Here we go again…..


Remember this guy? longHe was denied entry into his own country for several long, excruciating months due to the appearance of his name on the mysterious, unfathomable no fly list or whatever it’s designation really is. Finally he was allowed to fly to his home state of Oklahoma and his return was uneventful, if you don’t count this  rather intimidating run in he had with the FBI back in November.  Well he’s back in the news again and here’s why

In early November, I wrote about the infuriating story of Saadiq Long, the 43-year-old African-American Muslim who – despite having never been charged with any crime – was secretly placed on a no-fly list and thus barred from flying to the US to visit his seriously ill mother. When I met with Long in early November in Doha, Qatar, where he has lived for several years with his wife and her two children while teaching English, he was in the middle of his futile months-long battle just to find out why he was placed on this list, let alone how he could be removed.

Two weeks after that article was published, Long – without explanation – was finally removed from the no-fly list and he flew from Doha to Oklahoma City to visit his mother and other family members. He took several flights to make the 20-hour journey, all without incident. He has remained in Oklahoma for the last ten weeks, visiting his family in the US for the first time in over a decade.

But now Long – unbeknownst to him – has once again apparently been secretly placed by some unknown National Security State bureaucrat on the no-fly list. On Wednesday night, as Associated Press first reported, he went to the Will Rogers Airport in Oklahoma City to fly back home to Qatar. In order to ensure there were no problems, his lawyer sent the FBI a letter ahead of time notifying them that Long would be flying home on that date (see the embedded letter below).

But without explanation, Long was denied a boarding pass at the airport by a Delta Airlines agent. Three local police officers then arrived on the scene, followed by a US Transportation Security Administration agent who “told Long he couldn’t board a plane but did not give him a specific reason”.

Long’s lawyer, Adam Soltani of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), was with him at the airport and repeatedly asked agents why this was happening and who they should contact. He got no answers, except was told to contact the FBI. But both the FBI and Delta refused to comment to AP, while TSA spokesman David Castelveter would only say this:

“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 and his CAIR lawyers have thus far been told nothing about why he is barred once again from flying.

The personal cost to this injustice is obvious and substantial. Long has a job he needs to return to in Doha from which he has been away for more than two months, and his family needs that income for its sustenance. “I was extremely disappointed when I was unable to board the flight this past Wednesday,” Long told me through his lawyer. “My family in Qatar feels crushed that I will not be returning home as expected.”

The sense of humiliation and outrage should not be hard to fathom. Just imagine being a US citizen, denied the right to travel home – first to your own country, then back to your family – by a government that has never charged you with any crime or indicated you have engaged in wrongdoing of any sort. Imagine going to the airport and having local and federal agents arrive to prevent you from boarding a plane, treating you like a criminal – a Terrorist – without any tangible accusations. “I don’t understand how the government can take away my right to travel without even telling me,” he told me back in November. “If the US government wanted me to question or arrest or prosecute me, they could have had me in a minute. But there are no charges, no accusations, nothing.”

But what’s particularly infuriating here is that, if they had evidence that Long has done anything wrong, they easily could have arrested him at any point over the last ten weeks when he was in the US. The reality is that they could have arrested him at any time over the last decade because he has lived in three countries with highly US-loyal autocracies: Egypt, the UAE and Qatar. But he was never arrested, never charged with anything – just denied the basic right to travel.

Here is what CAIR’s Gadeir Abbas told me about all of this on Thursday:

“It is not as if the FBI actually thinks Saadiq is a threat. If it did – and it had actual evidence – the FBI would simply arrest him. As they surely recall, they let him fly just a few months ago. It turns out, though, the only reason for doing so is because it is, in the FBI’s view, slightly more indefensible to prevent an American citizen from flying home than it is to prevent him from flying abroad.

