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No-Fly List

3 Calif. residents battle in court over no-fly list

Three California residents are among 15 plaintiffs preparing a renewed challenge to the nation’s secretive no-fly list, created after the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackings to keep suspected terrorists off commercial airliners. 

Maintained by the Terrorist Screening Center and overseen by the FBI, the no-fly list reportedly contains some 20,000 names, among them about 500 U.S. citizens. As many as 800 changes, such as removing or adding names, are made to the list each day.

A much larger terrorism watchlist of a half-million people across the globe that contains the names of those barred from flying also includes individuals subjected to heightened security screenings. Because the no-fly list is classified, no one can be sure whether he or she will be prevented from flying until after arriving at the airport with a purchased ticket.

 

The plaintiffs say they’ve been unfairly denied the convenience of air travel and must spend days on trains and in cars in order to cross the country. Civil libertarians argue that the list withholds the due process rights of travelers. There’s no meaningful way to dispute one’s inclusion on the list and determine if the status is based on mistakes or flawed intelligence.

Filed under: Public Safety, Daily Report

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Stanford grad continues fight to get off no-fly list

The federal appeals court ruling last week on gay marriage in California overshadowed other potentially big news in the legal community. 

A quieter decision Wednesday by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has enabled Stanford University Ph.D. graduate Rahinah Ibrahim to clear another hurdle in her now years-long battle over the nation’s no-fly list, conceived to stop suspected terrorists from boarding airplanes.

The three-member panel ruled 2-1 that Ibrahim could continue to challenge [PDF] her 2005 detention at San Francisco International Airport, where police placed her in a holding cell for two hours. The ordeal eventually led to her being barred from re-entering the United States, a prohibition that continues today.

She’d arrived at the airport on Jan. 2, 2005, with her daughter and needed wheelchair assistance due to complications from a hysterectomy. The two were headed for Malaysia, where Ibrahim intended to present her doctoral research at a conference sponsored by Stanford.

 

Instead, officers from the San Francisco Police Department placed her in handcuffs and gave no reason for why she was being held. The government generally does not disclose if or why an individual is on one of its many watch lists. 

“Unspecified persons,” according to court documents, told Ibrahim that her name had been removed from the no-fly list, but someone later told her it was still there. The following day, authorities permitted Ibrahim to leave the country on a new flight to Malaysia.

Filed under: Public Safety, Daily Report

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