MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The state Department of Public Safety has granted a school bus driver’s license to a Minnesota man who is on the Homeland Security “no-fly” list.
The department said it has no legal reason to deny a license to Amir Meshal, who already has a Minnesota commercial truck driver’s license.
But some lawmakers say the state law regulating school bus and commercial truck drivers should be changed.
The man, Amir Meshal, was already under scrutiny from federal authorities for possible activities helping to recruit young people for terror groups.
He was banned from attending a local mosque in 2014, which said it “does not tolerate any advocacy or recruitment or extremism on its premises.”
He’s also been placed on a U.S. government “no-fly” list.
Documents obtained from the Department of Homeland Security by WCCO-TV say Meshal “is an individual who represents a threat of engaging in or conducting a violent act of terrorism.”
But in Minnesota, Meshal obtained a commercial trucker’s license on August 3, and got a school bus driver’s license on September 9, after passing a background check.
“I do have some concerns,” State Representative Brian Johnson, (R) Cambridge, said.
Top lawmakers like Johnson — who serves as the chair of the Minnesota House Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy Committee — say the state needs to take a closer look at how anyone on “no-fly” list can get a Minnesota license to drive a truck or a bus.
“Are they doing a proper background check?” Johnson said. “We have the safety of our children to think about. I am concerned that they granted him a commercial drivers license as well”
Meshal has never been charged with a crime, and he says he has never been told exactly why he’s on the no fly list.
The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the government, which it said extracted information from Meshal under torture.
“Like any other American, Mr. Meshal is entitled to obtain a license for a job so he can build a full and peaceful life for his family, including his 11-month-old baby,” said Hina Shamsi, Director of the National Security Project at the ACLU.
“He has never been charged with a crime and has sued the government to obtain a fair process to challenge his wrongful inclusion on the No Fly List. Any suggestion that Mr. Meshal’s license somehow presents a concern is meritless and unfair.”
Meshal, who is an American citizen, was detained for more than four months in 2006 and interrogated over 30 times in three different countries by U.S. officials, according to the ACLU, after he traveled to Somalia to study Islam.
Under Minnesota law, the state cannot disqualify any applicant who passes a background check and does not have any disqualifying offenses.
Those offenses are:
- Any felony offense
- Any misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, or felony violation of Minnesota Statutes chapter 152 (controlled substances)
- Criminal sexual conduct
- Surreptitious instruction
- Indecent exposure
- Use of Minors in Sexual Performance
- Possession of Child Pornography
- Dissemination and display of harmful materials to minors
In a written statement, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety said:
“The Department of Public Safety Driver and Vehicle Services Division (DPS-DVS) has a legal obligation to issue driver’s licenses to qualified applicants when all requirements in Minnesota law have been met.
“DPS-DVS does not have the authority to deny a license unless there is a specific reason to do so as outlined in the law.
“There’s nothing in state or federal law that would allow DPS-DVS to deny a license to an individual for being on a “no fly” list, or for other reasons mentioned in recent media stories. Denying a license for this reason would require a change in state or federal law.”
Meanwhile, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton says he is “very concerned” and will ask the legislature to review the law next year.
A spokesman for Dayton, who is a Democrat, said “Anyone who is not safe to fly on a plane shouldn’t be allowed to drive anything larger than a car.”