“And because we told the FBI ahead of time when Saadiq would be flying, hardly the behavior of a criminal, they could have stuck an air marshal right next to him. They could have subjected his person and luggage to extra scrutiny. But the FBI does not do these things because the No Fly List is not used to protect aircraft. This watchlist – and the many others like it – is a means by which the FBI metes out extra-judicial punishment.”

How can anyone argue with that? Even leaving aside that he just flew into and around the US less than three months ago without incident, the very idea that he poses a threat to this flight is patently ludicrous given their advance knowledge that he was flying and the multiple precautions they could take if they really were concerned.

Plainly, air travel safety is not what any of this is about. It is about inventing ways to punish US Muslims and deprive them of the most basic rights without so much as providing any notice, let alone any due process that would enable the secret, unknown accusations to be discovered and rebutted. And it is a very common weapon.

Use of this repressive tactic has worsened significantly under the Obama administration. Last February, Associated Press learned that “the Obama administration has more than doubled, to about 21,000 names, its secret list of suspected terrorists who are banned from flying to or within the United States, including about 500 Americans.” Moreover, as I detailed last November based on that AP report:

“Worse, the Obama administration ‘lowered the bar for being added to the list’. As a result, reported AP, ‘now a person doesn’t have to be considered only a threat to aviation to be placed on the no-fly list’ but can be included if they ‘are considered a broader threat to domestic or international security’, a vague status determined in the sole and unchecked discretion of unseen DHS bureaucrats.”

There should be no doubt of the FBI’s desire to harass Long. Although they never charged him with any crime or arrested him while he was in Oklahoma, he was, along with his sister, Ava Anderson, handcuffed and put on the ground the day after Thanksgiving after they drove to their local police department in fear when they noticed they were being followed. It turns out that the FBI had falsely told local police that Long and his sister were “fleeing felons”, but when the local police learned that was false, they never arrested Long or his sister. They were simply told to leave without explanation.

As Abbas told me after that incident occurred: “Our sense is that a particular FBI agent, or perhaps a small group of them, in Oklahoma City are looking to inflict some pain on Saadiq and his family – maybe in retaliation for the embarrassment he caused them or the thousands of emails that ended up getting sent to their field office there.”

The worst part of all of this is the complete lack of remedy available to Long. Abbas told me: “unfortunately, because of arcane jurisdictional complications, we don’t think seeking a preliminary injunction is necessarily an expeditious option for getting Saadiq on a plane.” Even worse:

“We’ll likely try again in a couple of weeks, but if there isn’t some change by then, this puts Saadiq in the position of rolling the dice and trying to get to a country by land or sea that will actually let him fly. Even in these situations, however, we’ve seen detentions and interrogations by foreign authorities, such as here and here.”

So now he’s just in a no-man’s land. He can’t contest the accusations against him because there are none. After being blocked for months from visiting his own country and his terminally ill mother, he’s now barred from returning to his home, his job, and his own family. All of this is done by his own government without a shred of due process, transparency or accountability.

When I wrote on Tuesday about the Obama DOJ’s “white paper” justifying due-process-free presidential assassinations, I wrote that “the core distortion of the War on Terror under both Bush and Obama is the Orwellian practice of equating government accusations of terrorism with proof of guilt” and that “if the US government simply asserts without evidence or trial that someone is a terrorist, then they are assumed to be, and they can then be punished as such.” This is exactly what I was talking about: I’m sure there will be no shortage of people justifying this by insisting that he must have done something wrong: even though the government has never said what that is, offered evidence for it, or provided any opportunity for the accusations to be independently examined.

This is also a perfect example of what New York Times editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal meant when he wrote last March that the US now has “what’s essentially a separate justice system for Muslims”. State punishment without charges and trials is now perfectly normal – for Muslims.

Glenn Greenwald—The Guardian

Advertisements

Scared yet? You shouldn’t be!


scared_faceThere’s good news on the horizon for all of you who have believed the news pounded in the Nation’s subconscious since 911 that there’s some sort of Muslim plot to terrorize the homeland into submission.  We’ve always said such notions simply don’t exist among Muslim citizens of America and each year we’ve been proven right.  Well the trend keeps supporting that notion, with the latest news describing the prospects of terror from America’s Muslims as “nil”.

