CLAREMONT -- A Pomona College student who was found carrying Arabic-language flashcards while flying to California is suing two federal agencies for detaining him and allegedly questioning him abusively.
Nicholas George, 22, a senior physics major considering a career as a U.S. diplomat in the Middle East, is suing the Transportation Security Administration, the FBI and Philadelphia police for jailing him after his
flashcards were found during screening at Philadelphia International Airport in August.
His lawsuit was filed in federal court this week.
George says he was treated like a terrorist and interrogated for nearly five hours at the airport.
"They told me to put my hands behind my back, cuffed me and started leading me through the airport -- leading me through the terminal past hundreds of people in handcuffs like I had been caught with a bomb or something," George told KTLA.
George claims the experience violated his rights to free speech and protection against unreasonable search and seizure.
He says he planned to brush up on his Arabic vocabulary during the flight from Philly to California so he carried about 200 Arabic-English flashcards on the plane.
Three of the flashcards spelled the words "terrorist," "bomb" and "explosion" in Arabic.
George claims he tried to explain himself to TSA officers.
"I explained that the reason I had these words is because I've been trying to translate Arab news media and when you're looking at news in the Middle East, words like that tend to come up."
George says he cooperated with TSA officers, but was taken to an airport jail and questioned further -- still in handcuffs.
"At one point they asked me if I understood why I was being held and I said, 'honestly no, not really.' And they said well you're a f-ing idiot," George said.
George says authorities asked him if he was a communist, or if he knew "who did 9-eleven" as well as, "What language does Osama Bin Laden speak?"
The TSA did not immediately return KTLA's calls for comment.
The American Civil Liberties Union has taken on the case.