Judge Orders Feds to Correct Woman’s Inclusion on No-Fly List

The next remake of "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" will have an Islamic terrorist on the wing that only a federal agent can see.Credit: Zoagli / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-NDIn an important ruling yesterday, a federal judge declared that the government must actually fix the problem when it puts people on its “no-fly” terrorist watch lists when it turns out they have no reason to be on them.

From the San Jose Mercury News:

The federal government violated a former Stanford University doctoral student's legal rights nine years ago when it put her on its secretive "no-fly" lists targeting suspected terrorists, a San Francisco federal judge ruled Tuesday.

In a decision for the most part sealed, U.S. District Judge William Alsup disclosed that Rahinah Ibrahim was mistakenly placed on the controversial list and said that the government must now clear up the mistake. The decision comes in a case that has for the first time revealed how the U.S. Department of Homeland Security assembles the no-fly lists, used to tighten security in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The Obama administration has vigorously contested the case, the first of its kind to reach trial, warning that it might reveal top-secret information about the anti-terrorism program. As a result, Alsup sealed his ruling until April to give the government an opportunity to persuade a federal appeals court to keep the order from being released publicly.

The administration’s efforts to “vigorously” contest the case went so far as to ordering an airline to not let Ibrahim’s daughter board a flight to San Francisco in December to testify at the trial. Given the petty tactics used by the feds in this case, one wonders if they even have any reason other than “OMG! Terrorists!” to keep the order sealed. If, for example, you were an actual terrorist, wouldn’t you already know why you’re on the no-fly list and once you found out, wouldn’t you be able to figure out what information the feds would likely have on you to keep you from flying? Are the feds trying the argue that the average terrorist has so many balls in the air − like the evil mastermind in some television spy serial − that he or she needs to sue the government to find out which ones they’ve figured out? The existence of the no-fly list itself and the discovery that one is on it provides enough information to create concerns for any actual terrorist that the feds know something is going on.

Or, like analysis of NSA’s bulk metadata collection program shows, will public release of information about the “no fly” list reveal it has not actually played any significant role in stopping terrorist activity?

In August, a judge ruled that fliers are entitled to due process and that the federal “no fly” list must have a redress procedure to clear the names of people who shouldn’t be on there.

(Hat tip to CharlesWT.)

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Well, Judge, unlucky for you that leaves a vacancy on the list.

  • Cdr Lytton||

    The judge has made his decision; now let him fly it?

  • Matrix||

    The administration’s efforts to “vigorously” contest the case went so far as to ordering an airline to not let Ibrahim’s daughter board a flight to San Francisco in December to testify at the trial.

    They can't order shit, but an airline might be inclined to do as they're told. "Oh, you need permits or licenses? Hmm, well, you better do as we say, or it might take a long time to get them. We also might send some EPA and IRS agents in to harrass you make sure everything you're doing is legal."

  • Matrix||

    BTW, this is the SAME government that morons want to give control of their healthcare to. Imagine if they started ordering doctors not to operate on people's children because they dared take the government to court over their illegal BS.

  • ||

    Not to mention control of their internets. For neutrality!!!

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    And their driver's licenses.

  • db||

    Oh, that's totally different.

  • GILMORE||

    For those unfamiliar with the current system of "neither confirming nor denying" you are being fucked with on purpose by the DHS, I bring you, T.R.I.P =

    http://www.dhs.gov/dhs-trip

    "DHS Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP)"

    Having "Watch list 'issues'"? We Want To Show We Care. Really. we created a digital 'suggestion box'! where you can give us TONS more information about yourself, we can refine our data sets, and then still a) NOT TELL YOU SHIT, and b) NEVER TAKE YOU OFF ANY LISTS. But still, you helped US! and that's what counts.

    Note their definition of 'resolved' =

    "DHS TRIP is designed specifically to help travelers improve their travel experience and correct inaccuracies in government records that may contribute to difficulties when traveling. Security procedures and legal concerns mandate that we can neither confirm nor deny any information about you that may be within federal watch lists; we also cannot reveal any law enforcement-sensitive information. DHS TRIP may not resolve all of your travel-related concerns in the future. Even after completing the redress process through DHS TRIP, a traveler may be selected for enhanced screening based on a variety of factors, or at random."

    The program is effectively, "you do our homework for us!" DMV?! Meet STASI. Authoritarian, AND incompetent!

    Tuttle, Buttle.

  • Loki||

    You ever get the feeling that we're all just living in a big Monty Python sketch?

  • Tim||

    Lovely Spam, wonderful Spam...

  • Almanian!||

    Could I get some rat pudding without so much Spam in it?

  • Geoff Nathan||

    There was a six-month period during the mid 2000's when I was on the 'SELECTEE' list. That meant I could fly, but I had to be interviewed both at the security checkpoint and again at the gate. And I couldn't print out a boarding pass in advance.
    I submitted a 'complaint' on that online form (or an earlier version of it) and the harassment stopped by the next time I flew.
    About six months later I received a letter from the TSA stating that I had never been on the list. So it was apparently the (varying) airlines' imaginations.
    I still have no idea why I was singled out. I have a (relatively) Anglo-Saxonish name and am an American citizen. I guess 'FYTW' is the reason.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    Common anglo-saxon names are the worst! You can't trust people with generic names, they might really be somebody else. I'm not making this shit up.

