A blacklist is not a basis for search or seizure
A lawsuit filed last week in Federal court in Oklahoma City by the Council on American-Islamic Relations on behalf of Oklahoma native Saadiq Long challenges unconstitutional searches and seizures (sometimes at gunpoint) and interference with freedom of movement on city streets and highways on the unlawful basis of a combination of warrantless dragnet surveillance and arbitrary extrajudicial blacklists.
According to Mr. Long’s application for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to protect his rights and his life while the case proceeds:
In the span of only two months, Saadiq Long has been repeatedly pulled over, arrested twice, held at gunpoint, and had his car searched by Oklahoma City Police Department officers. It is not because Saadiq is a criminal or suspected of being one. Mr. Long is an American citizen and Air Force veteran who has never been indicted, tried, or convicted of any kind of violent crime.
There is a different reason behind these obvious Fourth Amendment violations. That reason involves the intersection of two different dystopian webs: the vast network of cameras and computers maintained by the Oklahoma City Police Department and a secret, racist list of Muslims that the FBI makes available to Chief Wade Gourley and his officers.
That secret FBI list—variously called the federal terror watchlist, the Terrorism Screening Database (TSDB), and most recently the Terrorist Screening Dataset (TSDS)—is a list of more than a million names, almost all of them Muslim and Arab. The FBI adds whatever names it likes, without meaningful review and in accordance with secret processes and standards, for a stunning array of flimsy reasons. Government suspicion of ongoing criminal activity is not a prerequisite to being listed.
The FBI distributes its list, via the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) Database, to the Oklahoma City Police Department. That is all that the FBI distributes: a list of names. The FBI keeps its reasons and evidence about the placement to itself. Because of this, the Department knows that the FBI put Saadiq Long on a watchlist but the Department has no idea why.
Mr. Long’s mistreatment by the US government — the government of the country where he was born and of which he was and still is a citizen — began when, while serving in the US Air Force from 1987-1998 and living in Turkey, he converted to Islam and applied for discharge from the Air Force as a conscientious objector on the basis of his new beliefs.
The Air Force denied his application for conscientious objector status, gave him an “other than honorable” discharge — and, unbeknownst to Mr. Long at the time, had him put on the US government’s No-Fly List as a “known or suspected terrorist”.
After leaving the Air Force, Mr. Long moved with his family first to Egypt and later to Qatar, where he found work as a teacher of English. He discovered that he was blacklisted by the US government almost a decade later when he tried to come back to the US to visit his terminally ill mother in Oklahoma City.