Student Sues Over Detention at Airport for Arabic-Language Flashcards

February 10, 2010

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday on behalf of a Pomona College student who says he was interrogated, handcuffed, and held for five hours at Philadelphia International Airport last summer because he was carrying a set of Arabic-English flashcards as part of his college language studies.

The student, Nicholas George, who was later released, alleges that a Transportation Security Administration supervisor asked his views of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and what language Osama bin Laden speaks, adding, "Do you see why these cards are suspicious?"

The complaint, which was filed in the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, alleges that security and police officials violated Mr. George's constitutional rights to free speech and freedom from unreasonable seizure.

Officials with the Transportation Security Administration and the FBI in Washington, where a blizzard has shut down federal-government offices, did not respond to requests for comment.