A Mississippi man flying to visit his wife in Japan on Monday was detained during a stop in Hawaii and has been barred from reboarding his flight - or any other flight - because his name came up on the U.S. No-Fly List, leaving him stranded on the island.
Gulfport resident Wade Hicks, Jr., boarded a military jet at Travis Air Force Base in San Francisco so he could spend time with his newlywed wife, a U.S. Navy lieutenant stationed in Okinawa, Japan, the Canada Free Press reports.
According to Hicks, when the plane stopped for refueling at Hickam Air Base on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, he was escorted from the plane and detained by armed military personnel. After several hours, a representative of U.S. Customs and Border Protection arrived and told him he was pulled off of the flight because he was on the no-fly list.
Why was he put on the list? "They have given me no reason. They just basically are telling me, 'You can't fly because we said so,'" Hicks said in an interview with radio talk show host Doug Hagmann. "They didn't know how I even left Travis Air Force Base."
Hicks was puzzled as well, as he has no criminal record or outstanding warrants. He explained that he is a former Department of Defense (DoD) contractor who has also passed extensive background checks to receive an enhanced concealed carry license. In addition, he holds a Transportation Workers Identification Credential (TWIC), a security card issued by the TSA for transportation personnel. However, none of these factors allowed him to get back on his flight, or take another flight home.
"I said, 'If I could find a way off the island, I could leave'? They said, 'Yes, as long as you don't fly,'" Hicks recalled.
After leaving the base, Hicks met with a Navy lawyer in Hawaii to verify that there wasn't a case of mistaken identity. She contacted officials at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and came back with bad news: "They said, 'No, we have the right person that is in our database. His social security [number] matches and his birth date matches.'"
Hicks also told Hagmann that he called the TSA to try to resolve the matter, but they instructed him to submit some forms and wait 45 days for a response. In addition, he has contacted his state Congressional representatives for assistance. However, his future remains unclear. "I have no idea how long I'm going to be stranded in Hawaii or if I'm going to be able to leave out of here on an aircraft," he said.
While no reasonable explanation for Hicks' detention has been presented, he is concerned that he may have been put on the no-fly list for speaking out publicly on controversial issues. "I was very, very vocal about the National Defense Autorization Act (NDAA) and I did contact my representative about [the NDAA]", he said. "I do believe that this is tied in some way to my free speech and my political view."
He also previously hosted a radio show called "Free Speech Zone" in which he discussed hot-button political issues, including questions surrounding the 9/11 attacks. "I am a very vocal opponent of 9/11. I've seen the evidence, and I think the evidence I've seen warrants a new investigation, and I'm very vocal about it as well," he added.
Hicks emphasized that even though he is politically outspoken, he has never made any threats of violence.
While Hicks' particular ordeal may seem unprecedented, it is not the first time that a law-abiding citizen has been left stranded by the no-fly list.
In 2010, Virginia resident Yahya Wehelie was barred from flying back to the United States from Egypt because of time he spent as a student in Yemen, even though he is a U.S. citizen. It took two weeks for federal authorities to grant him a waiver to fly home, the New York Times reported.
Last April, Wikileaks lawyer Jennifer Robinson was told that she could not fly back to her home country of Australia from London because she was on an "inhibited fly list", according to the Sydney Morning Herald, which would require flight permission from Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs.
And in one alarming case reported by ABC News last year, Marine veteran Abe Mashal was placed on the no-fly list and allegedly told by FBI investigators that they would remove him from the list if he agreed to become an informant and spy on mosques in his local area.
However, the circumstances surrounding Hicks' dillema are uniquely troubling, because he was flying within the United States when he was stopped, and yet he has no realistic way of getting home. "Try to get back from Oahu to the [continental] United States," he said. "It's a long swim and it's a long boat ride."