January 15, 2014

“BUREAUCRATIC MISTAKE:” Scholar Wins Court Battle to Purge Name From U.S. No-Fly List.

A former Stanford University student who sued the government over her placement on a U.S. government no-fly list is not a threat to national security and was the victim of a bureaucratic “mistake,” a federal judge ruled today.

The decision (.pdf) makes Rahinah Ibrahim, 48, the first person to successfully challenge placement on a government watch list.

Ibrahim’s saga began in 2005 when she was a visiting doctoral student in architecture and design from Malaysia. On her way to Kona, Hawaii to present a paper on affordable housing, Ibrahim was told she was on a watch list, detained, handcuffed and questioned for two hours at San Francisco International Airport.

The month before, the FBI had visited the woman at her Stanford apartment, inquiring whether she had any connections to the Malaysian terror group Jemaah Islamiyah, according to the woman’s videotaped deposition played in open court.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup ordered the government to either purge her name from the list, or certify that it has already been removed. Federal watch lists contain some 875,000 names. (The judge is set to unseal a larger judicial order that discloses whether the woman is indeed currently on a watch list. However, he gave the government until April 15 to ask a federal appeals court to bar its publication.)

A watch list is one thing. But a “no fly” list with 875,000 names? Banning someone from flying is a punishment. There should be due process.