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Lawmakers question lease for Census tied to mosque

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

By Carol Morello and Ed O'Keefe

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.”

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

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By Ed O'Keefe  | May 20, 2010; 7:10 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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Comments

Look, Americans are not sleeping as Liberal Progressive Democrats had assumed they were before embarking upon the takeover of 'we the people's' God given rights guaranteed by our government's charter. It is about time that they understood the fact that 'we the people' are no longer going to sit still and watch them destroy our Bill of Rights before our eyes.

Since the dire day that Obama took office, some portend by illegal means via the skulduggery of ACORN, SEIU, AFL-CIO, etc., every crazy, far-left zealot has come screaming out from under their rocks and vulgarly got in every American's face to display their contempt for our great country. This dangerous behavior has violated U.S. national security in every event. Obama makes no bones about supporting everything and all things Muslim and, at the same time, spits on all things Israel-related. The Muslim faith and Islam beliefs are very detailed in their intention of overtaking the United States of America and bludgeoning all who will not bow to their beliefs. They are so bold as to speak these intentions in public repeatedly.

This behavior in itself should be pounced on by every American, not by just a few conservative Republican senators. We sit here on our hands and do nothing to our peril, folks.

Posted by: prossers7 | May 20, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Obama is certainly over, along with the lessons we learned from no proper vetting of candidates.

Aztlan Mexico is over, and now we will have people seated who call for "One Flag one Allegiance" and actual prosecution of public officials who support treason.

The oil clean up with hay is fast, but shoving the Government over to do it is the hardest part. Tarballs falling on DC during a hurricane should hit home, that when the Governance seeks to undermine saftey in a crisis pitch rush to harm people, they are not representation.

Posted by: dottydo | May 20, 2010 10:48 AM | Report abuse

What a bunch of bull!

I salute the authors here for factually reporting on what has transpired...but have the readers bothered to read what the authors wrote? No, once again it's knee jerk reactionism to blame everything on the President - do you really think the President had anything to do with the leasing of space for a temporary census office? The Republican lawmakers here should be ashamed of themselves...anything to get their names in the news!

As for all our "Christian" zealots who think the sole purpose of Islam is to destroy Christianity - historically who are the terrorists - read a little about the Crusades and you might understand the whole interaction a little better. However, I'm not certain that any level of understanding is possible on this subject with those who espouse such hatred of Muslims - ignorance appears to be the prevailing thought process and reactionary the behavior pattern.

Posted by: vagaf31 | May 20, 2010 12:18 PM | Report abuse

How can it get any crazier or more obvious? This administration is pro muslim, and anti-American. Have any buyer's remorse yet, Obama voters?

Posted by: eaglesnest1 | May 20, 2010 12:43 PM | Report abuse

The lease was signed in November 2008, so Obama wasn't even president. However, the story above gives short shrift to the investigative documents obtained by the Freedom of Information Act that provide the foundation for the story that piqued Issa and Collins' interest. They can be found here: http://www.investigativeproject.org/documents/misc/368.pdf

and here:
http://www.investigativeproject.org/documents/misc/370.pdf

and here:
http://www.investigativeproject.org/documents/misc/369.pdf

Posted by: rlocker | May 20, 2010 12:57 PM | Report abuse

We should have a federal agent who speaks Arabic in every mosque in the USA to hear what they are teaching. My guess it is hate and terrorism.
No mosques should be involved in the census.
NO MOSQUE AT GROUND ZERO IN NEW YORK CITY. THEY ARE TIED TO THE MILITANT MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD.
We also have 23 colleges giving thousands of our tax dollars to Muslim students to to to school here. Most of them are extreme. Our money should not support them.

Posted by: joanz3 | May 20, 2010 1:58 PM | Report abuse

THE SHORT ANSWER IS STOP GIVING AMERICAN TAX PAYERS MONEY TO ANYONE WHO IS NOT AN AMERICAN CITIZEN... WHY ARE WE INVESTING IN FOREIGN FOLKS WHO MEAN TO DO US HARM OR CAN GO HOME TO THEIR COUNTRY & THEN BE "TURNED" THEN DO US HARM...

WE HAVE AMERICANS THAT NEED SO MUCH... YET OBAMA WANTS US TO PAY MORE TAXES INSTEAD OF CUTTING OF THE PARASITES THAT ARE DOING US HARM ON MORE THAN ONE FRONT~

PATRIOTISM... PRIDE... AMERICA~

Posted by: NATURLUS | May 21, 2010 6:50 AM | Report abuse

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