A Pennsylvania college student sued the federal government Wednesday, saying that TSA and FBI officials detained him at an airport because he was carrying a set of English-Arabic flashcards, reports The Washington Post.
Nicholas George, 22, of Montgomery County, Pa., is a senior majoring in physics and Middle Eastern studies at California’s Pomona College. In his lawsuit, he argues that he was detained for five hours in August at the Philadelphia airport because three Transportation Security Administration officers, two Federal Bureau of Investigation agents and two Philadelphia police officers were suspicious of his flashcards and semester studying abroad in the Middle East. George’s lawsuit states that the detainment was a violation of his constitutional rights to free speech and freedom from unreasonable search and seizure.
The Post quotes an anonymous source who said the questioning of George was based on officers’ observations of George’s behavior:
A federal official familiar with the matter, discussing the case on the condition of anonymity, said that TSA officers observed “anomalous” behavior by George before he entered the checkpoint. The official said his “erratic” conduct escalated upon screening and, along with other unspecified factors, that led officers to call police to investigate further.
Under questioning, George said he was not a “terrorist, a communist, a Muslim or a member of any campus ‘pro-Islamic group,'” at which point FBI agents told him he was not a threat and let him go.