FBI’s no-fly list prevents Muslim-American peace activist from flying homeFriday, July 6, 2012 at 2:31 pm by Munazza Fairooz Khan
A 27-year-old Iranian American was banned from flying home to the United States after learning his name was on the “no-fly list.” Kevin Iraniha had recently graduated from the University of Peace in Costa Rica and was trying to fly back home on June 5. Born in California, Iraniha is a pro-Palestinian, anti-war activist with absolutely no connection to any form of terrorism. Unable to fly home, Iraniha and his father went to the U.S. embassy in Costa Rica for assistance. Once there, the two were relentlessly interrogated for over six hours, primarily about Iraniha’s faith, his time abroad in Muslim nations and Iraniha’s opinions about American foreign policy.
However, this was not Iraniha’s first encounter with U.S. security officials. In August 2011, an FBI agent visited him after Iraniha returned home from a trip to India, Egypt and Iran. The agent encouraged Iraniha to approach the FBI at any point if he had information regarding terrorist activity that could be useful to them. Although Iraniha’s interaction with the FBI officer was cordial, he was shocked to find his name on the no-fly list that prevented him from flying home.
Iraniha soon learned through the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) that this encounter was a well-known FBI tactic: by placing their names on the no-fly list, the Bureau attempts to intimidate Muslim Americans into becoming FBI informants. Iraniha has yet to receive a clear reason for why his name was on the list. Eventually, Iraniha was forced to fly to Tijuana and cross the border on foot.
Hanif Mohebi, the executive director for CAIR San Diego, was outraged at Iraniha’s treatment:
This is a clear violation of his civil and constitutional rights…We have dealt with this before, and once you get on [the no-fly list] there is almost no way to get off of it.
Implemented right after 9/11, the no-fly list was supposed to prevent potential terrorists from boarding planes flying into the United States. However, it does not bar them from entering the country through other means, like road transportation. Ben Wizner, an attorney for the ACLU, denounced the no-fly list in a statement:
A secret list that deprives people of the right to fly and places them into effective exile without any opportunity to object is both un-American and unconstitutional.
More than 8000 lawful citizens and permanent residents, including the late Senator Ted Kennedy, have been placed on the no-fly list. Meanwhile, the infamous “underwear bomber,” Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalab, was never listed.
The secret list, maintained by the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) is a gross violation of Americans’ civil liberties. Moreover, the individuals who are banned from flying are usually denied clear information about why their names are on the list. Ben Wizner asserts that these individuals are “too scary to fly but not scary enough to arrest.“ Kevin Iraniha’s experience as well as the continued use of the no-fly list highlights the inherent suspicion towards the Islamic community that is still predominant within U.S. security institutions.