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Lawsuit says FBI uses no-fly list in bid to recruit Muslim informants

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Lawsuit says FBI uses no-fly list in bid to recruit Muslim informants

Awais Sajjad, a lawful permanent U.S. resident living in the New York area, learned he was on the no-fly list in September 2012 after he tried to board a flight to Pakistan at John F. Kennedy International Airport and was turned back.

At the airport, FBI agents questioned Sajjad, a Muslim, before releasing him. But they later returned with an offer. In exchange for working for them, the FBI could provide him with U.S. citizenship and compensation. The FBI, the agents reminded Sajjad, also had the power to decide who was on the no-fly list.

When he refused, the FBI agents “kept him on the list in order to pressure and coerce Mr. Sajjad to sacrifice his constitutionally-protected rights,” according to an amended lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court in New York.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Sajjad and three other men, accuses the United States of violating their rights by placing or keeping them on the no-fly list after they declined to spy on local Muslim communities in New York, New Jersey and Nebraska.

“The no-fly list is supposed to be about ensuring aviation safety, but the FBI is using it to force innocent people to become informants,” said Ramzi Kassem, associate professor of law at the City University of New York. “The practice borders on extortion.”

The Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility project, which Kassem supervises, and the Center for Constitutional Rights filed suit on behalf of the men.

The FBI declined to comment Tuesday. But U.S. officials have in the past insisted that the process used to place individuals on the no-fly list is legal and well founded and relies on credible intelligence.

The no-fly list, which contains the names of thousands of people, was created after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and includes U.S. citizens and residents as well as foreigners not permitted to fly into or out of the United States because of specific security concerns.

Human rights activists have said the list has repeatedly ensnared those with no demonstrable connection to terrorism.

In 2007, a Justice Department audit found that the “management of the watchlist continues to have weaknesses” and that the department needed “to further improve its efforts for ensuring the accuracy of the watchlist records.”

U.S. citizens have also been stranded abroad and never told why they couldn’t fly home.Yahye Wehelie, who was raised in Fairfax County, couldn’t leave Egypt for weeks in 2010; he was stopped in Cairo on his way to Yemen to find a wife.

In a previous interview with The Washington Post, Wehelie said FBI agents asked him if he was willing to inform on the Muslim community in his area when he got home.

A former senior FBI official said that there are criteria for putting people on the list and that refusing to work as a confidential informant is not one of them.

“That’s not a reason,” the former official said. “It has nothing to do with potential threats to aviation.”

In 2010, the ACLU filed a lawsuit alleging that the FBI tried to turn Nagib Ali Ghaleb, a naturalized U.S. citizen who lived in San Francisco, into an informant. He was prevented from returning home from Yemen but was later told he could fly if he became an FBI informant in the Yemeni community in California. A court decision is expected soon on whether his right to due process was violated.

But unlike in the ACLU lawsuit, Kassem said, “this cases advances for the first time the unprecedented question about whether the FBI can infringe on their First Amendment rights by retaliating against them for not becoming informants.”

Naveed Shinwari, a legal U.S. resident and a Muslim, said he was put on the list after being questioned by FBI agents after he returned from Afghanistan in 2012.

“The more you help us, the more we can help you,” FBI agents said, according to the lawsuit filed Tuesday.

Shinwari said the decision to put him on the list cost him a job and thousands of dollars. His lawyers said he has never been convicted of a crime or posed a threat to national security.

Last month, Shinwari was finally allowed to fly within the United States but said he remains afraid that if he flies to Afghanistan to see his wife and family, he might not be able to return.

“I am very frustrated,” Shinwari said. “It has been a horrible experience. It’s very depressing. You feel helpless.”

Julie Tate contributed to this report.

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  • Reynardine

    Hello, Brock.

  • Anna

    FBI has files of every Muslim in the country… this is nothing knew and intimidation is nothing knew..

  • George Carty

    I’m pretty sure that American slavers did their damnedest to convert their slaves to Christianity — they didn’t want them in the US as Muslims

  • mhsy07091017

    “nor is there any evidence such policies are based on some plot against white people.”

