June, 16th 2010


– Liz Mair

I've long maintained that Democrats are just as prone to infringing on Americans' civil liberties as Republicans, and very frequently in the name of combating terrorism-- something more associated with Republicans in the public's mind, probably thanks to the very aggressive (and in my view often problematic) approach taken by the Bush administration, with the vocal support of key Republicans in Congress.

But today comes a reminder that Democrats aren't really all that much better.  Right now, under a sitting Democratic President (a self-professed constitutional law professor who talked up civil liberties a lot before flip-flopping and voting in favor of "FISA Reform" in 2008), we have a situation in which an American citizen, born in this country, has effectively been exiled by our government because he's on the no-fly list (which, I might add, has proven over the years to be littered with errors, including the placement of Ted Kennedy's name on it) and because government bureaucrats can't get creative regarding things like, you know, maybe bringing him home handcuffed:

... the case of Yahya Wehelie is really just outrageous beyond belief. Keep in mind as you read that he's a U.S. citizen born and raised in Virginia:

For six weeks, Mr. Wehelie has been in limbo in [Cairo]. He and his parents say he has no radical views, despises Al Qaeda and merely wants to get home to complete his education and get a job. But after many hours of questioning by F.B.I. agents, he remains on the no-fly list. When he offered to fly home handcuffed and flanked by air marshals, Mr. Wehelie said, F.B.I. agents turned him down.

...."For many of these Americans, placement on the no-fly list effectively amounts to banishment from their country," said Ben Wizner, a senior staff attorney with the A.C.L.U. He called such treatment "both unfair and unconstitutional." An F.B.I. spokesman, Michael P. Kortan, said that as a matter of policy, the bureau did not comment on who was on a watch list. But he said the recent plots showed the need "to remain vigilant and thoroughly investigate every lead."

"In conducting such investigations," Mr. Kortan said, "the F.B.I. is always careful to protect the civil rights and privacy concerns of all Americans, including individuals in minority and ethnic communities."

....The no-fly list gives the American authorities greater leverage in assessing travelers who are under suspicion, because to reverse the flying ban many are willing to undergo hours of questioning.

But sometimes the questioning concludes neither with criminal charges nor with permission to fly. The Transportation Security Administration has a procedure allowing people to challenge their watch list status in cases of mistaken identity or name mix-up, but Mr. Wehelie does not fit those categories.

Let's call a spade a spade and just say straight up, "this sucks."  But I would bet the Obama administration does pretty much nothing about it, just like you'd expect, you know, George W Bush not to do anything about it.

Hope.  Change. [intro] 



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