In the latest episode in the increasingly bizarre but all too real saga of standardless secret administrative no-fly orders from the DHS to airlines, prohibiting the transportation back to their home country of US citizens, Oklahoma native Saadiq Long is being prevented from returning home to the US to spend the holiday season with his terminally ill mother.
Long is a US citizen and an honorably discharged veteran of the US Air Force, never charged with any crime in the US or any other country, who has been living and working as an English teacher in Qatar for the last several years. He’s also a convert to Islam, which shouldn’t be relevant but probably is.
When he learned of his mother’s illness back home in Oklahoma, he made reservations and bought tickets from KLM for flights from Qatar to the US for what might be a last visit with his mother.
Less than 24 hours before his scheduled departure from Qatar in May, KLM told Mr. Long that the airline (and all others serving the US) had been forbidden from allowing him to board any flight to the US.
Mr. Long has been trying ever since to find out why the government of his country has forbidden all airlines from transporting him, or to find a way to get those orders rescinded. But to date, the DHS has maintained its position that it will neither confirm nor deny whether it has issued any no-fly orders with respect to any specific person, much less the basis (if any) for such orders.
KLM explicitly informed Mr. Long that it had received a no-fly order from the DHS. So in theory, KLM would be required by Dutch data protection law to disclose that order to Mr. Long on request. That wouldn’t tell Mr. Long why he had been banned form returning to his country (the DHS probably didn’t share the reasons for its order with the airline), but would prevent the DHS from claiming in court that whether Mr. Long has been prohibited form flying is a state secret.
Given KLM’s poor track record when individuals have requested KLM’s records of its communications with governments, and the Dutch data protection authority’s poor track record of enforcing the law, it’s hard to predict whether KLM would comply with a request from Mr. Long for all orders or communications pertaining to him between KLM and the US government.
Mr. Long is being assisted by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which has led the struggle for judicial review of no-fly orders. CAIR staff attorney Gadeir Abbas, the leading advocate for US citizens exiled by no-fly orders, told Glenn Greenwald that, “Every few weeks I hear of another Muslim citizen who cannot return to the country of which he is a citizen.”
[Update: Mr. Long was again denied boarding by KLM in Qatar on November 8, 2012.]