Step Two: The Lawsuit

This week, the ACLU of Michigan filed a lawsuit on my behalf to hold the parties responsible for arresting and detaining me on 9/11/11 for “suspicious behavior” on a flight from Denver to Detroit.

That “suspicious behavior” seems to mean having an Arabic last name and sitting next to two men of South Asian descent. Nothing more. You can read about the experience I had in a previous blog post.

The ACLU, working in tandem with lawyers from the national ACLU office and private attorneys from two firms, have made the claims through the lawsuit that my constitutional rights were violated and I was racially profiled. You find a summary of the claim at the ACLU’s website.

Here’s an excerpt:

Through public records, the ACLU discovered that Hebshi was removed from the flight because she was seated next to the men and because of her ethnic name. A small number of passengers noticed the two men go to the bathroom in succession and complained to the flight crew. The two men were cleared of any wrongdoing and were also released from custody later that evening.

The complaint cites a number of violations, including unreasonable search and seizure prohibited by the Fourth Amendment, and discrimination prohibited by the federal civil rights laws. The lawsuit was filed against Frontier Airlines as well as officials with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Wayne County Airport Authority, Detroit Metro Airport Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP).

We held a press conference in Detroit on Tuesday announcing the case and explaining the reasons for taking action. I made a statement, which you can read in full on the ACLU’s blog here.

Here’s an excerpt:

This, certainly, was a difficult day for me, but I also recognize that many others have experienced similar horrors because of racial profiling. Through this lawsuit, I hope to reclaim the dignity that is taken from us when racial profiling trumps the American values of fairness and equality.

I appreciate the tremendous support I have received from friends, family and strangers who feel as outraged as I am that this happened. And I hope that through this lawsuit not only will public awareness grow of this issue, but some changes will be implemented into the system so innocent people are not targeted as criminals.

Here are some of the media reports since Tuesday’s press conference:

 

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NDAA 2012: ‘Military detention authority on steroids’

I guess I was lucky that I was pulled off a plane by armed men, frisked, hands and feet splayed on the side of a police car and taken to a police building where I was held, strip searched and interrogated for four hours without really knowing why I was there. I was lucky in that it was before a bill like the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012 was passed.

If I was held under the NDAA’s proposed guidelines, I could have been shipped off to Guantánamo and held indefinitely without trial.

A Michigan Democrat, Sen. Carl Levin, wrote the language that would allow the military to hold anyone — U.S. citizens and non —  suspected of terrorism for as long as it wants without the constitutional promise of a trial. Not only does the NDAA violate the constitution, but it would be another step toward a xenophobic police state where suspicious behavior is just as good as hard evidence.

It’s scary to think that in my case, I could be suspected of terrorism just for sitting next to two Indian men who needed to use the bathroom on an airplane and remained indisposed a little too long. That means anyone who “looks” threatening or “acts” threatening, to which there are no clear guidelines, could be shipped off to a military prison with a reputation for torturing its prisoners and stripped of their civil liberties, including due process . No, it’s not just scary, it’s unjust and corrupt.

The ACLU had this to say about the bill:

“This bill puts military detention authority on steroids and makes it permanent. If it becomes law, American citizens and others are at real risk of being locked away by the military without charge or trial.”

and

“Based on suspicion alone, no place and no person are off-limits to military detention without charge or trial.”

President Obama has threatened to veto it, saying:

“Any bill that challenges or constrains the President’s critical authorities to collect intelligence, incapacitate dangerous terrorists, and protect the Nation would prompt the President’s senior advisers to recommend a veto.”

Retired four-star Marine generals wrote an op-ed in the New York Times saying:

“…some in Congress are all too willing to undermine our ideals in the name of fighting terrorism.”

Let’s hope for all our sakes that Obama vetoes the bill—even if he’s doing it for the wrong reasons.

Read more:

After the Post

I wrote this for Yahoo! News to describe what has been happening in my world after I published my blog post, Some Real Shock and Awe: Racially Profiled and Cuffed in Detroit, on Monday.

Things are beginning to calm down on this end, and I am now working with the ACLU on the matter.

Again, thank you for all the support out there. Maybe there will be some positive outcome to all of this.

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