US Apologizes to Billionaire Added to Terror No-fly List

Washburn told the Center he loves America, has never supported extremism, has never committed a crime and served honorably in the Air Force. He has yet to get an explanation from the U.S. government and has lost thousands of dollars in airline tickets.

"I thought America is supposed to be the country that stands up for people's rights, not the country that takes them away," Washburn said. "America is supposed to assume you're innocent before proven guilty, not force you to prove your innocence while assuming you're too guilty to fly."

Washburn said he is making another attempt to return home later this week, a 72-hour journey through Germany, Brazil and Mexico carefully scripted to avoid U.S. airspace.

"This is a secret, unchecked executive power with absolutely no due process for people who are on the list," said Wizner, a longtime critic of the no-fly list. "You can wake up one morning and find yourself unable to fly without ever being told why and without any meaningful opportunity to challenge it."

The Homeland Security Department's web site for its Traveler Redress Inquiry Program is where those denied access to flights can appeal.

But Wizner said his clients have filed appeals on the website and are still waiting for a resolution.

The Terrorist Screening Center, which manages the government's various terrorist databases including the no-fly list, referred a reporter seeking comment to recent testimony by the center's director, Tim Healy.

"Our Redress Unit researches the complaints, coordinates with the agency that nominated the complainant to the Terrorist Watchlist, and, if warranted, corrects any Terrorist Watchlist data that may cause the individual difficulty during a screening process," Healy told lawmakers back in December.

Healy testified that less than one percent of the complaints filed with the unit actually involve the terror watchlist. Of those, about 51 percent are appropriately watch-listed, 22 percent have been modified or reviewed prior to a complaint, 10 percent involved people with similar names, and 15 percent are completely removed or downgraded due to the redress process.

In Chagoury's case, he wasn't seeking permission to fly on commercial planes to the United States. He simply got an FAA waiver for his family to fly aboard his corporate jets into and out of the United States.

Chagoury said the four-month ban on U.S. travel caused him to miss one of his favorite events, watching the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBC playoffs.

"I just love the Lakers. Not going to see the Lakers because you're busy is one thing, but not going to see the Lakers because you're not going to see the Lakers is another thing," Chagoury said.

Chagoury's biography reads like a rags-to-riches tale. He was born in Nigeria to a family of Lebanese descent, got a job in an industrial conglomerate as a teenager, and quickly climbed the corporate ladder to become a sales executive at age 17. He married the daughter of a wealthy industrialist and by 1971 formed a firm called the Chagoury Group that today is one of Nigeria's largest companies, with multi-billion dollar assets in construction, manufacturing, real estate and hotels, according to Chagoury's official web site.

He travels on a British passport and his philanthropy work spans the United States and the globe, his spokesman said.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
  • |
  • 4
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...