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Spy for us or never return home: Obama’s new tactic in the war on terror?

From The Voice of America which, let me remind you, is an official mouthpiece of the US federal government:

Yayha Wehelie is one of six American-born children of a Somali couple who immigrated to the U.S. in the 1970s. Two years ago, with his mother’s encouragement, he went to Yemen to study Arabic and get married.

He reportedly had contact in Yemen with an alleged Al Qaeda member. And on May 4, on his way back to the United States, he was stopped in Cairo and told that he could go no further because he was on the FBI’s no-fly list.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations says that in Egypt, Weheli has been repeatedly interrogated by or on behalf of U.S. authorities and was told he could come back to America if he agreed to spy on other American Muslims.

Council director Nihad Awad told a news conference in Washington that the council has documented around a dozen similar cases of what he is calling “forced exile.”

So an American citizen can be effectively exiled, without due process and without recourse, just because someone “suspicious” contacted him? And the only way to be allowed to return home is let yourself be blackmailed into turning government informant?

More below the fold.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations has published a a statement by Yusuf Wehelie, Yayha’s brother, which describes his treatment at the hands of US agents:

A man wearing a suit soon entered and asked me questions. When I asked him who he was, he claimed to be from the “CIA” and said that I would not go home and he would put me in prison if I did not answer his questions. He interrogated me for a short time. I then asked to use the restroom and was taken to a small prison within the airport. I was kept there overnight.

The next day, after having eaten only a piece of bread, I was taken before an Egyptian official, who allowed my release.

But I was not released. Instead, I was put in the back of an Egyptian police car, blindfolded and driven to what I believe to be the Police Ministry. It was here that I was placed in a corridor with other prisoners and shackled to the wall. I could barely move and injured my shoulder because of the confinement. Whenever I tried to sleep, I was kicked by a guard; they were subjecting me to sleep deprivation. I was also struck in the back of the head by a guard.

I was repeatedly interrogated by Egyptians, who stated over and over that they worked for the United States government and that they were questioning me at the request of the United States government. What I found to be odd was that the Egyptian interrogator asked me the same questions that the American FBI agents had been asking. It seemed obvious that the Egyptian interrogator was getting the questions from the FBI agent.

I was kept in this location until May 11th, when I was permitted to leave. In order to leave they made me sign a paper in Arabic; I asked for a translation, but they refused to translate it.

The next day I flew to the United States, where, on arrival, I was escorted out of the airport by two FBI agents.

CAIR has issued a press release that described the practice of barring American Muslims from returning home and subjecting them to FBI pressure tactics as “extraordinary rendition.” The press release included exerpts from a letter that CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad sent to US Attorney General Eric Holder:

“His passport was confiscated and FBI agents have subjected him to at least eight interrogations, despite assertion of his constitutional right to remain silent as advised by his attorney. He has been explicitly told that he is on the no-fly list, and he has been pressured to submit to a polygraph test.

“After a polygraph test on June 8, he was allegedly told by an agent that, based on his answers, he would ‘never see the United States or your family again’ unless he ‘rethought’ his answers. Subsequently, he says he has been pressured by the FBI to spy on the American Muslim community when and if he is allowed to return to the United States.

“…He was informed that despite being cleared to travel, he cannot use American or Canadian airspace. When he asked how he could return to the United States without being able to board a plane, he was allegedly informed that “Christopher Columbus did not ride on a plane” to come to America…

“We are concerned that FBI interrogations of American citizens in a condition of forced exile are being conducted without due process and using techniques that amount to a form of ‘rendition.’

“The use of apparently illegal pressure tactics flies in the face of President Obama’s commitment to abandon unconstitutional policies instituted under the previous administration.

Wow. Not even Bush (that we know of) resorted to such tactics. Change we can believe in? Maybe if we were characters in a Kafka novel.

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Gregory Gadow

Gregory Gadow