Illinois man on no-fly list, stranded in Mideast

October 9, 2012

Caroline O'Donovan

An Islamic charity director who must return to the U.S. as a condition of federal probation says he is stranded in the Middle East because he is on the no-fly list.

Enaam Arnaout received permission from a Chicago federal judge to travel to Saudi Arabia and Jordan to visit family. The permission came after he was released from a 10-year federal prison sentence in July 2010. The 50-year-old Arnaout is a Syrian-born U.S. citizen who lives in the Chicago suburb of Bridgeview. He pleaded guilty in 2003 to defrauding donors to his charity.

Prosecutors accused him of having ties to Osama bin Laden, but Arnaout denies he raised money for terrorists.

One of Arnaout's lawyers, Thomas Anthony Durkin, has been in touch with the Embassy in Cairo, and while it hasn’t been confirmed, that he believes Arnaout is on the FBI’s no-fly list. Durkin told WBEZ’s Worldview that while Arnaout is not currently violating his probation, in theory, he could be found in violation.”In some ways it’s comical,” he said, “but it’s also a very difficult issue from a civil liberties standpoint.”

Durkin said that that the no-fly list is “a classic example” of the US government’s lack of transparency.

“The government simply doesn’t acknowledge whether people are on the list, it doesn’t really acknowledge how people get on the list, how they get off it, if they can get off it,” Durkin said, “It’s just another government secrecy program that creates more problems than it solves.”