Oklahoma City Police Department officers have been instructed no longer to stop motorists just because they are listed on a federal terrorist watch list, according to a sworn statement by OKC’s police chief filed in federal court.
In return, lawyers for Saadiq Long — who say the OKC Muslim man has been stopped five times during a recent two-month period — have dropped a motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against OKCPD Chief Wade Gourley. They also dropped a request for an injunction against the OKCPD aimed at stopping officers from taking law enforcement action based on a person’s status on the FBI’s terror watch list.
Long, 52, agreed to withdraw his motion after the OKCPD issued instructions Monday to all officers that neither he nor any other person listed in the known or suspected terrorist file in the National Crime Information Center database should be stopped based solely on account of their being on the list.
“From all we know, this seems to be the reason for the stops that Mr. Long went through and the harassment,” said Adam Soltani, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. ”If they follow through on what they said, I think it’s a win-win for both law enforcement and the people they serve, because obviously it’s putting law enforcement in a predicament when they don’t know why they’re pulling someone over and yet they’re being told to do it.”
‘This is a relief for Saadiq Long’
A McAlester native who is Black and Muslim, Long lived in Qatar a decade ago. In 2012, his attempt to fly back to America was delayed and he was told the U.S. Department of Homeland Security had placed him on its no-fly list, which barred him from flying into his own country. After FBI interrogation and other difficulty traveling, Long sued the federal government, saying he had never committed a crime and had not been told why he was placed on the federal government’s lists.
His recent traffic stops between November and January — one of which occurred at gunpoint — rekindled the issue for Long 10 years after it had started.
“This is a relief for Saadiq Long, his family and the entire Muslim community who, for decades now in a post-911 world, have lived at times in fear of their safety and security as a result of things like the terror watch list,” Soltani said.
CAIR Oklahoma and the CAIR Legal Defense Fund had filed the lawsuit on behalf of Long last week in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma.
To spur Long’s lawyers to withdraw their motions, Gourley submitted a Jan. 31 affidavit to the court, saying that Long had been stopped by officers in the Springlake, Southwest and/or Hefner divisions of OKCPD from November through Jan. 13. Officers in those divisions received training Jan. 13 that no motorist should be stopped based solely on his or her presence on the terrorist watch list, Gourley wrote.
On Jan. 31, OKCPD issued training to all officers “regarding the legal and appropriate handling of Terrorist Screen Center contacts that specifies neither Saadiq Long nor any other person listed on the ‘Terrorist Watch List’ should be stopped based solely on his or her presence on the list,” Gourley wrote.
OKCPD MSgt. Gary Knight said the department has no further comment.
Long, in a joint stipulation filed Feb. 1, said he is dropping his request for the injunctions now that OKCPD officers have been instructed not to stop him nor any other person based solely on being on the KST file. In return, he said, he will “continue to drive normally, making a good faith effort to comply with relevant traffic laws and regulations.”
Veronica Laizure, a CAIR Oklahoma attorney representing Long, said that although the motion for injunctions has been dropped, his lawsuit will continue.
Long’s lawsuit states that the FBI develops and maintains the federal government’s consolidated Terrorism Screening Database. Long’s petition claims the FBI accepts almost every single person nominated to its list — submitted by anyone — because the FBI uses a standard so low that any person can be made to qualify based on a string of speculative inferences.
The FBI, according to the lawsuit, shares records from the terrorist watchlist to the NCIC database, which allows law enforcement agencies with access to that database to see that Long is on the FBI’s list, but none of the underlying information for that placement.
“We still have to account for the harm that was caused to Mr. Long and potentially even other plaintiffs who have been harmed by the Oklahoma City Police Department’s use of this illegal watch list,” Laizure said.