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[liberationtech] In first no-fly trial, witness ends up unable to fly to testify

Yosem Companys companys at
Tue Dec 3 13:45:05 PST 2013

From: John Gilmore <gnu at>

The US no-fly list has existed for decades in a legal limbo, and no
court has yet ruled on the legality or constitutionality of its ban on
citizen travel or its lack of due process for victims.  It is being
challenged in court this week.

Rahinah Ibrahim, a middle-aged Muslim Stanford grad student from
Malaysia, was put on the no-fly list in 2005 for no obvious reason,
and arrested in the SFO airport.  A day later, she was allowed to
leave the US to go to a conference, whereupon her longstanding student
visa was canceled and she could not return.  She ultimately completed
her Stanford PhD remotely, from her native Malaysia, and is now the
dean of the architecture school at a Malaysian university.  She has
diligently pursued a court case against DHS and the San Francisco
police who arrested her in the airport ever since.

After years of Federal delaying tactics, including two trips to the
Court of Appeals and the invocation of the "state secrets privilege",
Judge William Alsup forced the matter to trial, which is happening
this week in San Francisco.  Earlier in the case, he refused to
look at DHS-offered secret evidence, declaring that travel is a
right that cannot be denied without "an effective means of redress".

The news from Monday, the first day of the trial, is that
Ms. Ibrahim's daughter, who was born in the US and is a US citizen and
a witness in the trial, was prevented by DHS on Sunday from flying to
San Francisco for the trial.  The daughter, Raihan Mustafa Kamal, was
14 years old in 2005 when she accompanied Ms. Ibrahim through the San
Francisco airport where she was arrested.  Ms. Ibrahim's lawyers had
notified the DHS that they planned to call her as an eyewitness to the
events of that day.  DHS appears to have put her on the no-fly list,
and as a result she has not been able to attend the trial.

(For the same reason, Ms. Ibrahim cannot attend her OWN trial against
the Federal government.  She went to London to testify, with attorneys
from both sides present, and part of her videotaped testimony was
shown in court on Monday.  Apparently she can fly anywhere else in the
world except the lawless USA.)

DHS lawyers claimed that Ms. Kamal "just missed her flight", which is
not what she told her mother's lawyers.  Judge Alsup ordered them to
provide more information today, saying, "I want to know whether the
government did something to obstruct a witness, a U.S. citizen."

More information is here:


Ms. Ibrahim already reached a settlement with the San Francisco
police, which cost the taxpayers of the city a cool $225,000 for that
false arrest.  The city's lawyers realized that they had had no
grounds to arrest Ms. Ibrahim, who had not broken any laws, and
settled rather than risk a trial.  (TSA agents have no power to arrest
anyone.  They call local cops when they want someone arrested.  Most
local cops are stupid enough to arrest someone when TSA tells them to,
even though no law has been broken, on some vague and bogus theory
about Federal orders trumping state laws.  I am hopeful that
cash-strapped San Francisco will decline to stooge for TSA next time.)

The ID-card-holding public can attend the trial at 450 Golden Gate
Avenue, San Francisco, on the 18th floor.  The case docket and some of
the filings are publicly available at the Internet Archive via the
RECAP system that voluntarily publishes public-domain extracts from
the Federal Courts' restricted pay-per-page docketing system, PACER:


John Gilmore

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