January 16, 2014
A Muslim woman now living in Malaysia struck a blow to the U.S. government’s “no-fly list” when a federal judge ruled Tuesday (Jan. 14) that the government violated her due process rights by putting her on the list without telling her why.
Muslims and civil rights advocates say the no-fly list disproportionately targets Muslims, and they hope the ruling will force the government to become more transparent about the highly secretive program.
The lawsuit, filed by San Jose-based McManis-Faulkner in 2006 on behalf of the mother of four children and PhD student at Stanford University, alleged that the government violated Dr. Ibrahim’s due process rights when it placed her on the “no-fly” list. U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup ruled that Ibrahim had standing to challenge the government’s actions, ordered the government to correct Ibrahim’s position on the “no-fly” list and to disclose to her what is her current status on the “no-fly” list.
The lawsuit is the oldest of three currently being litigated to challenge the government’s secretive “no-fly” list, which effectively bars individuals the government often mistakenly believes to pose a security threat from flying. The Obama administration vehemently opposed Ibrahim’s lawsuit, sought to keep the December trial secret and is currently requesting that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals keep the ruling sealed.
“Judge Alsup’s ruling affirms that basic notions of transparency and accountability apply to even the U.S. government’s ‘no-fly’ list. We welcome this ruling and look forward to further clarity as to how one can navigate the maze created by the ‘no-fly’ list and other similar listings,” said AAAJ–ALC staff attorney Nasrina Bargzie.
“Each year our offices hear from hundreds of individuals who are visited by the FBI and face related travel issues,” said Zahra Billoo, executive director of the California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “Many have lost hope about clearing their names, but this case will renew our collective desire to continue forward with the courts on our side.”
Under the guidelines, people who have been stopped from boarding flights may file an inquiry with the Department of Homeland Security, but responses do not include information about whether the person is on the no-fly list, according to the ACLU. The only way to find out whether a person has been removed from the no-fly list is to buy a ticket and try to board a flight.