Try as al-Qaida might to encourage them, American Muslims still aren’t committing acts of terrorism. Only 14 people out of a population of millions were indicted for their involvement in violent terrorist plots in 2012, a decline from 2011′s 21. The plots themselves hit the single digits last year.

So much for a widespread stereotype. According to data tracked by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security in North Carolina and released Friday (.PDF), there were nine terrorist plots involving American Muslims in 2012. Only one of them, the attempted bombing of a Social Security office in Arizona, actually led to any violence. There were no casualties in that or any other incident. And the Triangle study tracks indictments, not convictions.

……The sample of Muslim Americans turning to terror is “vanishingly small,” Kurzman tells Danger Room…..Yet the scrutiny by law enforcement and homeland security on American Muslims has not similarly abated. The FBI tracks “geomaps” of areas where Muslims live and work, regardless of their involvement in any crime. The Patriot Act and other post-9/11 restrictions on government surveillance remain in place.

So while you don’t have anything to fear from your Muslim neighbors, you still have an intrusive, bloated, super secret, covert government that is finding ways to insert itself into your daily routines at your expense.  What the government and most Americans fail to realize is America’s Muslims are busy living their lives and finding their niche on this multi-cultural landscape like this Muslim American8424302590_8c1284e1c2 , Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first Muslim woman to compete on behalf of the United States in international competition.

Ibtihaj, a two-time U.S. National Fencing Champion and a member of the U.S. National Fencing Team since 2009, began fencing at the age of 13. She was raised in an athletic household with four siblings and played many recreational sports growing up. After searching for a sport that would enable her to comply with the Muslim requirement of modesty by remaining fully covered, her mother pointed out students fencing in full body uniforms while driving by their local school. Muhammad said because of this chance moment, “I’d like to think fencing found me.” Reminding students again of the ability to find a passion regardless of circumstance she added, “Don’t let anyone tell you no. There’s nothing you can’t achieve.”

America, it’s time to throw off your shackles of fear and embrace those who make up a part of the American fabric, albeit with different names and clothing than your own, but who are your equal in their fealty to the rule of law and the pursuit of happiness.  You can do it America if you stop being afraid.

Hat tip to @ZahraBillo

The Face of American Terrorism


American based terrorism doesn’t get much mention in mainstream media, maybe because those who are responsible for it in many cases reflect the ethnicity of those who write about terrorism.  I mean it’s much easier to call someone who looks different from you and has a funny name a terrorist than it is to call your next door neighbor or the person who attends your church or synagogue one.  Janet Napolitano knows a thing or two about what happens to people who take an even handed approach to this issue of homegrown terrorism because she was excoriated in the media by pundits for a 2009 report released by Homeland Security entitled, Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment. Because there’s no mention of Islam in the title, the report was denounced by many across the political spectrum.  Media Matters does a pretty nice job of detailing the arguments of some of the people opposed to labelling American terrorism just that, and their analysis can be found here.  Needless to say, the 2009 report doesn’t follow the meme so often repeated in public discourse that ‘all terrorists are Muslim’ because such a statement is false on its face, racially charged and bigoted.

Do you know who the people pictured above are?  They are members of Hutaree who see law enforcement as the enemy and  they planned to kill a police officer, possibly at a traffic stop, and then attack the funeral procession to kill more officers. Sounds much like terrorism to me, but instead these folks were charged with seditious conspiracy against the government, attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and possessing a firearm during a crime of violence.  Ever  hear of the group The Sovereign Citizen?  You can see for yourself the width and breadth of this group across the country here.  The FBI has a full page on them which says in essence they do not feel bound to obey the laws of America, do everything to circumvent the law up to and including murder of public officials and the destruction of government institutions.  The ubiquitous federal government isn’t the only entity to see the danger Sovereign Citizen members present to the general public.  A local Texas sheriff, Chief Smith has issued his  own terrorism warning saying in part

Chief Smith wants the Citizens to be aware that these people could be practicing their beliefgs in this area.  Chief Smith warns that these persons have the potential to act out in very violent manners with both citizens and law enforcement if the contact with them is negative.

