Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

29 Aug 2006, 10:32 a.m.

How To Make Me Steamed

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2006 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

Take some US citizens, don't charge them with any crime, but keep them from returning to their home in Northern California, and deny them their constitutional rights. Especially when one is a teenager, and they're South Asian.

Federal authorities said Friday that the men, both Lodi residents [and citizens! -ed.], would not be allowed back into the country unless they agreed to FBI interrogations in Pakistan.....

"We haven't heard about this happening -- U.S. citizens being refused the right to return from abroad without any charges or any basis," said [Julia Harumi] Mass [their attorney with the ACLU].

McGregor Scott, the U.S. attorney for California's eastern district, confirmed Friday that the men were on the no-fly list and were being kept out of the country until they agreed to talk to federal authorities.

"They've been given the opportunity to meet with the FBI over there and answer a few questions, and they've declined to do that," Scott said.

Mass said Jaber Ismail had answered questions during an FBI interrogation at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad soon after he was forced back to Pakistan. She said the teenager had run afoul of the FBI when he declined to be interviewed again without a lawyer and refused to take a lie-detector test.

By the way, anyone with brains would refuse a polygraph, since they don't work and are often not admissible in court (Wikipedia link, National Academies Press smackdown).

So if some random Berkeley classmate of mine, or one of my twenty or thirty cousins whom I've met once, makes up a bunch of names to placate his interrogators, and I happen to be visiting my parents in India when the government collates that list and finds me on it, they'd stop me from coming home to my husband and job and home until I submit to unconstitutional treatment? My response is unprintable.

If you have any kind of probable cause, any kind of tip to follow up on, then do the kind of police work that the Brits did that led to the arrests a few weeks ago. Legal, thorough, warranted in every sense of the word. But when the US government has a network of secret prisons and interrogation facilities specifically set up in countries where the law on torture is unclear or nonexistent, why in the world should a US citizen like me submit to overseas interrogation, especially in Pakistan?

Fly these folks to a jail in the US with air marshals handcuffed to them, if you're so afraid. They live in the US, they're citizens of the US, and the only plausible reason you want to interrogate them abroad is so it'll be less visible if you violate the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments to our Constitution. (Not to mention at least Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.)

I haven't even touched on the problems with the no-fly list. This administration's folly is fractal.