In Hong Kong, Ms. Mass said, they were told there was a problem with their passports; other family members traveled on to California, while the Ismails returned to Pakistan. There, a consular officer suggested there had been a mix-up and advised them to book a direct flight to the United States, but at the airport, they were told they were on the no-fly list, she said.The San Francisco Chronicle's Demian Bulwa appears to have broken the story, and here is more coverage from Reuters and the Stockton Record. Ms. Mass is a lawyer with the ACLU.
Jaber Ismail, who was born in the United States, was questioned by the F.B.I. at the American Embassy in Islamabad, but his father, a naturalized United States citizen from Pakistan, declined to participate, Ms. Mass said. Jaber Ismail has refused further interrogation without a lawyer and has declined to take a polygraph test; Ms. Mass said the men were told these conditions had to be met before the authorities would consider letting them back into the United States.
As you can tell, these two American citizens are Pakistani-American. They are from Lodi, and are also related to Hamid Hayat, the 23-year old Lodi resident who was convicted of supporting terrorists earlier this year. They have apparently been in Pakistan for more than four years. It would not be surprising if the FBI had a good reason to want to question them.
But let us not forget that the FBI has a long and storied past of using its powers unjustly. Let us not forget the right to counsel in the Sixth Amendment, or that Habeas Corpus cannot be suspended for a citizen. The FBI could arrest them, handcuff them, and bring them home to be questioned in the presence of a lawyer. Instead it is treating them like foreigners and convicted criminals.
In some sense the specifics of the case are irrelevant to general discussion. If they are guilty, or dangerous, there are constitutional ways of dealing with that. What is relevant is this: two American citizens are being prevented from coming home except on condition of giving up the very rights of their citizenship. They are being deprived of liberty without trial or even accusation. There are two interpretations of this.
Either all American citizens now forfeit their rights by traveling. Or these two are not really considered American citizens.
The former is a disastrous attack on our liberty. And the latter is a disastrous attack on our citizenry. Please don't ignore it. Please support the ACLU.
Spring 2006: Guest Bloggers!
Rishi | Scott | Emily
Echan | Robert | ToastyKen