A former Oklahoman being held in Turkey is now suing several U.S. government officials for civil rights violations after his passport was flagged while trying to cross the Turkish–Syrian border.
Saadiq Long and his family were taken into custody in October after his placement on the American no-fly list, triggered a security alert in Turkey. According to the lawsuit, neither he nor his family have been charged or arrested with any crime.
Long, a U.S. Air Force veteran from McAlester, is now living in Qatar. In 2012, he was stopped while trying to return to the U.S. to visit his sick mother.
He was stopped again while trying to fly back to the Middle East and eventually drove to Mexico to board a flight leaving the continent. Back then he fought the no-fly list with similar accusations that it was unconstitutional.
This time around it's more serious. The lawsuit names U.S Attorney General Loretta Lynch, FBI Director James Comey and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. The heads of the TSA, and two counter-terrorism agencies are also defendants.
According to the suit filed Friday in a Virginia federal court, the government is "ensnaring individuals” in an "invisible web" of consequences that are imposed indefinitely without recourse for the no-fly list an "injustice of historic proportions."
“It's un-American and unconstitutional for the government without so [sic] much as a court order to change people's lives dramatically in the way that they're doing now,” the Long family lawyer Gadeir Abbas said Saturday afternoon.
The no-fly list has long been a source of contention among both Democrats and Republicans. Most recently, it’s been at the center of a push by President Obama for those placed on the watch list to be barred from buying firearms, a measure the GOP and other pro-gun groups have strongly opposed.
According to the suit, the U.S. has nominated 1.3 million people for placement since 2009 and the FBI has approved 99 percent of those nominated.
Abbas said the rate of nominations has steadily increased since the early 2000s. He said by 2018 the number of nominations could reach 1 million per year, adding that terror experts have said “there’s not a million terrorists” in the U.S.
“The government understand completely that any professional terrorist will easily circumvent the no-fly list if they so choose to,” he said.
According to the suit, officials have said they will allow Long and his family to return to the U.S. but there's no guarantee they will be able to fly back to Qatar, the country they now call home. But the family's lawyer says the no-fly list should be a concern for every American, no matter where they live or to what God they pray.
“The federal government has really picked the wrong family to mess with,” Abbas said. “[The Long family’s] actions not only matter for them but for all Americans… they've been thrust into this position to defend the constitution.”
Abbas also filed an emergency petition to expedite any upcoming hearing to have the issue resolved as quickly as possible.