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Egyptian Men Remain on Federal Watch List

June 4, 2003

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) _ Eight Egyptian men who were detained after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks still appear on government watch lists even though the FBI promised to have their names removed.

None of the eight men were charged, and the FBI has said they are innocent. But their names remain in databases such as a national criminal index and a ``no-fly″ list that triggers detention whenever someone who is listed tries to board a plane.

An FBI agent said the change will be made soon, but the process is complicated because several agencies share databases.

``It’s not just like flipping a switch,″ said Doug Garrison, who volunteered to solve the problem.

The eight, all from Evansville, were detained as material witnesses after the FBI received information that the men might be involved in a terrorist threat. Neither they nor their attorneys were given details about why they were detained.

One of the men, Tarek Albasti, said he has been repeatedly stopped at airports, including a five-hour delay in New York.

Another detainee was denied federally subsidized housing, and a third met with problems when applying for permanent U.S. residency. Both times, the FBI intervened.

Special Agent Thomas V. Fuentes, who heads the FBI in Indiana, apologized publicly to the men on April 23 and promised to have their records cleared.

``We’re glad with what we got,″ Albasti told the Evansville Courier & Press for an article Wednesday. ``We got our dignity back, and it cleared our reputation with certain people.

``But it’s kind of like too late,″ he said. ``It’s kind of like you can’t do anything about it anymore.″

Garrison said removing their names is complicated because databases at the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration are linked for entering names, but the same link does not exist for removing them.

``I’ve spent some not insignificant time doing that,″ Garrison said. ``We’re almost at the end of the process.″

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