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Can American citizens be barred from entering this country for refusing to talk to the FBI? That's what two California men of Pakistani descent say has happened to them. Muhammad Ismail of Lodi is a 45-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen. His 18-year-old son, Jaber, is a native born citizen.

They had spent more than four years in Pakistan, and when they tried to come home they were told that they were on a no-fly list and that they had to submit to interviews, including a polygraph with the FBI, which they refused to do.

Demian Bulwa writes about this in San Francisco Chronicle. And first we should clarify, they haven't been charged with a crime, these two men.

Mr. DEMIAN BULWA (San Francisco Chronicle): That's true. They have not been charged with a crime. They are the cousin and uncle of Hamid Hayat, who's a 23-year-old man who was convicted in April of supporting terrorists, providing material support, for allegedly going to a terrorist training camp in Pakistan. And that's been a high profile case in the news that I've been covering.

SIEGEL: What do they say they were doing in Pakistan for the past four years?

Mr. BULWA: Well, according to their attorney, the family was there on a long trip. The two older boys in the family - including Jaber - were studying the Koran. The father, Muhammad, is from Pakistan and grew up in a village there and that's where they were staying. And then they tried to return actually during jury deliberations in Hamid Hayat's trial.

SIEGEL: And they were - well, they did talk to the FBI at first as I understand it.

Mr. BULWA: Well they tried to fly home and during a scheduled layover in Hong Kong, their attorney says, they were told there was a passport problem. Two younger siblings and Muhammad Ismail's wife was able to continue on. Muhammad and Jaber were forced to fly back to Pakistan.

They then for a couple of weeks dealt with things like getting their luggage back. Tried to fly again to the United States via Chicago to the West Coast and this time they said they were told by an airline employee in Pakistan that they were on the no-fly list. But they say they did speak to the FBI but declined to do follow-up interviews. And they also believe a sticking point was the request by the FBI to take a polygraph test.

SIEGEL: Now what have you heard from the U.S. attorney or for the defense lawyer for the Ismail's about the role of their U.S. citizenship in this? That is, is there precedent for U.S. citizens being told you didn't submit to a polygraph so you can't enter the county, or is that something we'd expect more to happen with people who are trying to travel here on a visa?

Mr. BULWA: It sounds to me, and from people I've spoke to, like it's a fairly unprecedented case. And it may be something that needs to be taken up by the courts. They are U.S. citizens so they do have that recourse. We see a conflict here it seems between the government's post-9/11 way of going about these investigations. They've gone to great lengths in cases like this to safeguard the U.S. by not allowing even the chance of something to happen for people that they have some suspicions about. And Jaber's name was mentioned by Hamid Hayat in these marathon confessions that were at the center of the earlier case.

On the other hand, the attorney for Jaber and his father argues in the United States you have a right to remain silent, and so if they do not have the right over there then we're seeing this issue where the no-fly list is providing somewhat of different system that is a little bit outside what would we think of as the American legal system and also it raises the question of whether the FBI is using this no-fly list as a sort of leverage to get what they want in the case.

SIEGEL: I can see where it wouldn't help one's situation to refuse to talk to the FBI, but are we obliged to talk to the FBI if they don't subpoena us or they just come knocking at the door, say?

Mr. BULWA: Well, I think that's going to be the central issue in this, if this continues to be prolonged. I think that some people would probably applaud what the U.S. attorney and the FBI are doing in this case, while others see it as a real breach of civil liberties. Because it's such a unique case, I think that may have yet to be decided.

SIEGEL: Demian Bulwa thank you very much for talking with us.

Mr. BULWA: Thanks for having me.

SIEGEL: That's reporter Demian Bulwa of the San Francisco Chronicle.

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