Americans Turned Away at the Border

From the San Francisco Gate:

The federal government has barred two relatives of a Lodi man convicted of supporting terrorists from returning to the country after a lengthy stay in Pakistan, placing the U.S. citizens in an extraordinary legal limbo.

Muhammad Ismail, a 45-year-old naturalized citizen born in Pakistan, and his 18-year-old son, Jaber Ismail, who was born in the United States, have not been charged with a crime. However, they are the uncle and cousin of Hamid Hayat, a 23-year-old Lodi cherry packer who was convicted in April of supporting terrorists by attending a Pakistani training camp.

Federal authorities said Friday that the men, both Lodi residents, would not be allowed back into the country unless they agreed to FBI interrogations in Pakistan. An attorney representing the family said agents have asked whether the younger Ismail trained in terrorist camps in Pakistan.
First, let me say this: Two relatives of a man who attended terrorist training camps who have spent large amounts of time in Pakistan should receive extra scrutiny when returning to the United States. That's just good intelligence work. That doesn't mean they should be denied their rights as Americans.

If the FBI wants to question these men (which they probably should) then they should do so, in the United States, with the two men having access to legal council.
The father and son were forced to pay for a flight back to Islamabad because they were on the government's "no-fly" list, Mass said. Muhammad Ismail's wife, teenage daughter and younger son, who were not on the list, continued on to the United States.

Neither Muhammad nor Jaber Ismail holds dual Pakistani citizenship, Mass said.

"We haven't heard about this happening -- U.S. citizens being refused the right to return from abroad without any charges or any basis," said Mass, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union.
Either these two men should be charged with a crime or allowed to return to their country.

The thought that every time I leave the United States I'm taking a chance that, due to any sort of administrative mix up, I could be denied my right of return simply because my name appears on a 'no fly list' or that my name is similar to that of a terror suspect is frightening. The fact that if such a thing were to happen, I could be shipped off to be 'questioned' in Pakistan is down right scary.
McGregor Scott, the U.S. attorney for California's eastern district, confirmed Friday that the men were on the no-fly list and were being kept out of the country until they agreed to talk to federal authorities.

"They've been given the opportunity to meet with the FBI over there and answer a few questions, and they've declined to do that," Scott said.
Would you want to be questioned by anybody in Pakistan? I mean, even if I had absolutely nothing to hide I would decline to be 'questioned' in Pakistan. Let me speak to the FBI in the United States. That's fine. He'll, I'll talk to them over coffee in the airport lounge, but I'll be damned if I'm going to let them 'question' me in some Pakistani prison.

These men's names appear on lists which cannot be checked. If your name appears on the list, the only way you can find out is by trying to fly somewhere. Even then, you won't be able to find out why it's on the list or challenge the designation. No 'if you received this in error, call 1-800...'

This is one of the instances where there is no black and white. The FBI has legitimate reasons to view these men as suspect. They were named by a man convicted of being trained at a terrorist camp in Pakistan and were returning from a long stay in Pakistan. At the same time, they have been denied their rights, threatened with having their citizenship stripped simply because they refuse to strip themselves of the rights that the Constitution promises to them. The Ismails are Americans and deserve better than that.

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