The Illinois chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations says the case of a St. Charles man finding himself on the nation's no-fly list, only to be asked by agents to become a Muslim informant, isn't an isolated one.
In fact, the organization said that throughout its offices in 19 states, there have been "dozens" of complaints similar to the one lodged by Abe Mashal.
"While his story is appalling, it is not unique," CAIR Chicago's communications director, Amina Sharif, said Tuesday.
Mashal, a 31-year-old dog trainer, discovered he was on the Department of Homeland Security's no-fly list last April when he tried to board a plane to Spokane, Wash.
He was allowed to go home after being questioned for 20 minutes by Chicago police and agents from the Transportation Security Administration but was unable to fly.
Later that same day, Mashal said two FBI agents visited him at his home but wouldn't tell him if -- or why -- he was on the no-fly list.
Two months later, the FBI again contacted Mashal, an honorably discharged Marine Corps veteran.
"They basically told me they could get me off the no-fly list if I would become an informant for them and go undercover at various mosques and find information for them," he recalled.
Mashal said the agents told him he ended up on the no-fly list because he exchanged emails about raising his children in an interfaith household with a Muslim cleric they were monitoring.
Mashal is Muslim. His wife is Christian.
"There's a lot of guilty by association and a lot of coercive tactics used to help with investigations when people don't even know why they've been approached," said Sharif.
Mashal turned down the FBI's offer and contacted the American Civil Liberties Union. He's now one of 17 plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed in June by the ACLU over the list.
The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, which enforces the no-fly list, wouldn't comment. In October, Homeland Security sent Mashal a letter saying that it had reviewed his file and that "it has been determined that no changes or corrections are warranted at this time."