American man in limbo on no-fly list

A 26-year-old Muslim American man has been put on the non-fly list, after spending 18 months in Yemen before heading home to Virginia in early May. Yahya Wehelie has been stopped by FBI agents while he was changing planes in Cairo. Agents told him he was on the no-fly list and questioned him about his contacts with another American in Yemen, one accused of joining Al Qaeda and fatally shooting a hospital guard.

Yahya Wehelie and his parents say he has no radical views, despises Al Qaeda and merely wants to get home to complete his education and get a job.

For six weeks, Mr. Wehelie has been in limbo in the Egyptian capital.  But after many hours of questioning by F.B.I. agents, he remains on the no-fly list. When he offered to fly home handcuffed and flanked by air marshals, Mr. Wehelie said, F.B.I. agents turned him down.

Yahya Wehelie’s younger brother, Yusuf, 19, who was stopped with him in Cairo, faced a shorter but even more harrowing time in Egypt. Questioned first by the F.B.I., Yusuf was later held for three days by Egyptian security officers, blindfolded, chained to a wall and roughed up before being allowed to travel home May 12, he said in an interview.

Mr. Wehelie’s case both the aggressive response of American counterterrorism officials to recent close calls with major terrorist plots, and the daunting challenge, both for people like Mr. Wehelie and for their F.B.I. questioners, of proving that they pose no security threat.

Accused after the Dec. 25 near-miss of failing to keep the would-be bomber off the plane to Detroit, the government’s Terrorist Screening Center has since doubled the no-fly list to 8,000 names, according to a counterterrorism official who discussed the closely held numbers on the condition that he not be identified.

The American Civil Liberties Union says it has been contacted by a dozen people who say they have been improperly placed on the no-fly list since December, half of them Americans abroad

(h/t Georgetown SLB)

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