Sun Jan 13, 2013 2:41 pm (PST) . Posted by:
Date: Sun, Jan 13, 2013 at 3:34 PM
Subject: [Bush_Be_Gone] SF federal judge rejects government's secret no-fly
Secret no-fly evidence rejected by judge
Wednesday, January 9, 2013
A federal judge in San Francisco has indignantly rejected an attempt by the
Obama administration to use secret evidence to derail a former Stanford
student's challenge to her apparent inclusion on the government's no-fly
The government must halt its "persistent and stubborn refusal" to follow
the applicable laws, said U.S. District Judge William Alsup.
Rahinah Ibrahim's name on the confidential no-fly list has barred her and
one of her four children from returning to the United States for nearly
eight years. She was a Stanford graduate student in January 2005 when she
was first stopped at San Francisco International Airport and prevented from
boarding a flight to her native Malaysia.
She was arrested and jailed briefly by San Francisco police but was allowed
to take the flight the next day, with her 14-year-old daughter. When
Ibrahim tried to return two months later, however, she was again stopped
and told she was subject to arrest. The U.S. Consulate later said her
student visa had been revoked under a terrorism law.
Ibrahim, now 47, eventually earned her Stanford doctorate from abroad and
is a university professor in Malaysia. She settled claims against police
and others involved in her arrest for $225,000 in 2009, but is still
challenging her inclusion on the no-fly list.
'Hard to swallow'
In the latest development, President Obama's Justice Department privately
contacted Alsup last fall and said an agent would arrive shortly carrying
evidence for dismissal of the suit. According to the judge's description of
the phone call, the agent would then retrieve the evidence and take it back
to headquarters while Alsup wrote his ruling -- all without notice to
Alsup, who had dismissed the suit twice before and had been overruled both
times by a federal appeals court, said the government's actions this time
were "too hard to swallow."
Legal precedents "favor maintenance of our traditional system of fair play
in which both sides have notice of the arguments and evidence being used
against them," Alsup said in a ruling dated Dec. 20.
He also criticized the Justice Department for arguing that Ibrahim's
lawyers couldn't be "trusted to handle sensitive information," noting that
federal agencies had cleared the lawyers to review confidential material in
the case years ago.
Alsup said he had refused to look at the department's secret evidence. "It
is time to resolve this case on the merits," he concluded. Ibrahim's lead
attorney, James McManis, said the judge has scheduled the trial for
December of this year.
The Justice Department's approach to Alsup "smacks of secret government and
star-chamber proceedings," McManis said.
Thousands on list
The Department of Homeland Security maintains lists of hundreds of
thousands of passengers who allegedly pose a risk of terrorism or air
piracy, information it shares with airlines. Those on the no-fly list are
barred from boarding. Those on a larger "selectee"; list can fly but are
subject to additional searches.
Government audits since the lists were established a decade ago have
acknowledged thousands of errors. After receiving complaints of mistaken
listings, however, Homeland Security officials respond with letters that
refuse to disclose a complainant's status and merely declare that any
errors have now been corrected, said an American Civil Liberties Union
lawyer who has sued the department.
"It doesn't make anyone safer for innocent people not to be allowed to
fly," attorney Nusrat Choudhury said Tuesday. She said the ACLU suit,
pending before a federal judge in Oregon, was filed on behalf of 15
Americans who suddenly found themselves barred from flying in 2009 or 2010
and in some cases have been stranded overseas.
In response to Alsup's ruling, the Justice Department filed papers Jan. 3
that again sought to dismiss Ibrahim's suit while declining to say whether
she was on the no-fly list or to discuss criteria for placing or removing
names from the list.
"Disclosing this information would reveal or tend to reveal information
that is classified," government lawyers wrote.
Bob Egelko is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: