US citizen to Italy after detention in England

AP News
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Posted: Sep 12, 2011 8:22 PM
US citizen to Italy after detention in England

An Oregon man who traveled to England by boat because of his apparent placement on the U.S. no-fly list has been released from custody by British authorities after being detained upon arrival from a trans-Atlantic cruise, according to his family.

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.

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. When he arrived in Southampton, his family and lawyers from the Council on American-Islamic Relations said, he was detained by British authorities.

On Monday night, Migliore's brother and mother reported that he had been released from custody after eight to 10 hours of questioning. They said authorities confiscated a cell phone, iPod and other electronic media.

While he has been released, Migilore remains under watch by a law enforcement official as he continues his trip to Italy, said his brother Anthony Migliore.

Michael 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.

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.

Because of the no-fly 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.

Michael Migliore told his family that British authorities removed him from the ship before it was allowed to dock in Southampton, according to Anthony. They questioned him about photos he had taken of the ship during his journey, which Anthony described as typical tourist photos.

"He said they tried to insinuate he's taking these pictures to plan something," Anthony Migliore said. "He didn't even want to go on a boat. If they would've let him fly, he wouldn't have had any pictures of a boat."

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 return a call seeking comment Monday. British police in Southampton, where Migliore was detained, could not comment Monday evening.

Both Abbas and Migliore's mother, Claudia Pasquale, 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.

Pasquale said she has bought another plane ticket from London to Italy for her son, after his detention caused him to miss his initial flight. While the U.S. no-fly list does not govern European flights, Migliore and has family said they have been prepared to continue travel on train if he continues to have flight difficulties in London.

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.

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Associated Press writers Sylvia Hui and Jonathan Cooper contributed to this report from London and Salem, Ore., respectively.