Federal Judge Slams Obama Administration for Trying to Dismiss No-Fly List Case in Secret

Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Rahinah Ibrahim (photo: Universiti Putra Malaysia)

The Obama administration was admonished by a federal judge recently for attempting to get a lawsuit involving the anti-terrorism no-fly list dismissed using secret information.


Rahinah Ibrahim, a citizen of Malaysia who earned a Ph.D. in construction engineering and management at Stanford University, sued the U.S. government after she was prevented from flying out of San Francisco International Airport in January 2005. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) authorities informed Ibrahim that her name was on the special list that denies those suspected of terrorist ties from flying on commercial airliners.


She was arrested, handcuffed, and placed in a holding cell for two hours, but eventually told she could go. She was also told that her name was removed from the no-fly list.


The next day, however, Ibrahim learned her name had not been removed from the list. Nevertheless, TSA officials allowed her to board her flight for Malaysia. Her visa was revoked and she was denied reentry into the U.S.


Her lawsuit has slowly made its way through the federal courts. The government has tried more than once to have the litigation thrown out, claiming Ibrahim lacked the legal standing to pursue her case.


Earlier this year, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said Ibrahim had the right to continue her legal fight. Still, government attorneys tried again to derail the case, this time by submitting confidential records for the judge to review, but not for Ibrahim’s legal defense to see.


Judge William Alsup objected to the government’s tactic. He wrote: “Here the government seeks to affirmatively use allegedly privileged information to dispose of the case entirely without ever revealing to the other side what its secret evidence might be.”


“In sum, only in the rarest of circumstances should a district judge, in his or her discretion, receive an ex parte argument and evidence in secret from only one side aimed at winning or ending a case over the objection of the other side,” Alsup added. “Here, the government has not justified its sweeping proposal. It has gone so far as even to redact from its table of authorities some of the reported case law on which it relies! This is too hard to swallow.”


Ibrahim is currently dean of the Faculty of Design and Architecture at Universiti Putra Malaysia.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Feds Blasted for Trying Dismiss Case in Secret (by Chris Marshall, Courthouse News Service)

Court Clears Way For Lawsuit After Woman Arrested At SFO Over "No-Fly" Status (by Julia Cheever, Bay City News)

Ensnared by Error on Growing U.S. Watch List (by Mike McIntire, New York Times)

U.S. District Court Order (pdf)

Many of 500 Americans on No-Fly List Don’t Know Why (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)

Three Veterans Stranded Abroad on No-Fly List (by David Wallechinsky and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

U.S.-Born Citizen Blocked by Obama Administration from Returning to U.S. (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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