The Chief has every reason to be concerned.  Just last week a ‘sovereign citizen’ in Florida, claiming he “did not have to follow the law or obey law enforcement officers” fired an AK-47 weapon at a store after calling them repeatedly to demand a product they did not have.  Larry Kelly then led law enforcement officials on a chase through the city of Ensley, Florida before being captured.  Again, last week another ‘sovereign citizen’ Matthew O’Neill was arrested after sending a white powder substance to the Colorado Department of Revenue which was dealing with his tax issues.  It doesn’t take a genius to understand the significance of that in post 911 America does it?  Then it was an act of terrorism, now it’s a disgruntled tax case.  But ‘sovereign citizen’ encounters with the law have also been deadly.  What’s significant is if one were to replace each of the above linked news stories with someone’s Arabic name or reference to their religious belief it would be a sure indicator of their terrorist inclinations, BUT absent such identifying tags, while still abhorrent and deadly, the acts are crimes which we have all too often been accustomed, absent the accompanying terrorism hysteria.  Conservatives have for some time bemoaned the increase in laws on the books to handle what they consider situations already adequately addressed in law, yet many on the right are the first to claim the need for increased laws to save America from ‘sharia law’, for instance to the presence of municipally approved places of worship to articles of clothing to any number of other things associated with Islam and Muslims in America. This is the dilemma America faces today; how to deal with the hypocrisy and demagoguery of politicians and political parties, such as the Republican  and Tea Party, while still legitimately addressing the role of the rule of law.  What’s good for the goose IS good for the gander as well.  It’s either all terrorism or it’s not, but most likely chances are it will not be classified terrorism, especially by the main stream media, as long as people who write about it look like the people above who perpetuate it.

Another one who got away


‘Not all Muslims are terrorist but all terrorists are Muslims’, so goes the ‘phobes chant when talking about the dangers of an imagined enemy, the Shariah welding Muslim fanatic.  What they don’t say is all non-Muslim terrorists aren’t categorized as such.  Rather they are given more inert sounding names like manic depressive and charged not with terrorism, but with ‘placing a bomb’ inside a federal building and thus fall beneath the terrorist radar.  Such is the case with this guy, Gary Mikulich.  His bomb sat in said federal building for over a month, is that fodder for a conspiracy theory or what, before it was discovered, which goes to show you all the money you can squeeze out of everyday working Americans and  give to Homeland Security can’t buy security if people don’t do their jobs.  This electrical engineering genius made a bomb and put it in front of a federal building with the intent to kill people, yet he’s not charged with a terrorist related offense.  So what good are the terrorism laws if we don’t apply them equally to all?  It should be apparent that the law is designed to single out a group of people , not law breakers, in order to effect a blanket condemnation of all members of that group.  Shame on you America….you’re still as bigoted as ever.

 

A dangerous step backward


I believe the Department of Homeland Security, born of the fraudulent premise of 911 and the need for expanded government, should not exist, but it certainly shouldn’t be staffed by those people who are responsible for the lies and myths of the war on terror.  That said, I was happy the DHS got off to an interesting start when they declared the biggest threat to the security of the “homeland” was our own violent rightwing extremist groups fuelled by recession, the return of disgruntled army veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, and hostility over the election of the first black president.  The shooting death of Dr. George Tiller, a doctor who performed abortions in the state of Kansas was an endorsement of that warning issued earlier this year. I don’t like the idea that President Obama is staffing this very department with Bush political appointees who are responsible for the illegal activity the US has participated in over the last 8 years in our name.

