Saadiq Long and America’s Due Process Problem

Saadiq LongDo you remember Saadiq Long? He’s the 10-year US Air Force veteran who lives in Qatar with his wife and daughter. In late 2012, his mother was very ill, but when he tried to fly home, he found he was on the no-fly list. Eventually, the government gave him a waver, and he made it to the US. But two weeks later, when he tried to return, he couldn’t, because he was still on the no-fly list. Eventually, he had to take a bus to Mexico and somehow get home from there. He was something of a cause célèbre on the left because this was a clear example of the ridiculousness of the no-fly list.

So you can imagine the glee among the Islamaphobes when conservative PJ Media “broke” the story, MSNBC’s “No-Fly List Is Islamophobia” Poster Boy Arrested in Turkey as Part of ISIS Cell. There was just one problem: it isn’t true. As Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain noted, “The story is entirely false: a fabrication.” This is just another segment of the ongoing “Saadiq Long is on the no-fly list” saga. He and his wife and daughter (both of whom are also on the no-fly list) were visiting Turkey, because they are looking at relocating there. But now, apparently because they are on the no-fly list, they are being deported from Turkey. There is no terrorism charge, much less a link to ISIS.

None of this stopped the usual suspects of crowing about the false report. Based upon nothing but the PJ Media report, Fox News published, Poster Boy for “No-Fly” Unfairness Held in Turkish Prison, Accused of Helping ISIS. The group of crowers also included everyone’s favorite atheist who just follows the facts, Sam Harris. He decided to take a victory lap based only on that one article:

I think Ben Norton had the right reaction to this, “[Sam Harris] claims to advocate the scientific method, but throws it all out of the window when right-wing propaganda confirms his bigotry.” And that the thing. It isn’t that I think that Harris is on par with Pam Geller. It is that Harris is the one who holds himself up as this icon of serious thinking. I like much of his work, but he’s a great example of how minds work: from the deep reptilian center outward; first comes the tribalism, then comes the justification.

But none of the details actually matter. What does matter is that this is just another case of people using individuals to represent groups. The smarter Islamophobes always claim that they are just talking about the jihadists — that most Muslims are fine people just trying to get by. So what did they get from this case? It would be exactly the same thing. We know there are Muslim terrorists, so why crow about this. Well, Greenwald and Hussain have an interesting idea:

The reason so many people were eager to mindlessly endorse this ISIS accusation is obvious. For his no-fly list challenge in 2012, Long was represented by CAIR [Council on American-Islamic Relations]. His story was first reported by The Guardian. And he was featured by a clearly sympathetic Chris Hayes in an MSNBC interview. So this entire episode started by this anonymous Pajamas [PJ] Media claim became a means of attacking people who have defended Muslim Americans from the relentless assault on their civil liberties, as well as generally trying to discredit claims that Muslims are the victims of civil liberties abuses. Smearing Long as an ISIS operative was just a tool to accomplish that end. He, his family, and their reputations were just collateral damage.

I think that’s about right. Again, with Sam Harris (who is one of the most reasonable people in the Islamophobic community), it’s important that he keep at least a patina of legitimacy. His fans don’t see him as standing up for racism; they see him standing for the truth, even when it is unpleasant. So when liberals have arguments against the no-fly list and other forms of official discrimination against Muslims, they feel the need to push back. Because the no-fly list seems like a pretty clear violation of due process, so at every point it is, “See! See! He’s actually a terrorist! These clear attacks on civil liberties only affect terrorists!”

To sum up:

In many ways, what just happened to Long is a microcosm of the abuses of the 14-year-old war on terror. First he was denied basic travel rights based solely on secret government suspicions. Now, an anonymous government official smeared him as an ISIS terrorist. A right-wing website “reported” the smear. And from there, a wide range of media outlets and individuals with prominent platforms and all kinds of axes to grind explicitly declared him to be a Terrorist: no evidence, no trial, no due process, not even any charges. The fact that he’s Muslim and under suspicion is enough for huge numbers of people to declare him to be a Terrorist, and he will now live his entire life under that cloud.

It would seem that the terrorists have won a major victory against us. They’ve managed to make the vast majority of the nation okay with a lack of due process for everyone in the name of going after Muslims.

This Just In

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

6 thoughts on “Saadiq Long and America’s Due Process Problem

  1. What would be really annoying is if you pointed out “and this is why people don’t like America” the Islamophobes would fulminate about how dare these people not love America the Perfect (TM) regardless of the stupid stuff we do.

    At least none of the usual gang of idiots knew about Mohammad Sidique Khan but then that would have required they read Ron Suskind’s book The One Percent Doctrine.

    • I haven’t read the book. But we clearly don’t have a good record. And our behavior toward Muslims in general is not good globally. But my experience with most Americans (not just conservatives) is that they think we really are special and shouldn’t have to behave the way other countries behave.

      • The book is about why our security state got seriously out of control. The Cheney doctrine of “if there is a 1% chance it could happen, it needs to be treated as if it will happen.” Which is stupid, useless and wasteful. In it, Suskind points out that Khan was on the no-fly list and found out when he tried to come to the US for something. He later was part of the 7/7 bombings in England and Suskind theorizes (logically in my view) that is partly why Khan was part of that instead of something here.

        I am glad that so far all of the hate crimes against Muslims are being treated as such. I would be even gladder if it was not necessary but well, I see what the Republican elite have to say and we do have that 1st Amendment.

        • I have to say, things have not been as bad as I had feared. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t a lot of bad things going on. Glenn Greenwald listed a bunch of them late last week. But overall, people seem to be managing this fairly well. But it could be that I just don’t get out much.

          • My Facebook and Twitter feeds are packed with people absolutely livid that it is happening and calling attention to the fact it is and why it should stop.

            So while it is going on, there are people standing against it and doing things like saying “we are so sorry!” or organizing actual counter protests where people give hugs to Muslims and what not.

            • One nice thing that Greenwald mentioned is that a lot of mosques are getting letters of support from non-Muslims. I like to see that. I overall think people are decent.

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