A civil rights trial was supposed to begin this week in San Francisco targeting the Department of Homeland Security's opaque, mystifying and utterly inaccessible no-fly list. It immediately hit a snag. The daughter of Rahinah Ibraham, the individual suing the government for being placed on the list, was denied permission by the Department of Homeland Security to fly to the United States herself in order to testify. Techdirt takes note today:
Apparently, one of the people set to testify in the case, Ibrahim's oldest daughter, Raihan Mustafa Kamal (an American citizen, born in the US), was blocked from boarding her flight to the US to appear at the trial, and told that she was on the no fly list as well. Kamal, a lawyer, was an eye witness to her mother being blocked from boarding her flight. The US knew that Kamal was set to testify and from all indications, in a move that appears extremely petty, appears to have purposely blocked her from flying to the US. Kamal was directly told by the airline that DHS had ordered them not to let Kamal to board. The airline even gave her a phone number for a Customs and Border Patrol office in Miami, telling her to call that concerning her not being able to board.
Judge William Alsup, who is known for his rather no-nonsense approach in court (and his willingness to dig very deep into understanding the issues), quickly noted that this apparent blocking of Kamal was ridiculous, and demanded that the government explain what happened. When they insisted they knew nothing about it, Alsup wasn't satisfied. Nor was he satisfied with the story they eventually came back with.
A government lawyer then apparently claimed that Kamal had merely missed her flight. The next day, lead counsel for the plaintiff came back with evidence that, no, really, DHS ordered an airline not to let her on board. Courtesy of blogging from The Identity Project, a group devoted to defending the right for Americans to move around the country freely:
"None of that was true," Ms. [Elizabeth] Pipkin told the court this morning. "She didn't miss the flight. She was there in time to check in. She has not been rebooked on another flight." And most importantly, it was because of actions by the DHS — one of the defendants in Dr. Ibrahim's lawsuit — that Ms. Mustafa Kamal was not allowed to board her flight to SFO to attend and testify at her mother's trial.
Ms. Pipkin said that Ms. Mustafa Kamal had sent her a copy of the "no-board" instructions which the DHS gave to Malaysia Airlines, and which the airline gave to Ms. Mustafa Kamal to explain as much as it knew about why it was not being allowed to transport her. Ms. Pipkin handed Judge William Alsup a copy of the DHS "no-board" instructions to Malaysia Airlines regarding Ms. Mustafa Kamal.
Major props to Malaysia Airlines for providing a copy of the DHS instructions to Ms. Mustafa Kamal. Other airlines receiving similar instructions have acquiesced to DHS orders to keep the instructions from the DHS, and the reasons for the airlines' actions, secret from the would-be travelers whose rights are affected. So far as we know, this is the first time an actual no-fly order has been disclosed to a would-be traveler or potentially to the public.
Read more of the Identity Project's court coverage right here, which includes a lengthy background about the case.
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