In case anyone disputes the increasingly fascist nature of US federal anti-terror efforts, they should to check out the 7/11/06 front page Wall St. Journal article (left column) titled "A Muslim's Choice: Turn US Informant or Risk Losing Visa." This chilling story details what happened to a legal immigrant green card visa holder who found himself in the clutches of what can only be described as the FBI's version of a cartoonish Gestapo-style recruitment effort.
[Unfortunately the Wall St. Journal on line edition is subscription only, so no direct link to the full story can be provided].
Yassine Ouassif doubtless considered himself lucky when in 2001, at age 18 he won a coveted US green card visa in an annual lottery which enabled him to leave his native Morocco and come to live and work in the United States. Mr. Ouassif's stay in this country was uneventful, as he worked as a laborer and security guard and was studying to become an engineer. He married his first cousin in Morocco in 2003. As the WSJ reports it:
Mr. Ouassif's troubles began last September after he visited his wife in Morocco. He took off from Paris on a flight back to San Francisco. Three hours later the pilot announced the flight was returning to Paris. Two French policemen escorted Mr. Ouassif off the plane. French authorities told him that the US would not permit the plane to land with him onboard, he says, they told him they didn't know why, he says. They put him on the next flight to Casablanca. Moroccan security officials met Mr. Ouassif at the airport and grilled him all night and for much of the next day, he says. At one point they told him he'd "never see the sun again" if he didn't tell them why the US would turn back a French jet just because he was aboard, he says.
According to the WSJ account, even today no federal officials will comment on his presence on the "no fly" list, despite the fact that he has never been accused of any terrorist acts or suspicious activity. He soon decided to return home to San Francisco, this time flying to Montreal and taking a bus to the border. He was too scared to fly given his Kafkaesque status with the feds. The immigration inspector wondered why he flew to Canada and didn't buy Mr. Ouassif's story that the Canadian scenery was worth the detour. As the WSJ then reports:
[Mr. Ouassif] was handcuffed and placed in a holding cell for several hours, he says. An immigration officer interviewed him at length about his life and religious views. … Immigration officers had taken his green card. Under normal circumstances [FBI Special Agent Michael] Lonergan told him, he would have been sent to a Buffalo detention center to await deportation proceedings, according to Mr. Ouassif. He'd been spared, Mr. Lonergan told him, by a call from Dan, his FBI colleague in San Francisco. Special Agent Dan Fliflet wanted Mr. Ouassif to come to San Francisco, but not by plane, and to call him as soon as he arrived. According to Mr. Ouassif, Mr. Lonergan told him that Mr. Fliflet would decide whether he would get back his green card or be deported. Mr. Ouassif was ordered to report to an immigration interview in San Francisco three weeks later, on Dec. 14.
Upon meeting "Dan" in a walk-and-talk on the streets of Oakland, Mr. Ouassif found himself being told he had a choice of becoming a Bureau informant, spying on his local mosque Muslim friends, or being stripped of his green card and deported forthwith. These thuggish threats are right out of a WWII propaganda film, though I'm guessing without the classic sinister German accent. The Journal's account continues:
Mr. Fliflet gave Mr. Ouassif one week to consider the FBI's offers to become an informant in exchange for his green card, according to Mr. Ouassif. If he didn't hear from him, the FBI agent said, he'd assume Mr. Ouassif "prefers to help extremists" instead of America, according to Mr. Ouassif. Mr. Fliflet warned him the FBI had ample evidence to prove he was an extremist, Mr. Ouassif says. Mr. Fliflet told him not to tell anyone about their meeting, including his lawyer.
Mr. Ouassif soon decided he didn't want to become an FBI snitch, because to do so would be a hypocritical sin according to the Quran. While he had previously said he would report any suspicious terrorist activity voluntarily, on his own, he feared becoming a lifelong informant unable to escape the visa blackmail he was being offered. He returned two weeks later for his scheduled immigration interview, though he brought his attorney Banafsheh Aklaghi, founder of a San Francisco nonprofit group, National Legal Sanctuary for Community Advancement. Immigration agents peppered him with questions, including many involving a former roommate who had returned to his native Baghdad and had been either arrested or killed there, though they hadn't been close friends. The Journal continues:
Two agents told Mr. Ouassif they intended to detain him for deportation. His lawyer asked why. Mr. Ouassif says the agents didn't answer. He was handcuffed and put in a holding cell. Through a cell window, his lawyer told him he was slated for detention in Eloy, Ariz one of the highest-security facilities in the federal system. Mr. Ouassif cried. About three hours later, he says, the immigration agent took him aside without his attorney and asked if he still wanted to fight deportation. He said he did. Within minutes, he says, another immigration officer gave him surprising news: he was free to go. The Homeland Security lawyer on duty had refused to sign his detention order, citing a lack of evidence, his attorney, Ms. Aklaghi was told.
Months later, in early April of this year, his green card was returned to him. He also learned the reason for this nightmarish treatment. As the Journal describes it:
Mr. Ouassif had been secretly recorded by an FBI informant talking to friends in a San Francisco mosque. A Homeland Security lawyer, [Ms.Aklaghi] says, did not specify what Mr. Ouassif had said, but told her his statements did not indicate criminal intent and were fully protected by the First Amendment. Nevertheless, his statements had landed him on the no-fly list, Ms. Aklaghi says, and led to all his subsequent travails.
Mr. Ouassif is now a licensed security guard pulling double shifts at a nuclear power plant, though he still worries about his no-fly status and whether or not he will be able to bring his wife to America. FBI spokesmen in the article would only mouth platitudes about "we're learning too" and "we need to understand where the boundaries are for them, as well as us." Nice to know that our modern American Gestapo has that New Age vocabulary touch.
It should be noted that all of this was the result of a surreptitious tape recording made in a Muslim church, containing nothing that even the government could consider illegal conspiracy or advocacy of violence or terror. It was totally manufactured for the express purpose of using this secret government "terrorist" evidence to extort cooperation after a sufficient period of incarcerating and browbeating the victim here.
We can also expect (someday, maybe) to learn that this was no isolated incident. Every immigrant or green card visa holder can and depending on circumstances, will be treated as mere pawns for FBI extortion purposes, to be recruited as informers and spies, and possibly agents provocateurs, should the need arise.
Most Americans, brainwashed by government propaganda and media glorification of our own police state operators, may well be shocked that this goes on. Or perhaps think that non US citizens can and should be treated like Stalin's own citizens or East German Stasi fodder, squeezed and threatened until they start sending in reports on their friends, family and neighbors. And of course that old Soviet favorite, spying on fellow churchgoers…
But the Wall St. Journal is no leftist broadsheet wailing about the Bush police state. No more staunch advocate of domestic fascism and Bush imperialism can be found in daily publication.
Sinclair Lewis's famous book title It Can't Happen Here, though meant to be an ironic warning about U.S. fascism, is both wrong and prophetic. It is happening here, now.
And fellow US passport holders, we are surely next.