    Nevertheless, with non-Hispanic white Westernized (non-Muslim) American birthrates at below-replacement levels, they ARE being the most adversely affected, demographically. The federal government – which has known this for decades now – still keeps the 1965 Immigration Act on the books anyway. Try going to Congress and – GASP – introducing a bill to place a moratorium on immigration for 10 or 15 years. You won’t get far.

  • Reynardine

    If thou didst give the poor man shoon
    Take them, now, and put them on
    And Christ receive thy soul-;

    The Lyke Wake Dirge

  • Reynardine

    American(s)? You mean, you and that white mouse in your pocket?

  • Chameleon_X

    I probably should have posted here instead of on the NYPD article, since my last comment on FBI informants was probably more relevant to this article, but I was responding to another comment there that triggered my thoughts. Please see that comment of mine linked here:

    http://www.loonwatch.com/2014/04/nypd-abandons-demographic-unit-that-astroturf-muslim-groups-advocated/#comment-1353744991

  • Anonymous

    Your swastika is showing

  • Lynchpin

    Lovely story, it goes to show there is some good in this world. Thanks.
    Would I have done the same thing in that situation? Almost certainly not.

  • rookie

    Doesn`t matter what muslims do, Islam haters just turn everything into hate.

  • Ahmed

    Implying that whites are not the hostile elites. If Americans didn’t want Muslims in the US they wouldn’t bring them from Africa, you twit.

  • mindy1

    Please don’t lump us together, I don’t care about someone’s faith

  • Yausari

    This is a criminal offence. No argument there. I’d like to see FBI explain themselves.

  • mindy1

    This is pathetic, and coercion >:( if it were a private citizen it would be blackmail

  • mindy1

    Aww I just posted that article elsewhere, it’s so sweet 😀

  • JD

    Muslim Man Gives Needy Bus Rider The Shoes Off His Feet And Walks Home Barefoot — Because There Is Good In The World

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/22/muslim-man-bus-shoes-barefoot_n_5193093.html?utm_hp_ref=religion

    Surjit Singh Virk has been driving buses for sixteen years and has
    seen it all. But what he witnessed on Saturday on the No. 341 route
    touched his soul in a way that he’s never experienced before.

    A man sat alone on the bus with two plastic hairnets covering his feet
    instead of shoes. Another passenger, upon noticing his footwear,
    promptly took off his shoes and socks and gave them to the stranger,
    hopping off the bus barefoot, reports the Toronto Sun.

    “It made my heart melt,” Virk explained to QMI Agency. “He just took
    his shoes and socks off and said, ‘You can take these, don’t worry about
    me — I live close by and can walk.'”

    When reached by phone, the kind-hearted man asked QMI Agency not to identify him, because his Muslim faith teaches that charitable acts should be anonymous. He is a 27-year-old resident of Surrey, British Columbia in Canada and was
    coming from the nearby B.C. Muslim Association mosque.

    The generous act has elicited incredible response online. “We are all one
    family, if anyone in our family was without shoes and we had ample, this
    is exactly what we would do. Once in a while we need this reminder to
    save our humanity,” said Facebook user Baljit Sabharwal.

    “Mercy
    and love are the foundations of all faiths. I don’t know a faith that
    does not teach generosity. In fact, it’s a foundation of Islam – a
    pillar of faith,” added another Facebook user, Salim Jiwa.
    “Every human being is capable of doing good deeds. It would seem to me
    the man who gave away his shoes is dressed for prayer, so he might have
    just finished praying at the mosque and done the good deed on the way
    home.”

    This is not the first time a generous person of faith has
    had an act of his or hers go viral on the Web. Earlier this year, a
    photo of Isaac Theil,
    a Jewish man wearing a yarmulke who let a tired stranger fall asleep on
    him on the New York City subway, was shared on dozens of websites and
    was one the subject of a popular HuffPost religion article.

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