Last week, the U.S. government deported the artist formerly known as Cat
Stevens, now named Yusuf Islam, on grounds that he posed a terror threat.
That seems far-fetched, especially given that the former pop singer had
strongly condemned the attacks of Sept. 11 and other attacks on innocent
people. But officials nonetheless insisted that they had good grounds for
their decision.

“The intelligence community has come into possession of additional
information that further raises our concern,” a spokesman said, refusing to
explain further. “It’s a serious matter.”

In other words, trust us.

In times such as these, there’s a natural instinct to want to trust our
government. But that trust would be much stronger if not for cases such as
that of Capt. James Yee, the 1990 West Point grad and Muslim chaplain at
Guantanamo Bay who was arrested and charged with spying for al-Qaida. After
holding Yee in solitary for 76 days and threatening the death penalty,
military authorities were finally forced to admit they had no case. Yee was
returned to active duty and just received his honorable discharge.

Then there’s Brandon Mayfield, a convert to Islam and an attorney in
Portland, Ore. He was arrested by the FBI on suspicion of involvement with
deadly railroad bombings in Madrid, even though Mayfield hadn’t left the
country in years and had no contact with Islamic extremists”¦

The list goes on and on. In Detroit, the convictions of two men for
supporting terrorism were thrown out when it was discovered the prosecution
had withheld evidence that would have cleared them. In upstate New York,
two Muslims charged with money-laundering in a terrorism case were released
when it was learned that the prosecution was based on an incorrect
translation from Arabic. In Idaho, a grad student from Saudi Arabia was
cleared by a jury of charges he had assisted terrorists by setting up
Islamic Web sites. And of the thousands of foreign nationals rounded up by
John Ashcroft’s Justice Department after Sept. 11, not one has been
convicted of charges relating to terrorism”¦

Any passenger screening system must guarantee citizens the right to
challenge their inclusion on a no-fly list. Freedom to travel, after all,
is an integral part of the American concept of liberty. If government can
unilaterally decide which citizens can fly and which cannot, without having
to justify that decision, we will have adopted an internal visa system just
like that used by totalitarian countries to dictate the movement of their
citizens. That’s not acceptable, not in this country


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