FBI Accused of Using No-Fly List to Recruit Informants
Is this the beginning of the end for the federal government’s no-fly list? Just weeks after federal Judge Anna J. Brown of Portland, Oregon, refused to dismiss an ACLU suit against the list because there is “a constitutionally-protected liberty interest in traveling internationally by air which is affected by being placed on the list,” a separate lawsuit alleges that the FBI has been placing Muslims on the list “in retaliation for their refusal to work as informants against their communities and submit to questioning.”
Instituted shortly after the attacks of September 11, 2001, and maintained by the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, the no-fly list contains the names of about 20,000 people who are not permitted to board aircraft for travel in or out of the U.S. because the government has a “reasonable suspicion” they are connected to terrorism. The names on the list are a secret, and if denied boarding a traveler’s only recourse is to submit a “Traveler Redress Inquiry Procedure” form to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and wait for a reply. Even then, however, DHS neither confirms nor denies that one is on the list, and the only way of knowing for sure is to buy an airline ticket and try to board a plane.
Queens, New York, resident Muhammad Tanvir is the named plaintiff in the suit filed last week in federal court in Manhattan, alleging that the FBI is violating the law by putting Muslim-Americans on the no-fly list not because of a “reasonable suspicion” of terrorist associations, but as a form of blackmail to coerce them into becoming informants at mosques and in their communities. Tanvir’s complaint, filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights, points out that he is a lawful permanent resident since 2002, working at a 99-cent store in the Bronx who has “never been convicted of a crime nor does he pose any threat to aviation safety.”
According to the complaint, Tanvir landed on the no-fly list after refusing an FBI request to work as an informant in his predominantly Muslim community. When Tanvir contacted the bureau, FBI agents offered to take him off the list in exchange for information. As the lawsuit states, “defendants sought to exploit the draconian burden posed by the No Fly List - including the inability to travel for work, or to visit family overseas - in order to coerce him into serving the FBI as a spy with American Muslim communities and places of worship.”
The practice of pressuring Muslims to become informants in their own communities in exchange for law enforcement help has spread ever since 9/11, and is familiar to Muslims in New York City, whose police department—with the help of the Central Intelligence Agency—labeled at least a dozen mosques as “terrorism enterprises” in order to justify infiltrating them with informants and undercover agents.
To Learn More:
FBI Pressures Muslims on No-Fly List to Become Informants in Exchange for Travel Rights (by Alex Kane, Alternet)
Muslim Fights Placement on Watch List (by Nick Divito, Courthouse News Service)
U.S. Citizen Aid Volunteer Blocked from Reentry after Trip to Libya (by Matt Bewig and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)
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