He was allowed to fly to Rochester
but now has been told he’s too dangerous to get back on the plane to fly overseas to visit his five young children.
“I gave them my ID, they look in their computers and say hold on,” says Abdullatif Muthanna.
Muthanna is an American citizen working to earn enough money to bring his family to Rochester from Yemen. He is also at the center of a nationwide controversy over airline security.
The ACLU calls passengers like Muthanna “too scary to fly, but not scary enough to arrest.”
“I can’t wait because I need to see my kids,” says Muthanna.
When Muthanna last saw his youngest son Saleh, the boy was two months old. That was more than two years ago. He carries updated photos of his five children in his wallet. They are growing up without him.
“Really, it’s breaking my heart,” says Muthanna. “It’s been too long.”
On Tuesday he tried to board a Delta plane to Yemen but was turned away. It’s the third time that has happened. “They told me I’m not allowed to fly. I ask them why, can you give me a reason and they say this is all we can say. You’re not allowed to fly,” he explains.
Muthanna has lived in Rochester 15 years. His problems flying began not after the September 11th terrorist attacks, but nine years later. After a man tried to board a plane in Detroit with explosives in his underware, the number of names on the “Do Not Fly” list doubled to 20,000.
“I was thinking I was on a no fly list,” Muthanna says of the first time he was turned away. Asked why he might be on such a list he replies “I have no idea.”
He is now one of 15 U-S citizens, including three veterans, who are asking the courts to intervene. Even though each of them had flown regularly in the past, each of them now suspects they are on the list.
They don’t know why, or how to get off of it.
The Justice Department did not respond to our calls but attorneys argued in court the list is based on “classified and highly sensitive counterterrorism investigations.” They further argued that even confirming someone is on the list “would inform suspected terrorists that they are being investigated.”
“It may not be that they get to open up the Government’s files and see everything,” countered attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union who have brought the court action. Only enough “to say either that’s not me, thats not true, or I can explain that.”
Neither the airlines nor TSA (Transportation Security Administration) has jurisdiction over the “Do Not Fly” list. It is controlled by the TSC (Terrorist Screening Center.)
People who are denied the right to fly are allowed to file a complaint. When Muthanna filed a complaint he received a letter which neither confirmed nor denied his inclusion on the list. Only that his complaint has been reviewed.
The next time he tried to get on a plane, he could not.
Court papers do not answer the question of whether Abdullatif Muthanna is under investigation or surveillance here. Yet he wonders why he was deemed “safe enough” to fly into Rochester, but “too dangerous” to fly out.
“I have no idea, no idea,” he says. “I just want to see my kids.”
To read the complaint filed in U.S. District Court: http://www.aclu.org/national-security/latif-et-al-v-holder-et-al-complaint