McLEAN, Va. — An Oregon man who traveled to England by boat because of his apparent placement on the no-fly list was detained Monday upon his arrival in Great Britain, according to his family and lawyer.
Michael Migliore, a 23-year-old Muslim convert and dual citizen of the U.S. and Italy, had been trying unsuccessfully for months to fly to Italy to live with his mother.
Migliore says he was told earlier this year that he is on the no-fly list, though U.S. officials refuse to confirm it publicly. He believes he is on the list because he refused to be interviewed without a lawyer by FBI agents after an acquaintance was charged last year in a plot to bomb a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland.
He ended up traveling by Amtrak from Portland to New York, where he took a trans-Atlantic cruise that arrived in England Monday. The trip took more than a week.
Upon arrival, though, he was apparently detained by British authorities.
His mother, Claudia Pasquale, said her son stopped answering his cell phone in the morning, and she later received a call from a British detective who told her that Migliore had been arrested.
“Right now he’s being held for I-don’t-know-what,” his mother said, describing herself as “panicky” upon learning of her son’s detention.
Gadeir Abbas, Migliore’s lawyer with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, had challenged Migliore’s placement on the no-fly list, saying he had been denied due process. Abbas was writing letters to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and FBI Director Robert Mueller seeking Migliore’s removal from the list.
“We don’t know where he is,” Abbas said in a phone interview. Because of his placement on the list, Migliore “was forced to travel like he was living in the 19th century. What was waiting for him on the other side of the Atlantic was more oppression.”
Abbas said he is trying to contact British authorities to see if Migliore is being held at U.S. behest.
CAIR officials said they have dealt with many cases in recent years of American Muslims wrongly barred from international travel by a government bureaucracy that operates in secrecy with little or no accountability.
U.S. officials routinely refuse to confirm whether somebody is on a no-fly list. In court cases where the constitutionality of the no-fly list has been challenged, government lawyers say there is an administrative process available for people who are wrongly placed on the list. More broadly, they say placement on the no-fly list does not infringe on citizens’ rights because there is no constitutional right to take an airplane.
In the past, U.S officials have said that fewer than 200 U.S. residents are on the no-fly list, though significantly larger numbers are on a broader watchlist that could result in additional screening procedures.
A spokeswoman with the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs did not immediately return a call seeking comment Monday. British police in Southampton, where Migliore was detained, could not immediately comment Monday evening.
Abbas and Migliore’s mother both say that Migliore’s journey across the country and the Atlantic demonstrates the folly of the no-fly list. While citizens are severely inconvenienced by the inability to fly, little is done to improve national security because, theoretically, a terrorist could just as easily target a train or a cruise ship.
Pasquale, though, is adamant that her son is not a terrorist and does not want to harm anybody. While she is Catholic, her son’s decision to convert to Islam at age 18 coincided with his maturation as a young man, she said. She doubted that he would have graduated from college if not for his conversion.
Migliore is planning to live with his mother and find a job, with the goal of living in Italy permanently.
“He was finished in the States. If you think he’s such an undesirable person, let him go,” she said.