  • GILMORE||

    I was on it for a couple of years

    Take a wild guess why

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilmore_v._Gonzales

    Upside = I learned to milk the system. All that new 'security' infrastructure largely is going to waste, so when the guys @ the airports get a 'red flag', they launch into GO MODE and get all excited its time to actually *do something*. I used this to my advantage. I got to cut lines, sweep past the 'little-people' security, have personalized baggage searches, then a golf-cart ride to my terminal. They did everything but mix me a cocktail while I smiled and helped them feel good about finally being busy. They loved the fact that I was a case of 'mistaken identity' for a civil-libertarian hippie millionaire. It made their day. If I'd been all pissy and indignant they'd probably have body-cavity searched me for the hell of it. But I learned after 100 flights that you can actually help them to help you, and end up feeling like a VIP.

    I was sad when it ended. I was special, once.

  • The Original Jason||

    You were put on the list to fill their quota of non-Arab names to show that they were selecting people based on national origin…

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    Another reason to end this crony capitalist transportation system we have been stuck with since the first municipal airport, and before.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    This onerous burden on the noble men and women who are just trying to prevent another 9/11 is intolerable. That judge must be defrocked.

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    They have been trying to prevent 9/11 since 1973. Not meant as shameless self promotion, but hardly anybody talks about why the first round of national aviation security theater came about in the first place.

  • Almanian!||

    They have been trying to prevent 9/11 since 1973.

    And they failed.

    But we've not had any repeats! No doubt due to the hiring of a gazillion high-school graduates and a geometric increase in the number of useless rituals passengers must perform before boarding a plane.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    The Obama administration has vigorously contested the case, the first of its kind to reach trial, warning that it might reveal top-secret information about the anti-terrorism program. As a result, Alsup sealed his ruling until April to give the government an opportunity to persuade a federal appeals court to keep the order from being released publicly.

    Transparency in action.

  • creech||

    Are they reading from "The Penn State Manual on How to Handle the Jerry Sandusky Case?" Quietly correct the errors on the no-fly list and be done with it. Nooooo, make the poor woman drag it through court and then worry that security will be damaged if the judge's imminently fair decision is released.

  • creech||

    OOps, meant "quickly" not "quietly."

  • LarryA||

    "Quietly" works fine.

  • Tamfang||

    You also meant "eminently", unless you mean that the decision will be fair any moment now.

  • Matrix||

    Allowing people to question your authority and get away with it is a sign of weakness by tyrants. All dissidence must be squashed and met with swift retribution.

  • Hyperion||

    But... without secret lists that you can get on and no one knows how you got on, or how you can get off, how can we be safe? Next thing you know, they'll be talking about that old dusty document that was written 100 years ago on stone tablets, in some language that no one can read now, by neanderthal teabaggers.

    It's clear that Reason hates the children and wants the terrorists to win.

  • Almanian!||

    that old dusty document that was written 100 years ago on stone tablets, in some language that no one can read now, by neanderthal teabaggers.

    Oh! The "Gettysburg Address"! Right.

  • Snark Plissken||

    Epic alt-text.

  • Almanian!||

    Seconded

  • Tonio||

    [O]ne wonders if they even have any reason other than “OMG! Terrorists!” to keep the order sealed.

    Well, yeah, CYA, of course. Also, FYTW. Really, Shackford.

    Nice alt-text, though.

  • John C. Randolph||

    The judge's order is entirely inadequate, because it provides no punishment whatsoever to the perps who violated Ibrahim's civil rights. The motherfuckers even get to remain anonymous.

    -jcr

  • some guy||

    I would go even further. Limiting someone's travel like this should be treated like incarceration, and the authorities should have to meet similar standards of openness and evidence to do it. (And I don't mean Guantanamo-style incarceration).

  • Almanian!||

    So REASON once again shows itself to be in favor of the rights of terrorists over Americans' security.

    Typical.

    /'murcan

  • Ken Shultz||

    Given that the government approved visa extensions for some of the 9/11 hijackers--months after they'd died on 9/11--it wouldn't surprise me at all if the government was completely oblivious to terrorists who called up and asked about themselves.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    "Alsup sealed his ruling until April to give the government an opportunity to persuade a federal appeals court to keep the order from being released publicly."

    Yeah, good way to let the government come up with stupid arguments by the time no one is paying attention to their attempts to keep the order from being publicly released. Reason, Institute for Justice, Knights of Columbus, whoever is out there, don't let up on this shit.

  • GroundTruth||

    C'mon guys, DHS is just giving the plebes what they voted for: a nice clean trade of their liberty for {null set}.

  • Agammamon||

    They have to put random innocent people on the No-Fly List *precisely* to prevent the terrorists from being sure that being on the list means the government knows something is up.

    If *anyone* can end up on the list mistakenly then you can't be *sure* that your being on the list means they're on to you.

    I should become a government attorney.

  • ||

    It's a syllogism!

    1. Ruling against the government means Rahinah Ibrahim wins.

    2. Ruling against the government means the terrorists win.

    3. Therefore, Rahinah Ibrahim is a terrorist.

    Note that this works for any name on the no fly list, proving the list existentially true.

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