|Photo by Alan|
By Rebecca Gordon
You might think that the no-fly list is old news, a relic of the panicked early days following the 9/11 attacks. In fact, as recently as 2012, there were still more than 21,000 names on the list, and it seems unlikely to have gotten any shorter since then, though we do know of at least four names that, with some legal prodding from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), were recently removed from it: Muhammad Tanvir, Jameel Algibhah, Naveed Shinwari, and Awais Sajjad. All four men were American citizens or permanent residents who ended up on the list as retaliation for refusing to become FBI informers and tell tales on their neighbors and others in Muslim communities in this country. For years, they could not visit wives, children, or ailing relatives in countries like Pakistan and Yemen.
RELATED STORY: The FBI Has Been Beating, Torturing and Threatening To Kill Americans If They Will Not Become Informants — And Imprisoning Americans On Fake Terrorism Charges
According to a suit filed by the CCR in 2014, as reported by Conor Friedersdorf in the Atlantic, Jameel Algibhah’s troubles began in 2009, when he refused the FBI’s request to infiltrate a mosque in Queens, New York. The legal complaint continues:
“When Mr. Algibhah declined to do so, the agents then asked Mr. Algibhah to participate in certain online Islamic forums and ‘act like an extremist.’ When Mr. Algibhah again declined, the agents asked Mr. Algibhah to inform on his community in his neighborhood. The FBI agents offered Mr. Algibhah money and told him that they could bring his family from Yemen to the United States very quickly if he became an informant. Mr. Algibhah again told the FBI agents that he would not become an informant.”
RELATED STORY: FBI's Fake Terror Stings Exposed: Both the Entrapment Specialist and His Victim Video Taped (Video)
So the FBI retaliated. Since 2010, Jameel Algibhah has been unable to visit his wife and three daughters in Yemen. Not content with preventing Algibhah and the other three from flying, the FBI began interviewing their friends, family, acquaintances, and employers, generating suspicion about them. “They lost jobs, were stigmatized within their communities, and suffered severe financial and emotional distress,” reports the CCR.
RELATED STORY: Man Says He Was Imprisoned for Refusing To Spy On Community for FBI: Unknowingly Married an 'Agent' — Was 'Set Up' When He Refused To Join Entrapment Operation
In June 2015, just before their case was to go to court, the men received letters from the government officially informing them that their names had been removed from the list. The CCR believes that "the letters are a de facto acknowledgment that the men never posed a security threat of any kind and that the FBI only listed them to coerce them into spying on their faith community."
RELATED STORY: Synthetic Terrorism: Informant Who Helped FBI Entrap Harmless Man As 'Terrorist' Faced Prison If He Didn't 'Produce'
The letters restored the men’s right to fly, but they didn’t make up for years of stigma and distress. So the four continued their litigation, but on September 3rd, a federal judge dismissed their suit, which means that they will not get any recompense for the damage done to their lives. In June 2015, the Associated Press reported that Assistant U.S. Attorney Ellen Blain argued the case should not continue, in part for reasons of “national security” and because “neither the law nor the evidence supported finding the agents personally liable for violating the plaintiffs' constitutional rights.” In fact, the government’s original motion to dismiss the suit argued that “there is no constitutional right not to become an informant.” That’s right. Your government says that if it wants to make you a snitch, you have no right to refuse.