In late December 2010, 18-year-old Somali-American Gulet Mohamed was detained in Kuwait without charges and tortured, almost certainly at the behest of U.S. officials. Through a cellphone smuggled into the detention camp by another inmate, Gulet was able to call me and New York Timesreporter Mark Mazzetti and recount what happened; that morning, we both published articles reporting on the detention, and (with Gulet’s consent) I published the recording of the 50-minute call I had with him, showing him in extreme distress as he described his ordeal.
After Kuwaiti officials concluded they had no cause to detain him, the teenager was told that he would be deported back to the U.S. as soon as his family presented a plane ticket. Once they did that, he was taken to the airport, only to be told by United Airlines that he was barred from boarding the plane because he had recently been placed by the U.S. Government (in secret, with no hearing or explanation) on the no-fly list. In other words – as has happened many times before to American Muslims – Gulet’s own government secretly exiled him with no due process by placing him on a no-fly list while he was traveling overseas. Only after a stand-off with the Kuwaitis did the U.S. Government issue a one-time waiver to allow him to fly back to the U.S. He remains on the no-fly list.
Once back in the U.S., Gulet (pictured, right) – who, to this day, has never been charged with a crime – sued the U.S. Government for violation of his constitutional rights, a case that challenges not just Gulet’s specific treatment but the no-fly process itself. The federal judge presiding over the lawsuit, Bush-43-appointee Anthony Trenga of the Eastern District of Virginia, issued a series of rulings demonstrating clear skepticism about the DOJ’s arguments in defense of the no-fly system. As my Intercept colleague Cora Currier reported in October, Judge Trenga rejected the DOJ’s argument that what was done to Gulet was a “state secret” and therefore could not be adjudicated by any court, thus ensuring the case would be fully heard.