Today’s To the Point show reported on an ACLU class-action lawsuit by 14 U.S. Muslims against the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security for the arbitrary and capricious manner in which it maintains the No Fly lists of those who may not fly within the U.S. The program told the story of Abe Mashal, an Illinois resident who maintains a dog-training business. Mashal served seven years in the Marines, where he was in the K-9 unit. After leaving the service, he began his business and flew regularly around the country to train dogs for clients.
Suddenly, one day while checking in for a flight from Chicago to Spokane, he was told he could not board because he was on the No Fly list. After months of meetings with FBI agents and a failed appeal to the federal government to be removed from the list, he was told he was likely on it because he’d supposedly written to an imam the FBI was monitoring with questions how to raise children in a mixed faith marriage (his wife is Christian). No reason was specified for being on the list or why the government refused to remove him from it. During this entire period he could not fly nor could he pursue any business prospects that required him to fly.
Mashal’s only recourse at that point would be to hire an expensive lawyer and appeal to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. At no point would he or his attorney have access to whatever information, charges or claims landed him on the No Fly list. Instead, he appealed to the ACLU, which added him to this class action suit which is being brought in the Ninth Circuit, where I live. This is the latest legal development in the case.
Mashal believes, and I find this entirely credible, that the FBI may’ve added him to the No Fly list because it wanted to pressure him into becoming an informant. The last voluntary contact he had with the agency was when they invited him to a private hotel room, where over coffee and doughnuts they propositioned him, asking him to become an undercover informant to ferret out Islamic extremists at local mosques.
We’ve seen ample examples of such Muslim snitches recruiting losers and malcontents into grand schemes to blow up U.S. monuments and landmarks. Usually, the end result is a major press conference with Attorney General Holder boasting that the Status of Liberty could live to stand another decade due to the diligence of his brave men and women. When the public finally sees the dangerous conspirators who were about the strike a blow against America, they turn out to be alcoholics, druggies, and no-accounts who had to be dragged into the plot thanks to the wheedling of the snitch.
It’s a wonder Mashal turned down the chance to live such a glamorous life of intrigue under the tutelage of the FBI. Thankfully, he did. He’s written a book, No Spy, No Fly.
The reason I find it completely credible that the FBI put him on the list in order to recruit him as an informant is that this is precisely how the Shin Bet recruits its Palestinian stoolies. It targets Palestinians with life-threatening illnesses, then allows them to enter Israel for medical treatment. But before it completes the permit process it demands that they become spies in order to receive treatment in Israel. Another method is to target Palestinian gays and threaten them with exposure if they don’t become collaborators with the Occupation. It stinks to high heaven, which makes it an entirely appropriate tactic for the Shin Bet, which specializes in such behavior.
Is the Shin Bet sharing tips with the FBI? Is there any doubt that the two agencies collaborate in some fashion? Unfortunately, U.S. counter-terror policies begin to resemble Israel’s more and more in the aftermath of 9/11. So the question is: would the FBI come up with such a lame-assed approach on its own or does it need the Shin Bet to teach it such “tricks?” Hard question to answer.
It’s one thing for Israel to engage in such practices, we know this is a democracy-challenged country. But the U.S.? Yes, I know that under Bush-Obama civil liberties have gone out the window in the name of counter-terrorism. I also realize that we’ve become much more like Israel since 9/11 and that this process has continued under Barack Obama. But I think it stinks even more than it does in Israel.
We’d like to believe that we’re a country of laws and that the Bill of Rights prohibition against illegal search and seizure and guarantees of the right of due process would prohibit No Fly lists that are maintained in such an opaque manner. Every person on this list has the right to see the evidence against him and to appeal against it if it’s wrong. No threat of terrorism justifies the wholesale violation of the rights of U.S. citizens.
Are their threats against the U.S.? Ones that deserve the vigilance of our security agencies? Of course. Does render the shredding of the U.S. Constitution defensible? No.
The federal government’s argument that secrecy is required in order to prevent terrorists from learning how the No Fly lists are compiled and maintained is nonsense. If the federal government wants to take away someone’s right to travel it must prove why it’s done this. If it can’t or won’t, then it must remove the prior restraint against such a citizen. We are not (yet) a police-state. We may become one, but we aren’t there yet. That’s why Abe Mashal deserves our support.
