The ACLU is going to court Friday on behalf of a college student who was allegedly interrogated, handcuffed and detained for five hours because he had a set of English-Arabic language flashcards and a book critical of the U.S.In 2009 Nick George, who studies physics at Pomona College in California, was returning to school after completing a study abroad program in Jordan when TSA agents at the Philadelphia International Airport asked him to empty his pockets.
According to ACLU, George presented a set of English-Arabic language flashcards. His carry-on luggage was searched and the agents found “Rogue Nation: American Unilateralism and the Failure of Good Intentions” by Clyde Prestowitz—a book that former Assistant Secretary of defence for International Security Affairs Joseph Nye described as a “conservative ‘s sober warning of the dangers of unilateralism and the temptations of empire.”
George says he was then detained and questioned for a half-hour about whether he knew “who did 9/11.” He was subsequently handcuffed by a Philadelphia police officer and locked in a cell for four hours—the first two hours in handcuffs—and then interrogated for a half-hour by two FBI agents, the ACLU says.
He says he was then released without being charged and had to catch a flight the next day.
ACLU attorney Zachary Katznelson will argue to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals that TSA agents, FBI agents, and Philadelphia police officers violated George’s constitutional rights.
“Nick George didn’t pose a threat to flight security and locking him up simply for studying a certain language is clearly unconstitutional,” Katznelson said in a press release. “Americans don’t give up their constitutional rights when they fly. This kind of unlawful action does nothing to keep us safer, and instead diverts attention from actual threats.”
Here’s George describing his experience:
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