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.