Dena Bugel-Shunra says
Yup, those sure are shin-bet tactics.
I wonder where they got the idea to do that.
And I wonder even more why they think it’s legal to do that in the U.S.
When “rule of law” has gone out of the window and been replaced by “rule by fear”, faithfully executed by a benevolent, elected, blindly trustworthy dictator or, in Andrew Sullivan’s words, a “father figure”, I bet the question of legality is not high on their list of priorities. There’s ample precedence after all for what happens to those who bend and break the law in service of the Neverending War: nothing.
I too have a horror story when it comes to being violated as a US citizen. In the name of anti-terrorism we have become terrotist to each other. The concern for security is legitimate and needs to be addressed I don’t see how terrorizing the citizens of America gets the job done. What it does is leave a better taste in the mouths of the people.I have become untrusting of the motives of some of the agengcies we have in charge of making us feel secure. As an African American Muslim I have been forever changed by my experience and now I see these people as suspect in actions and motives. Before this happened to me I moved through life with a sense of safety now after being raped the way I was by an agency swore to protect me I no longer feel that way. I was shaken to the very core of my being and I have not been able to regain that security.
Abe M says
Thanks for the kinds words and support Richard.
According to DAVID K. SHIPLER, the U.S. do much more than just recruiting stoolies:
They seem to be actively involved in creating fantasy plots. In one case the judge knocked the government for clearly provoking a plot to blow up a synagogue:
How about such cases in Israel? I wouldn’t wonder if one or the other rocket coming from Gaza – just at the right time – were the result of the same methods. What do you think?
Richard Silverstein says
Thanks for reminding me of Shipler’s terrific article. I was thinking of it when I wrote the post but couldn’t remember who’d written it or where & so couldn’t link to it.
Mihai-Robert Soran says
FBI has two parallel methods for getting informants, regardless of their ethnicity or religion: either the carrot or the stick. Shin-Bet is not the source or inventor of the method. It was the KGB, then all Eastern communist security agencies. Large part of the Shin-Bet was recruited 1955-1980 among new immigrants from the East, many of them former communist security officers. They brought with the basic methods used in Israel …
@base2014: Please don’t try no matter what and why to have Israel always the source of all evil on earth and USA … Just use your brains to explain how Israel could be the master of missile attacks from Gaza when Israelis do not enter Gaza and Gazans can’t leave Gaza? Somewhat ridiculous, isn’t it? This is borderline between anti-Zionism/anti-Israel and anti-Jewish. Unfortunately …
Richard Silverstein says
You are one weird dude. At one point here you were Robert Soran-Schwarz. Now you’re Mihai-Robert Soran. Before you were a co founder of Shalom Achshav (though you never offered any bona fides when I challenged you). Now God knows what you are. Essentially, you can’t be trusted in terms of anything you say.
As for yr claims about Communist secret police inventing coercive methods of recruiting snitches, it far predates the Communist era. You appear not to recall the Czarist police & their brutal tactics. And you don’t think the Inquisitors had similar ones as well?
I do NOT appreciate you calling anyone here anti-Jewish. It borders on a comment rule violation. Watch your step.
This peculiar type of coercion is becoming more and more common, and it jeopardizes personal relationships within the American Muslim community, to say the least. But that’s nothing compared to the Orwellian nightmare they’ve created – no fly lists, collaborators, snitches, those who are paid or threatened into entrapping their fellow community members. There are also many people who are on this no-fly list and have no idea whatsoever how their names got there.
The reason for this tactic has little to do with actual security but everything in the world to do with control by the use of fear. It’s part of an arsenal of fascistic dirty tricks which also include the confiscation of a citizen’s computer under the Patriot Act, the warrantless tapping of phones and surveillance of internet activities, the harassment of travelers at airports, and more. Every arrest of a Muslim in one of these contrived terrorist plots serves two purposes. One, of course, is that it satisfies the government’s Orwellian need to show its citizens that the “war on terror” is necessary to protect them from the Al Qaeda boogeyman, and the other is to intimidate and frighten the populace, who is awed by the might and endless reach of the FBI.
The Rahnameh says
Tell me what the difference is between:
and the KGB?
