Former Stanford graduate student Rahinah Ibrahim was mistakenly placed on the government’s “no-fly” list, as a suspected terrorist, because an FBI agent checked the wrong box on a form in 2004.
Much of the trial, the first ever involving a challenge to the no-fly list, was held behind closed doors because of the government’s insistence on secrecy. Last month Alsup issued a brief summary of his ruling, which found that the government had violated Ibrahim’s rights, has admitted that she poses no threat to national security and must allow her to apply for re-entry to the U.S. But he didn’t order her readmitted and said such decisions are within the government’s discretion.
On Thursday, Alsup released his actual 38-page ruling, or at least as much of it as the Obama administration agrees can be made public. The judge said it contains no state secrets and should all be disclosed, but he’s given the Justice Department until April 15 to persuade an appeals court to maintain the partial blackout.
Alsup said the reason for the initial mistake was that FBI agent Kevin Kelly, who was investigating Ibrahim for reasons the government won’t disclose, had “misunderstood the directions” on a government form and “checked the wrong boxes” — ignoring written instructions that she should not be placed on the no-fly list. Alsup didn’t say what boxes Kelly was supposed to check or why.
“This was no minor human error but an error with palpable impact, leading to the humiliation, cuffing, and incarceration of an innocent and incapacitated air traveler,” Alsup said, noting that Ibrahim was then using a wheelchair after undergoing surgery. “Whether true or not, she reasonably suspects that (her current travel restrictions) are traceable to the original wrong that placed her on the no-fly list.”
So, basically, she was kept on the no-fly list because the FBI didn’t want to admit that they made a mistake. What does that remind me of? Oh yeah, the original case that found that the executive branch had State Secrets privilege contained no state secrets and was a cover-up of an accident:
The declassified accident report, released in 2000, is available online, and indicates that the B-29 crashed because a fire started in an engine. This document also reports that the plaintiffs received a settlement of $170,000. The settlement date was effective June 22, 1953, some three months after the Supreme Court ruling. In consideration for the money paid by the government, the case was dismissed with prejudice, meaning all future litigation on this case was forfeited. The radio program This American Life reported in 2009, that, contrary to claims made in the case, the accident report contained no information on the secret equipment on the plane except to note that secret equipment was present, a fact which had been reported in the press at the time. The program interviewed the daughter of one of the crash victims who described the government’s claims in the case as fraudulent.
This is what happens when the government gets to keep any secrets it wants.