Feds suspiciously ban veteran from flying

March 21, 2011 8:29:20 PM PDT
A suburban man who describes himself as a patriotic, honorably discharged marine is one of 17 plaintiffs in a lawsuit involving the government's no-fly list.

Abe Mashal is Muslim and says FBI agents told him he ended up on the list because he exchanged emails with a Muslim cleric they were monitoring.

While Mashal is Muslim, his wife is Christian, and he says the e-mails were seeking advice on raising kids in a mixed-faith home.

Homeland Security will not confirm whether he's on the no-fly list, let alone why.

For Mashal and his family, "stay-cations" are the new norm.

The economy is not to blame. They say the government is.

Last April, Mashal went to Midway Airport to catch a flight to Spokane, Wash. He never got past the ticket counter.

"I turned around, I didn't even hear 'em coming and I'm surrounded by 30 TSA agents and Chicago police. She comes out and says, 'You're on the no-fly list, you can't fly on any plane and the FBI is on there way here to speak with you,'" Mashal said.

Mashal says what followed was a series of interviews by FBI agents. They talked to him, his relatives, his friends and even a business client.

Mashal owns a high-end dog training business -- a skilled he picked up as a U.S. Marine.

For four years he taught dog handling and marksmanship. He even earned a certificate for completing the military's terrorism awareness program.

Two months after he learned he was on the no-fly list, Mashal says a pair of FBI agents sat him down at a local hotel.

He says they told him if he worked as an informant, they would make sure he could fly again.

"They wanted me to go undercover at different mosques. They told me there are informants all over the area and they want me to find out about certain people for them. The strange part is, I'm not actively involved in any mosques. I've probably been to church with my wife more in the last year than the mosque," Mashal said.

Mashal says he told the agents he didn't think a married father of four should be moonlighting as an FBI informant.

In October, he received a letter from Homeland Security stating there would be no changes or corrections made to his status on the no-fly list.

So, a few months back when the Mashal family wanted to go to Disney World, they drove.

"They're people out there that are bad and if this is the method they're using to find them, it's not effective and we're not safe," said Mashal's wife Jessica.

The FBI and Homeland Security both declined to comment due to the pending lawsuit which was filed on behalf of Mashal and others by the American Civil Liberties Union.

It's believed there are about 8,000 to 10,000 names on the government's no-fly list -- fewer than 10 percent are believed to be Americans.

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