Of Rights, Risks, and Relocations

Stockton Record staff writer Michael Fitzgerald comments on the U.S. Government’s denial of entry to the United States of two citizens for declining to submit to FBI interrogation and polygraph “testing.” Excerpt:

I always wondered how white Americans could have stood by during World War II and allowed authorities to drag patriotic Japanese-Americans off to relocation camps.

Now I see. In wartime, such calls are not as easy as they appear in hindsight. Americans probably assumed authorities knew something civilians did not. They trusted people with badges.

More on that later. The point is that the Lodi terror case is starting to have an eerie resemblance to that disgraceful historic mistake.

The latest wrinkle: Federal authorities won’t allow two Pakistani-Americans related to Lodi terror convict Hamid Hayat to come home from an extended stay in Pakistan until they take a lie-detector test.

Muhammad Ismail, 45, and his son, Jaber Ismail, 18, are U.S. citizens. They are charged with no crime. No U.S. official publicly has alleged any wrongdoing on their part.

But their constitutional rights seem to have done a Houdini.

Oh, the treatment they’re getting makes sense. The Ismails are, after all, implicated in the Lodi terror case.

Their cousin Hamid Hayat was convicted April 25 of supporting terrorists. A jury concluded Hayat attended terrorist training camp in Pakistan in 2003 and ’04.

Under FBI interrogation, Hayat said several of his cousins, including Jaber, attended these camps, too. That may be what landed both Ismails on the no-fly list.

Finding his way home blocked, Jaber Ismail submitted to an FBI “interview” in Islamabad. But that wasn’t enough. The feds wanted to talk to him again.

His dad, too. But Lodi relatives reportedly advised them that might not be such a good idea. So the Ismails refused.

That looks suspicious. But consider: Hamid Hayat was convicted solely on statements he made during FBI interrogation. He later recanted. Too late.

Umer Hayat, his father, cooperated with FBI agents and was charged with lying. His jury deadlocked, but he spent 11 months in jail.

Maybe the Ismails are hiding something. But then, conversations with the FBI haven’t gone so wonderfully for the Muslims of Lodi that they should be eager for more.

They may fear if they submit to interrogation, the FBI will hang something on them by hook or by crook. A lie detector? Could you answer FBI questions without making that truth graph dance at least once?

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