Statement of Sarosh Syed

ACLU "No-Fly" Lawsuit


Sarosh Syed
Age: 26
Nationality: Naturalized U.S. Citizen; immigrated from Pakistan in 1995
Occupation: Special Projects Coordinator at the ACLU of Washington in Seattle

I am participating in this lawsuit because I expect better from my adopted country. We live in uncertain times, and government actions like the No-Fly list only exacerbate the nervousness we all feel as Americans.

I came to the United States from Pakistan in 1995. In 2001, I became a naturalized citizen because I appreciated America as a land of equality and opportunity. Every time I returned to Pakistan, I told my friends and family about the openness of American society and how, contrary to the beliefs of many Pakistanis, America really is a land of freedom and justice.

On September 11, 2001, I shared the horror of my fellow Americans as our country was attacked. I feared for the safety of my mother in Washington, D.C. and my many close friends in Manhattan. I was enraged at the thought of the murderous zealots who had committed this unspeakable act in the name of the religion I grew up with.

At the same time, I hoped that in this uncertain time, our government would live up to the American ideals of freedom, equality, and justice. Unfortunately, our government disappointed me. Our government apparently thinks that I might possibly be a terrorist and has placed me on the No-Fly list. Like most Americans, I fear further terrorist attacks. But now I also have to fear my very own government.

I first found out about my inclusion on the No-Fly list in the fall of 2002. When I went to check in for my flight I was made to wait at the ticket counter for more than 45 minutes while the ticket agent disappeared with my ID. Throughout this time, I was not told what the problem was. Other passengers checked in without a hitch. Many looked at me apprehensively, no doubt assuming that there must be a reason why I was being made to wait.

Since then, I have flown close to a dozen times, and I have experienced the same treatment approximately half as many times. I never know when someone might decide that I am, indeed, a security threat. Every time I fly, my friends and family fear for my safety -- not because of potential terrorist attacks, but because of the actions of my own government.

This lawsuit is my way of holding my government accountable for its actions. This government cannot be allowed to continue using such ineffectual safety procedures. By arbitrarily flagging me as a potential terrorist my government is not living up to its responsibility to keep us safe from terrorism, nor is it living up to its requirement to respect my civil liberties.

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