Newsflash: most intelligence agencies in the world operate this way. They have been in the past 300 years. Britain, Russia, China, France – you name it.
But why go in to details when your sole purpose on earth is to slander Israel ?
Using people at war times (and as longs as there are Arab / Muslims / others who disagree with the existence of the state of Israel and the Jewish people’s right for an Independent state – it’s war) by any means necessary is a must. It’s for the greater good.
Richard Silverstein says
So your argument is that because all intelligence agencies blackmail people into snitching for them that this excuses Israel’s egregious abuse of Palestinians? As for “the greater good,” you mean YOUR good, certainly not the good of the victims, who you don’t give a crap about doubtless.
“Using people at war times (and as longs as there are Arab / Muslims / others who disagree with the existence of the state of Israel and the Jewish people’s right for an Independent state – it’s war) by any means necessary is a must. It’s for the greater good.”
Wow. I just about fell out of my chair. So, it’s OK to persecute people with differing political views to ensure Israel’s hegemony? “Greater good,” means exactly that, my dear. That Israel, or the US or whomever, can imprison, maim, kill or oppress any group it deems unpopular or oppositional to its views?
You’re one of the first blatantly fascist people I’ve run into on Richard’s blog. I was right – Israeli fascism is definitely on the rise.
Sending 6000 us soldiers to there death in Iraq and Aphganistan – that was for the “greater good” (unless you think the people there had it better under the Taliban and Saddam), and the cost was much much MUCH higher then the one those persecuted by intelligence agancies worldwide pay.
I stand by my words. Killing over 5 million Germans in ww2 on the road to defeat nazi Germany (many of them harmless citizens) was for the greater good, so was dropping a nukelear bomb over Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
I learned my History. The toll some may pay for whole nations right to live in peace is meaningless. So is the price those who are forced to become informants pay. It’s for the greater good.
Richard Silverstein says
The U.S. has no business being the policeman of the Middle East. It’s caused us a world of pain and in the long run probably has not substantially improved the futures of either of these countries. We have no right determining what is the “greater good” for Middle Eastern countries. Is our blood any redder or our civilization more superior to theirs, thus giving us the right to impose our values or judgments on them? No, it isn’t.
I’m glad to see that you favor Allied war crimes just as you favor Israeli war crimes. Had the Nazis & Japanese won the war our own leaders would’ve likely been hung at Nuremberg.
As you said you learned “your” history. You didn’t learn history or even Jewish history. You learned the version of history most convenient to yr narrow interpretation of Israeli reality. What you don’t understand is that you don’t, as Israelis, impose this “toll” on your enemies and then get to live in peace. That’s part of your national pathology. You don’t get to live in peace at all. What you get is a life for generations that is always under siege & in which your children & grandchildren will inherit life in the balance. You pay a massive toll in terms of stress, death, injustice, & misery which you inflict on yourselves & yr enemies.
The “greater good” as you define it is not “greater” at all since it is only good for the 6 million Jews of Israel (& even that is arguable). It is bad for the 6 million Palestinians and hundreds of millions of other Arabs who live around Israel. I’d call what is good for you the “lesser good” in those terms. You care only for the good of your own kind. I care for the good of Israel’s Jews AND for the overall good of Palestinians and others who live around Israel.
There was no “greater good” for anyone. Interestingly, during the time I spent working with Iraqi refugees in Jordan, I never heard a word of complaint from anyone when I asked them about life under Saddam. They said that he was no sweetheart, was a brutal ruler, but life was infinitely better under his rule than what came after Bush and his cronies imposed “democracy” on Iraq. What happened in Iraq went beyond a nightmare – to my mind, it gave the word “terrorism” a whole new meaning. What the US and the “coalition of the willing” brought down on the innocent people of Iraq simply beggars the imagination.
What the US did to Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a crime against humanity, and I have always asked how anyone could claim that these atrocious acts could have possibly been for any “greater good.” There is not a military strategist, nor a fortune teller with a crystal ball, who could possibly make any such prediction. This was merely propaganda to justify the war crime. I wish I could remember where I’d read it, but Dr. Oppenheimer, the so-called father of the atomic bomb, even said he had no idea the bomb would be dropped on civilians, or otherwise he would have never worked to make the bomb a reality.