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Politically motivated airport harassment/paranoia escalates

by Michael Novick Monday, Feb. 11, 2002 at 6:53 AM
michael novick

Anti-racist activist of Indian descent removed from plane, interrogated by FBI

Vik Chaubey, an associate of mine for a number of years

in People Against Racist Terror (PART) divides his

time between LA (where his folks live) and NYS (where he

attends graduate school). He is of "East" Indian descent,

has worked with DRUM (a south Asian organization in NY)

as well as with PART and in the prison rights movement

here in southern California.

He was heading back to NY this week to return to graduate

school upstate and continue his graduate studies, when

he got pulled from his flight and was forced to undergo

several hours of interrogation -- at gunpoint -- by the

FBI, Long Beach cops, and security for JetBlue Airlines

which has inexpensive flights from the Long Beach airport

to the east coast. Here is his account of the outrageous

treatment he received before finally being released and

allowed to fly back to NY (on other airlines by a very

circuitous route).



From: "Vik Chaubey"

To: part2001@usa.net

Subject: February 5 incident



Dear Mike

It was good talking to you yesterday. Here is what happened

at the Long Beach Airport on February 5. I enter Long Beach

airport at 10:15 a.m. and I go through security. 10:40 I

enter JetBlue Airline and I sit in seat 3A and talk with

two passengers sitting next to me. One of the passengers is

a white female from Torrance (she went to school at UCLA

and Pepperdine). I tell her that I am studying Terrorism

and culture at a university in New York State. I discuss

with her my education at Cal State San Bernardino and Cal

State L.A. I discuss with her about New York and I even

tell her that I miss California food. She gets alarmed when

I have not fastened my seat belt (it is still around 11:00

a.m.) and she feels that I do not like seat belts. She

tells her friend who was sitting next to her that she is

going to the bathroom (which was a lie); she actually goes

and complains about me to JetBlue.

Long Beach airport police come and escort me out of seat

and out of the airplane. From this point I am detained

and they take me to a room where they interrogate

me. The interrogation begins with three Long Beach

airport police, One National Guard soldier carrying a

machinegun which was pointed at me for the two and half

hours I was interrogated. Every item in the three bags

I had was searched. I was told to sit down at one place

for the entire time. So I get asked at the beginning

of the interrogation about the 'statement' I made about

'terrorism' (which is that I was studying terrorism in grad

school). Items in my bags were asked about many times.

They asked a lot of questions about pictures I took of

New York City. A Jet Blue security representative asked

me about how I paid for the ticket.

Finally they bring in Long Beach police and the FBI into

the mix. They start to ask questions and questions get

more intense. It is clear to me that they think I am a

terrorist (they ask me questions about 9/11, papers I have

written about terrorism, have I been to Israel, Egypt,

Pakistan and India). They read my papers that I have

written about terrorism, books that I have on Terrorism

and Islam. They ask me several things about Islam. They

also ask me about calls I had made to cell phones. They

ask me about why I am an activist. The ask me about Noam

Chomsky and John Esposito.

Essentially their 'case' against me was statements I

had made to two passengers, their belief that I did not

answer some of their questions as well as I could have

(the word they used was 'evasive'), and the fact that I

had a 'prior warning' (I was walking around Long Beach

airport -- I live half the year in Long Beach -- and

I was given a warning; this took place around 2000).

A Long Beach cop said he recognized me from the July

4th sustainable energy demonstration. At the end of the

interrogation Jet Blue said I would never fly on their

airline and threatened me that I would never fly again on

any airline in the U.S. He told me I would have to take

Amtrak from NY to CA. The FBI warned me not to this again

'and the next time you are arrested.' They said that I

was lucky that I was not arrested this time.

The interrogation took place for two and half hours. My

civil rights were clearly violated and they showed a

reckless disregard for the rights of one passenger. 9/11

was clearly their excuse. I feel strongly that JetBlue

in particular was out of bounds and especially they way

they tried to intimidate me. These people came up with

nothing against me. Mike, I do give you permission to

publicize this. Good luck in the rally in Long Beach

tomorrow. Take care.

Vik

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