President Barack Obama has nominated Philip Mudd, who was deputy director of the Office of Terrorism Analysis at the CIA during the Bush administration  to be under secretary of intelligence and analysis at Homeland Security.  Mudd is into ethnic cleansing/targetting.

Philip Mudd, who had just joined the bureau from the rival Central Intelligence Agency, was pitching a program called Domain Management, designed to get agents to move beyond chasing criminal cases and start gathering intelligence.

Drawing on things like commercial marketing software and the National Security Agency’s eavesdropping without warrants, the program is supposed to identify threats. Mr. Mudd displayed a map of the San Francisco area, pocked with data showing where Iranian immigrants were clustered — and where, he said, an F.B.I. squad was “hunting.”

Some F.B.I. officials found Mr. Mudd’s concept vague and the implied ethnic targeting troubling. How were they supposed to go “hunting” without colliding with the Constitution? Would the C.I.A. man, whom some mocked privately as Rasputin, take the bureau back to the domestic spying scandals of the 1960’s? And why neglect promising cases to, in Mr. Mudd’s words, “search for the unknown”?

I am troubled by Mr. Obama’s appointments who use methods against American citizens and others we have already come to associate as illegal.  Where is the change we were promised and the return to the rule of law? Moreover, what signal does this nomination send to a country Obama has pledged to work with to resolve differences with it when Mudd has been known to go after and try to prove terrorism on the part of Iranian expatriates in America? Unfortunately, the Mudd nomination hasn’t raised the ire that Charles Freeman’s did, who subsequently had to withdraw from consideration to a top intelligence post because of AIPAC pressure, and most likely the Mudd nomination will go through after an appearance of resistance from the Republican party to their own one time appointee. It’s all very macabre, the delicate dance that goes on between the two political parties. Were it not so serious with ramifications for the entire country it would be entertaining to watch. As it is, it’s nothing more than the shuffling of the same players on a game board.

The REAL Dirty Bomb Plot


I really don’t know where to go with this, the story has such potential.  There was a plot to explode a dirty bomb, bomb making material was found along with literature that explained how to assemble it and the person responsible was a member of a known subversive group.  His name was James G. Cummings, of Belfast, Maine and the group he belonged to was the National Socialist Movement.  Before the plot could go anywhere, Mr. Cummings was shot and killed, by of all people……….his wife, who just got fed up with the domestic abuse she endured during their married life.

Jose Padilla should now be released from jail and every member of the National Socialist Movement should be rounded up and herded to some remote island prison camp, shackled, put under sensory deprivation and forced to listen toMarvin Gaye,  James Brown or the Average White Band blaring through loudspeakers continuously for months at a time because they constitute a threat to the United States and one of their own was caught red handed in an act of terrorism.  And for that matter, too, perhaps we should round up every white male who looks like Mr. Cummings because they hate the president of the United States and his values and therefore by extension, us.

This would be the  rhetoric applied to Muslims, yet the story of Cummings hasn’t spiked the front pages of most newspapers, let alone the muliti-colored  Homeland Security fear index whose needle pegged whenever terror and Islam were mentioned in the main stream media. Just as with most of what’s “good” about America, self expunging took place with regards to  Cummings and there wasn’t the need for another level of government bureaucracy to protect us from him.  All it took was a law abiding citizen who had the nerve, or strength and steady hand, to shoot him and rid us of the evil he intended for the “homeland”.  In fact, his wife did more to combat terrorism than George Bush did in all the 8 years of his presidency.

We know that will not be the approach of people in government.  Their goal is to make us more dependent on them and fearful of them as well, even if it means pitting one group of people against another.  Don’t fall for it.  The laws we have absent those enacted during the Bush administration, are enough to protect us, as long as we have the courage and strength of Cummings’ wife  keep a steady hand and act.  Are you feeling me, President Obama?