California Muslim Sues Government after TWIC Card Denial in Apparent “You Spy, You Drive” Strong-Arming

Attorneys Say Government Violated Constitutional Rights, Due Process

DALLAS – Sept 14, 2016 – Representatives from Muslim Legal Fund of America, a nonprofit civil liberties legal fund, said that attorneys for Mohamed Al Seraji filed a federal lawsuit against several government officials over claims that they violated Al Seraji’s constitutional rights when they denied his application for a Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) card after he refused to become an informant for the FBI (Case 8:16-cv-01637-JLS-JCG).

The lawsuit, which was filed by attorneys at Constitutional Law Center for Muslims in America, named officials in the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Terrorism Screening Center (TSC) and Department of Justice (DOJ) as defendants. In the complaint, attorneys present the following facts:

  • Mohamed Al Seraji, a naturalized U.S. citizen, became his family’s sole source of financial support after his father passed away
  • Al Seraji obtained his Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) in September 2015
  • After earning his CDL, Al Seraji was offered a job on the condition he obtain a TWIC card
  • Al Seraji sent his TWIC application in October 2015
  • Without notifying Al Seraji, an FBI agent appeared at the TSA interview and interrogated Al Seraji without legal representation
  • None of the questions asked by the FBI agent had any relevance to his TWIC application
  • On December 8, 2015, Al Seraji received a TWIC denial letter from the TSA, therefor losing his job opportunity
  • After his denial, an FBI agent called Al Seraji and requested a second meeting
  • Al Seraji, along with his attorney, met with the FBI agent as well as an armed police officer
  • During the meeting, the FBI agent told Al Seraji that he can help him with his TWIC application and he wanted Al Seraji to became an informant for the FBI
  • Al Seraji told the agent he did not want to be an informant, that he only wanted to work and support his family; the FBI agent then told Al Seraji he would not receive his TWIC card
  • On June 24, 2016, Al Seraji filed a request for materials to the TSA under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Privacy Act, but has yet to receive a response from the TSA.

“This strong-arming of fellow Americans by law enforcement and other government officials is an affront the most fundamental principles of justice that our society was built on,” said Khalil Meek, executive director of MLFA. “We hope this lawsuit sheds additional light on this growing problem and secures well-deserved justice for Mr. Al Seraji.”

Attorneys for Al Seraji argue that the government violated his Fifth Amendment rights to due process and equal protection under the law. They also assert that officials violated the Maritime Transportation Security Act, Administrative Procedural Act, and Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866.

“What gets me is that when it comes to the TWIC program, a convicted criminal has more due process rights in America than a law-abiding Muslim who happens to get added to a government watch-list,” said Charles Swift, Director and Counsel of Constitutional Law Center for Muslims in America. “The way the FBI and TSA set up the watch-list system denies the most basic constitutional rights of whoever is unfortunate enough to get their name added to it, and we have to fix this.”

In the lawsuit, Al Seraji is asking the court to require defendants to remedy the listed constitutional violations. He is also seeking removal of his name from any government watch-list, as well as financial damages caused by the government’s illegal and improper actions.

The Constitutional Law Center for Muslims in America, Inc., is a nonprofit law center dedicated to defending the civil liberties and legal rights of Muslims in American courtrooms and litigating issues that are important to the Muslim community. CLCMA is funded by a generous grant from the Muslim Legal Fund of America.

Muslim Legal Fund of America is a national civil liberties legal fund that defends the U.S. Bill of Rights by supporting legal cases involving civil liberty encroachments. Established in 2001, MLFA has defended freedom of speech, freedom of religion, right to a fair trial, due process of law and many of our nation’s civil liberties.

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