Mar 09 2013

Citizen Long takes the long way home

When last we wrote about Saadiq Long — an Oklahoma native, U.S. citizen, and Air Force veteran — he had been sentenced by the U.S. government, without judge or jury, to life without air travel.

First he was prevented from returning to the U.S. to visit his ailing mother.

Then he was prevented from returning to his wife, child, and job in Qatar.

Why? He doesn’t know, and the U.S. government won’t say.  Airlines refused to allow him to check in for any flights to, from, within, or overflying the U.S., so he infers that the DHS has put him on a “no-fly” lost. But as usual, the U.S. government refuses to confirm or deny any such listing or no-fly order, much less to explain the basis (if any) for it.

Now Mr. Long has made it back to Qatar from Oklahoma, the long way. According to The Oklahomn:

During a telephone interview Friday, Saadiq Long … said he took a bus from Oklahoma City to Mexico, then boarded flights in three different countries to return to Qatar….

“I didn’t have any other choice after the FBI refused to take me off the ‘no-fly’ list,” Long said.

“I have my family here. I have a job here. I had to get back.”

Mr. Long wouldn’t have been able to take a direct flight from Mexico to Europe. Those flights pass through U.S. airspace over Florida. Flights between Mexico and Barcelona and (repeatedly) Paris, for example, have been turned back or diverted when the U.S. found out that they were unwittingly carrying passengers on the U.S. no-fly list.

Most likely Mr. Long had to fly from Mexico to someplace much further southeast such as Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, or Rio de Janiero; from there to Europe or Dubai; and form there to Qatar.  Or maybe he got really lucky, and got on a Qatar Airways direct flight from Sao Paulo.  But it’s still likely to have taken him days of extra travel time and thousands of dollars extra in airfare, compared to, say, a nonstop flight from Houston to Doha..

Mr. Long’s case is among the violations of the right to freedom of movement which we will be raising with the U.N. Human Rights Committee later this month in Geneva, in preparation for the Committee’s periodic review later this year of U.S. implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.