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

Important victory over the secretive system


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-ND

In 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.)