairyland CL Says:

    What is the Census Bureau using the space for? They don’t pay for classroom space. Is this an LCO or what?

  3. mandy_Reeves Says:

    yeah…you mean to tell me they could not find anywhere else? Really? they couldn’t set up shop in a vacant strip mall or something?

  4. techy Says:

    I helped set the IT in this place up. It’s an ELCO that’s been up since October of 2008.
    It was cleared by the GSA, the Census itself, and by Homeland Security as well as the FBI.
    The site which “broke” this story obviously does not have its facts straight.
    If this place was seriously any sort of threat or issue, then they never would have leased this site. Case closed.

  5. Stephen Robert Morse Says:

    techy – thanks for the update! maybe the FBI has bugged the place to keep a closer eye on the constituents of this community? do you have any more details?

    IF ANYONE WORKS AT THIS ELCO, LET US KNOW!

  6. sg Says:

    “I helped set the IT in this place up. It’s an ELCO that’s been up since October of 2008. It was cleared by the GSA, the Census itself, and by Homeland Security as well as the FBI. The site which “broke” this story obviously does not have its facts straight. If this place was seriously any sort of threat or issue, then they never would have leased this site. Case closed.”

    Like, um, **every** LCO and ELCO that’s been set up? You’d think a self-styled “investigative journalist” would be vaguely acquainted with the bureaucratic routines of the bureaucracy that he claims to be a “watchdog” for.

    Actually, looking at the “IPT” web site ought to be enough to raise major doubts about how even-handed it really is. It looks to me like just Beltway player bellying up to that sweet, bottomless “Homeland Security” trough. Fear sells!

    Morse, do you ever ask yourself even the most rudimentary questions before you post? That’s the “investigative” part of “investigative journalism”, y’know. You really aren’t doing your reputation any favors with your current approach. Me, I come here partly for the census news*, but nowadays it’s more entertaining to see how you’re going to embarrass yourself. I mean, look at this:

    “maybe the FBI has bugged the place to keep a closer eye on the constituents of this community?”

    THAT’s entertainment!

  7. Stephen Robert Morse Says:

    sg – this is a blog. in a world where the census bureau doesn’t provide answers in a timely fashion, users oftentimes provide details. sadly, as a one-man operation with a very limited budget, i can’t be in 50 states at the same time. if you think my fbi theory is wack, that’s your opinion, but it is certainly a theory that needs to be explored. given the mosque’s radical history, placing a government office on the site could certainly be considered a strategic move. SRM

  8. pattyCL Says:

    So this is where “Partnership” is located!

  9. ET Says:

    I’m with sg.

    http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2010_05/023665.php

  10. Stephen Robert Morse Says:

    ET – Thank you for that article. If you want to join me and my limited budget, you’re welcome to. But in general, I value critiques but don’t really need people telling me how to do my job. (I presume you don’t either!) SRM

  11. Anonymous Says:

    !!!

  12. 'nough already Says:

    our daily meetings are held in a variety of fast food places around where we work

  13. ET Says:

    Let’s cut to the chase, shall we? I don’t believe you are being totally honest with everyone. Understand, I’m just asking you to clarify your position. Is it personal or is it business? What is your personal connection to the Census?

  14. DGN Says:

    http://voices.washingtonpost.com/federal-eye/2010/05/lawmakers_question_census_leas.html

    Lawmakers question lease for Census tied to mosque

    By Carol Morello and Ed O’Keefe

    May 20, 2010 Updated 10:56 a.m. ET

    Two Republican lawmakers are raising questions about the decision to lease office space for the U.S. Census Bureau in a building owned by a Falls Church mosque.

    Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Rep. Darrell Issa of California each sent letters this week to the General Services Administration asking for details about a two-year lease for an office on the second floor of a building on Edsall Road in Alexandria. The building is owned by the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center, one of the largest traditional Muslim congregations on the East Coast.

    The lease has been criticized by many conservative bloggers since a story about it appeared last week on a web site run by Steven Emerson, a controversial terrorism expert. The web site’s report was based on brief, intragovernmental messages about the mosque. The blogosphere’s reaction prompted Collins and Issa to inquire if taxpayer funds were helping to finance an organization with ties to terrorists, according to their aides. They also sought clarification on how GSA vets potential government contractors.

    GSA maintains a list of companies excluded from government contracts due to factors like past performance, according to spokeswoman Sahar Wali.

    “GSA takes this allegation seriously and is taking steps to review this lease,” Wali said in a statement. “Leasing experts and lawyers are currently reviewing the lease in collaboration with our agency partners at Census and Homeland Security. Once reviewed in-line with GSA processes, we will react accordingly to ensure our responsible commitment of taxpayer dollars is upheld.”

    The lease in question is for office space that was used for early census preparations and is now a regional office for census takers counting people in northern Virginia. When the GSA began lease negotiations, the building was owned by a property management company, but it changed hands before the lease was signed in 2008, said Steven Jost, a spokesman for the Census Bureau.

    Mosque leaders have denied that Dar al-Hijrah has terrorist connections. Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, director of outreach programs at the mosque, said the congregation was being “held hostage by innuendo and factless accusations.”

    “As honest, law-abiding citizens, we ought to have same rights as other Americans to do business and to support something as good as the U.S. census,” he said. “I really find it objectionable that certain individuals who are against Muslims would impugn the character of the mosque when we haven’t been found guilty of any crime.”

    Two of the Sept. 11 hijackers worshiped at Dar al-Hijrah for a short period of time. One of its former imams, Anwar al-Aulaqi, has been linked to accused terrorists, though worshipers say his speeches were not radical when he was serving at Dar al-Hijrah, and he subsequently was denounced by the mosque. Maj. Nidal M. Hasan, the Fort Hood shooting suspect, attended Dar al-Hijrah when al-Aulaqi was imam and corresponded with him after the cleric left the United States for Yemen. Though he remains a U.S. citizen, al-Aulaqi has been added to a list of suspected terrorists that the CIA is authorized to kill.

    Jost said there have been no issues or incidents regarding either its landlord or a school on the same floor that Emerson says is run by the mosque. The lease has a vacate clause that could be be invoked in mid-August, when Jost said the Census Bureau expects to be finished with its work counting people who didn’t mail in their forms. In the meantime, the agency is concerned about the controversy.

    “We’re not happy with the optics being portrayed by this web site,” Jost said, adding he meant the suggestion “that somehow the government might be financing anti-American efforts. The bottom line for us is, anything that distracts from the mission of getting the census done on time and completely and accurately is unfortunate.”