SEATTLE — SEATTLE - Two Pakistani men are being held in Seattle after an airline employee at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport found one of their names on a terrorism-related no-fly list Saturday night.
One of the men, 36, carrying a British Columbia driver's license, paid cash for a one-way ticket to New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport. After the airline employee called 911, the man left the counter, abandoning his ticket.
The other man, 29, who had a New York driver's license, also paid cash for a one-way ticket to Kennedy Airport on a different airline, police reports show.
Port police detained both men, then turned them over to the FBI. They are being held on immigration violations as part of a growing international investigation being conducted by the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force and the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (BICE).
"We are aware of the situation," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Greenberg, a counter-terrorism prosecutor in Seattle. "We are expending all available resources toward the investigation."
The men both were using Pakistani passports and reportedly were seen together at the airport earlier in the evening, law enforcement sources said.
After their arrests, the men told investigators they paid to be smuggled into Blaine, Wash., from Canada last month, two sources said.
Both men are being held for investigation of administrative immigration violations. No criminal charges have been filed.
"There are questions about whether they are in the country legally," BICE spokesman Michael Milne said. "We want to know how they entered the country and what they're doing here."
The men, whose names have not been released, were arrested about 10 p.m. Saturday on the ticketing level after an American Airlines employee and a ticket agent from another major airline became suspicious and ran the men's names through the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) no-fly database of suspected terrorists.
Since the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackings, airlines have routinely been running checks on passengers who buy one-way tickets or use cash. Once the identity of one of the men is confirmed, "this is going to turn into a big deal," a federal source said.
Hundreds of individuals have been briefly detained at airports after their names matched those on the no-fly list, according to TSA records released as part of a lawsuit against the agency by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Arrests are rare, however.