By Matthew Rothschild on February 10, 2010

Nicholas George was just trying to get to college for his senior year. It was August 29, 2009, and he was attempting to fly from Philadelphia to Southern California to start up his senior year at Pomona College.

While he was going through the security line at Philadelphia International Airport, TSA agents put him through extra screening, according to his lawsuit, filed by the ACLU.

They asked him to empty his pockets, and he had some English-Arabic flashcards in them, as he’d been learning Arabic for three years and was a Middle-Eastern Studies major. After discovering the flashcards, the TSA agents kept him in the screening area for a half hour.

Then a TSA supervisor arrived and “immediately began questioning Mr. George in a hostile and aggressive manner.”

She asked about how he felt about 9/11.

“Mr. George responded that he though 9/11 was a terrible event,” says the suit, filed by the ACLU.

Then she noted a book he had entitled “Rogue Nation: American Unilateralism and the Failure of Good Intentions, “ by Clyde Prestowitz.

And she kept up the inquisition on 9/11.

TSA supervisor: “You know who did 9/11?”

George: “Osama bin Laden.”

TSA supervisor: “Do you know what language he spoke?”

George: “Arabic.”

TSA supervisor: “Do you see why these cards are suspicious?”

Then a Philadelphia police officer arrived and handcuffed George and led him
away to the airport police station.

“At no time did the officer inform Mr. George of any rights he retained, including the right to speak with an attorney, the right to remain silent, or the right to leave the airport rather than get on the flight,” the suit says.

Instead, the officer put him in a jail cell, with his handcuffs still on, and told him he was being detained.

After a couple of hours, two FBI officers arrived, and they led him to an interrogation room. They never informed him of his rights, either, according to the lawsuit.

They “proceeded to ask a large number of questions about his personal and educational background, his religious and political beliefs, his prior travels, and other personal matters.”

When George told them he didn’t know why he was being held, one of the agents called him a “fucking idiot.”

They asked him about his travels to Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Malaysia. (George had taken a semester abroad in Jordan, and spent five weeks after that traveling in northwest Africa. He also had visited Malaysia and Indonesia.)

“Are you Islamic?”

George told them no.

They followed up by “asking whether Mr. George was a member of any “pro-Islamic groups” on campus or any “communist groups.”

George said no.

After 30 minutes, they told him he wasn’t a threat and could go.

By this time, he’d missed his flight, and he couldn’t get another one until the next day.

George is suing agents of the TSA, the FBI, and the Philadelphia police force for violating his First and Fourth Amendment rights.

Messages left with the TSA and the FBI were not returned in time for this filing.

Says George, in an ACLU press release, “No one should be treated like a criminal for simply learning one of the most widely spoken languages in the world.”

Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine. To subscribe for just $14.97 a year, just click here.

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A plea to United States citizens to work for peace

An Indian journalist globally renowned as an advocate for the poor, Palagummi Sainath detailed the detrimental...

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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