A Muslim man of Lebanese descent was threatened and harassed by FBI agents for rejecting to be their informant. He’s now stranded in Lebanon.
The American Civil Liberties Union(ACLU) has revealed FBI agents pressured and threatened an American citizen of Lebanese origin for refusing to work for them as an informant.
As a result, his name was added to the US no-fly list, which bans people from entering the country.
Ahmad Chebli wrote his story for the ACLU, describing how he became trapped by the FBI.
Chebli was born in Chicago. He completed his high school and three years of college in Lebanon before returning to his home state of Michigan to finish his higher education.
Over the years, he set up a business as an engineer in Michigan’s automotive industry.
In August 2018, Chebli was invited to City Hall in the state to clear up a city permit violation. The summon turned out to be “a ruse”.
After arriving at City Hall, he was directed to a conference room where two FBI agents were present.
Chebli was immediately caught off guard when he saw the FBI waiting to talk to him.
“I’m a husband and father of two young kids, and I have always focused on building a good life with my family,” Chebli later wrote in his personal account.
The agents asked him about his political and religious beliefs, as well as his years in Lebanon.
Although Chebli was told he could leave the room whenever he wanted, the door was firmly closed and the agents continued to question him for hours.
At first, they asked for Chebli’s help in identifying people in his community who “might want to harm the US, because of his language skills, English and Arabic, Lebanese heritage and engineering expertise.”
Chebli refused as he felt that “becoming an informant in my community would violate my personal ethics”.
Despite repeatedly insisting on having no interest in working for the FBI, the agents did not relent in trying to persuade him to join their side.
“I was shocked when the FBI agents accused me of affiliation with a terrorist group,” Chebli wrote.
The officials even threatened him, suggesting his family would be investigated and could be arrested should he choose not to yield.
At one point they even said his children would be taken away, and his continued rejection of their offer would see his wife’s immigration status suddenly at risk.
“Eventually, the FBI agents told me I faced a choice: I could stay in America and become an informant — and their suspicions about me would “go away” — or I could leave the country.”
“If I stayed and did not become an informant, my family and I would be subjected to more surveillance and investigation, specifically threatening to reach out to my family, friends, and employer,” he said.
For two months, the threats and harassment continued.
Chebli decided to send his family to Lebanon in order to protect them. A few weeks later, he joined them and started to work part-time.
A month later, Chebli tried to return to the US but he wasn’t permitted to board the flight.
Later still, the US government sent an official confirmation that announced Chebli was on “the No Fly List.”
Since then, Chebli has been trying to change this limiting status by writing letters to the US government. Nothing yet has changed.
Chebli was also shocked when he learned “the US citizens and residents on the No Fly List can spend years seeking answers and information, without even learning why the government put them on the list in the first place.”
He’s now unable to visit his family and friends in the US.
“I worry that government officials who claim to protect all Americans equally can violate our constitutional rights with impunity,” he said.
With the help of the ACLU, Chebli is bringing a lawsuit to challenge the US government’s decision.
He wants a fair process to clear his name.
“And I want to make sure no one suffers what my family and I have suffered,” Chebli finished his letter.