Let Yahya Wehelie come home

LET YAHYA WEHELIE COME HOME…. The list of people who’ve had absurd experiences with the no-fly list is hardly short, but the ordeal Yahya Wehelie is facing is more painful than most. (via Kevin Drum)

As a 26-year-old Muslim American man who spent 18 months in Yemen before heading home to Virginia in early May, Yahya Wehelie caught the attention of the F.B.I. Agents stopped him while he was changing planes in Cairo, 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.

For six weeks, Mr. Wehelie has been in limbo in the Egyptian capital. He 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.

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.

“The lady told me that Columbus sailed the ocean blue a long time ago when there were no planes,” Mr. Wehelie said in a telephone interview from Cairo. “I’m an innocent American in exile, and I have no way to get home.”

I can appreciate the caution federal officials chose to exercise, particularly with those who’ve spent time in Yemen after the failed Christmas-day plot. Vigilance is wise.

But for Wehelie, an American citizen who has effectively been banished from his home without cause or charges, this is no wisdom in this mistreatment. The man is in limbo.

If there’s reason to be suspicious of him, subject him to a thorough search. Check his luggage closely. Hell, if there’s credible evidence of a terrorist threat, put him on the plane Hannibal Lecter-style. But to simply deny him access to a flight home, even after questioning, without charges or explanation, is ridiculous.

Kevin called this “an abomination, pure and simple.” If officials can explain otherwise, I’d like to hear it.