Saturday, January 07, 2006

Dangerous Canadian?
Yet another no-fly list episode


Off limits.

I bet these people know what it is to feel terror.

According to the Toronto Star, Sami Kahil, a Canadian citizen, was arrested and jailed in Mexico last Thursday. Kahil, who is of Lebanese origin, has owned a shoe store in Scarborough, Ontario, for twenty years. His offense? Flying over the United States on his way to a Mexican vacation with his family. Apparently his name matches one on the U.S. no fly list.

As required by the U.S. Transportation Security Agency, the charter airline carrying Kahil from Toronto to Acapulco reported its passenger list after take-off. U.S. authorities reacted:

NORAD then provided both air and ground monitoring of the flight, Mike Kucharek, NORAD chief of media relations, told the Toronto Star last night. That means either F-15s or F-16s accompanied the flight while over U.S. airspace.

On landing, Mexican immigration police grabbed up the family, two adults and their children, 8 and 6 years old, questioned them for several hours, and took mug shots. Finally they released the wife, Rima Masri and the children.

After her release, Masri was horrified to discover that Canadian authorities had not been notified. She flew back to Canada with the children and contacted her Member of Parliament and Canada Foreign Affairs. On Saturday, January 7, authorities arranged for Royal Canadian Mounted Police offices to fly Mr. Kahil back to Canada in a private airplane that did not cross over the U.S.

The biggest relief came for [Masri] when she learned that her husband would be escorted by the RCMP rather than U.S. air marshals. She said she was terrified that the marshals would take him somewhere and that he would just disappear. Toronto Globe and Mail

Most people in the U.S. may have forgotten what happened to Maher Arar but Canadians of Arab origin certainly haven't.

Masri points out that among Arabic speakers: "The name Sami Kahil is like saying Joe Blow or John Smith." She insists "they've got the wrong guy."

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security was not apologetic. "This is an excellent example of the information sharing that we need with good allies," said spokesperson Brian Doyle. "I can assure you that if your name is on a U.S. no-fly list, it is not put there in any willy-nilly fashion. " Given the number of people who've been put on the no fly list for no discernable reason, that claim is hard to believe. (See here and here for a few examples.)

Apparently the U.S. government demands not only the right to disrupt the lives (and perhaps render for torture) foreign individuals, but also the right to enlist neighboring countries in this literally tyrannical activity. This expensive little episode is nothing new. For many months, the U.S, has been demanding lists of passengers on flights between Canadian cities because these pass over or close to U.S. borders. We're really not the sort of place that makes a good neighbor.

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