Forum Post: Living in a Constitution-Free Zone: Drones, Surveillance Towers, and Malls of the Spy State
Posted 10 months ago on Feb. 7, 2013, 6:39 p.m. EST by LeoYo
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Muslim US Air Force Veteran Barred from Flight
By DAN HOLTMEYER | Associated Press – 6 hrs ago
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A Muslim U.S. Air Force veteran, who had trouble entering the country last year to visit his ailing mother, was barred Wednesday from boarding a flight in Oklahoma City to return to his home in Qatar.
Saadiq Long, an American citizen, told The Associated Press he attempted to board a Delta flight at Will Rogers World Airport but was denied a boarding pass.
"I think about three police officers arrived after that," Long said. "It was very, very strange, by the way, and very intimidating." Lt. Jay Barnett, a spokesman for the Oklahoma City Police Department reached after business hours, couldn't confirm that police were sent to the scene, but said officers assigned to the airport would be summoned for a security concern.
After the police encounter, a U.S. Transportation Security Administration agent told Long he couldn't board a plane but did not give him a specific reason, Long said.
Adam Soltani, director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, who had joined Long for his departure, said they asked, "Well, who do we contact?" They then were referred to the FBI, Soltani said.
Long said his lawyer has attempted to reach the FBI, which maintains a no-fly list.
FBI spokesman Rick Rains in Oklahoma City declined comment when reached by the AP. And Delta Air Lines did not return a call for comment.
TSA spokesman David Castelveter said: "It's my understanding this individual was denied a boarding pass by the airline because he was on a no-fly list. The TSA does not confirm whether someone is or is not on the no-fly list, as that list is maintained by the FBI."
Long said he had been visiting his mother, who suffers from congestive heart failure, for several months. He was attempting to return to Qatar, where he lives with his wife and children and teaches English. He intended to travel via Amsterdam.
Long said last year he also had difficulty entering the country and that the FBI harassed him and his sister after his arrival. The harassment stopped after Long requested a Department of Justice inquiry, Soltani said.
Long's lawyer, Gadeir Abbas, sent a letter to the FBI in January informing an agent of Long's plans to return home.
"Mr. Long requests that he be accorded the same right given to millions of American citizen travelers every day: the right to board a plane," Abbas wrote. "It is Mr. Long's sincere hope that, by informing the FBI in advance of his departure from the U.S., he will avoid the travel difficulties that have caused his family so much hardship already."
Long said he plans to stay in Oklahoma City until the FBI instructs him on what he can do to fly. He said he needs to get back soon to support his family.
"Two months and they still can't tell me why I can't fly," he said. "Of course, I'm willing to go through whatever it takes."
Living in a Constitution-Free Zone: Drones, Surveillance Towers, and Malls of the Spy State
Thursday, 07 February 2013 17:00 By Todd Miller, TomDispatch | News Analysis
Before September 11, 2001, more than half the border crossings between the United States and Canada were left unguarded at night, with only rubber cones separating the two countries. Since then, that 4,000 mile “point of pride,” as Toronto’s Globe and Mail once dubbed it, has increasingly been replaced by a U.S. homeland security lockdown, although it’s possible that, like Egyptian-American Abdallah Matthews, you haven’t noticed.
The first time he experiences this newly hardened U.S.-Canada border, it takes him by surprise. It’s a freezing late December day and Matthews, a lawyer (who asked me to change his name), is on the passenger side of a car as he and three friends cross the Blue Water Bridge from Sarnia, Ontario, to the old industrial town of Port Huron, Michigan. They are returning from the Reviving the Islamic Spirit conference in Toronto, chatting and happy to be almost home when the car pulls up to the booth, where a blue-uniformed U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agent stands. The 60,000-strong CBP is the border enforcement arm of the Department of Homeland Security and includes both customs and U.S. Border Patrol agents. What is about to happen is the furthest thing from Matthews’s mind. He’s from Port Huron and has crossed this border “a million times before.”
After scanning their passports and looking at a computer screen in the booth, the agent says to the driver, as Matthews tells the story: “Sir, turn off the vehicle, hand me the key, and step out of the car.” He hears the snap of handcuffs going around his friend’s wrists. Disoriented, he turns around and sees uniformed men kneeling behind their car, firearms drawn.
“To my disbelief, situated behind us are agents, pointing their guns.” The CBP officer asks Matthews and the remaining passengers to get out of the car and escorts them to a waiting room. Thirty minutes later, he, too, is handcuffed and in a cell. Forty-five minutes after that another homeland security agent brings him into a room with no chairs. The agent tells him that he can sit down, but all he sees is a countertop. “Can I just stand?” he asks.
And he does so for what seems like an eternity with the door wide open, attempting to smile at the agents who pass by. “I’m trying to be nice,” is how he put it.
Finally, in a third room, the interrogation begins. Although they question Matthews about his religious beliefs and various Islamic issues, the two agents are “nice.” They ask him: Where’d you go? What kind of law do you practice? He tells them that a former law professor was presenting a paper at the annual conference, whose purpose is to revive “Islamic traditions of education, tolerance, and introspection.” They ask if he’s received military training abroad. This, he tells me, “stood out as one of their more bizarre questions.” When the CBP lets him and his friends go, he still thinks it was a mistake.
However, Lena Masri of the Council of American Islamic Relations-Michigan (CAIR-MI) reports that Matthews’s experience is becoming “chillingly” commonplace for Michigan’s Arab and Muslim community at border crossings. In 2012, CAIR-MI was receiving five to seven complaints about similar stops per week. The detainees are all Arab, all male, all questioned at length. They are asked about religion, if they spend time at the mosque, and who their Imam is. According to CAIR-MI accounts, CBP agents repeatedly handcuff these border-crossers, often brandish weapons, conduct invasive, often sexually humiliating body searches, and detain people for from two to 12 hours. Because of this, some of the detainees have lost job opportunities or jobs, or given up on educational opportunities in Canada. Many are now afraid to cross the border to see their families who live in Canada. (CAIR-MI has filed alawsuit against the CBP and other governmental agencies.)
Months later, thinking there is no way this can happen again, Matthews travels to Canada and crosses the border, this time alone, on the Blue Water Bridge to Port Huron. Matthews still hadn’t grasped the seismic changes in Washington’s attitude toward our northern border since 9/11. Port Huron, his small hometown, where a protest group, Students for a Democratic Society, first famously declared themselves against racism and alienation in 1962, is now part of the “frontline” in defense of the “homeland.” As a result, Matthews finds himself a casualty of a new war, one that its architects and proponents see as a permanent bulwark not only against non-citizens generally, but also people like Matthews from “undesirable” ethno-religious groups or communities in the United States.
While a militarized enforcement regime has long existed in the U.S-Mexico borderlands, its far more intense post-9/11 version is also proving geographically expansive. Now, the entire U.S. perimeter has become part of a Fortress USA mentality and a lockdown reality. Unlike on our southern border, there is still no wall to our north on what was once dubbed the “longest undefended border in the world.” But don’t let that fool you. The U.S.-Canadian border is increasingly a national security hotspot watched over by drones, surveillance towers, and agents of the Department of Homeland Security.