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Government Secrecy Spurs $4 Million Lawsuit Over Simple 'No Fly' List Error 239

An anonymous reader writes "After a seven-year lawsuit costing nearly $4 million, a judge has concluded that Rahinah Ibrahim's student visa was revoked because an FBI agent checked the wrong box on a form. That simple human error resulted in the detention of Rahinah Ibrahim, the revocation of her student visa years later and interruption of her PhD studies. The Bush and later Obama administrations obstructed the lawsuit repeatedly, invoking classified evidence, sensitive national security information and the state secrets privilege to prevent disclosure of how suspects are placed on the 'no-fly' list. The dispute eventually involved statements of support from James Clapper, Eric Holder and several other DOJ and TSA officials in favor of the government's case. The defendant was not allowed to enter the United States even to attend her own lawsuit trial and in a separate incident, her daughter, a U.S. citizen, was denied entry to witness the trial as well. The case exemplifies how government secrecy can unintentionally transform otherwise easily corrected errors into a multi-year legal and bureaucratic nightmare and waste millions of taxpayer dollars in doing so."
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Government Secrecy Spurs $4 Million Lawsuit Over Simple 'No Fly' List Error

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  • Um... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @03:52PM (#46231479) Journal

    "The case exemplifies how government secrecy can unintentionally transform otherwise easily corrected errors into a multi-year legal and bureaucratic nightmare and waste millions of taxpayer dollars in doing so."

    Who said it was unintentional?

  • by what2123 ( 1116571 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @03:55PM (#46231523)
    "Ah but that will never happen to me" - The Mainstream American Mentality. Source - American, living in U.S. of America.
  • by erfunath ( 962996 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @03:55PM (#46231525)
    Now imagine how many people get to enjoy this sort of thing on a daily basis, and either don't want to go through the trouble of challenging it or can't afford to.
  • Hubris and Pride (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MBC1977 ( 978793 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @03:56PM (#46231533) Journal
    Sometimes I think the biggest weapon against humankind is our inability to admit when we are wrong. An obscene amount of money and time is fucking wasted everyday because we can't man up and admit to being wrong. I understand the need for operational secrecy, but sometimes just saying: "Yeah, I fucked up." Would be a much better approach.
  • Re:Um... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @03:56PM (#46231535)

    Hanlon's Razor:
    "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity."

  • by Alain Williams ( 2972 ) <> on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @04:01PM (#46231591) Homepage

    to Rahinah Ibrahim, not only for the financial loss that this has caused her but the inconvenience, emotional anguish, etc, etc. This should be paid by the individuals who acted to cover this up - not the organisations that they worked for, where the fine would just be added to the national tax bill. The fine must be high enough so that it really hurts all the individuals who contribute to the fine.

    The fine should not be paid by the FBI agent who made the original error, he screwed up (we all do occasionally) and I doubt that he made the mistake maliciously. The fine should be paid by the individuals who were asked to review the case and who conspired to pervert the law of the USA, those who thought it more important to protect a decision by a government department than to see the right thing done. If these individuals are allowed to get away with it then expect this sort of thing to continue.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @04:02PM (#46231597)

    “...Under this policy, the Department of Justice will defend an assertion of the state secrets privilege in litigation, and seek dismissal of a claim on that basis, only when necessary to protect against the risk of significant harm to national security,...”

    They did the right thing. They were protecting against the risk of significant harm to (the reputation of) national security i.e. they'd look like a bunch of incompetent cock-smokers if it ever came out.

  • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @04:05PM (#46231623) Homepage

    When you have secret evidence someone isn't allowed to see or challenge, this is exactly what you'll get.

    Because it become impossible to tell the difference between some malicious person just arbitrarily putting you on the list, and some incompetent idiot who didn't bother checking.

    My guess, the government never bothered checking any facts during this process -- they just said it was secret evidence and that they didn't need to explain themselves.

    And the government has very little interest in having it come to light that their No Fly List is based on sketchy, unsupported evidence, and that it's full of errors which can't be fixed because they're either lazy, incompetent, or acting in a malicious manner. Because then people would know how lousy of a job they're doing.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @04:09PM (#46231671)

    If senior government officials can commit perjury before congress and get away with it, I see no reason why anything is likely to be done in the case of some foreigner losing her visa.

  • by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @04:23PM (#46231815) Homepage

    What about her daughter who - according to the summary - is both a US citizen AND was denied entry as well. If I leave the country on business, are you saying I have no right to re-enter the country I have citizenship in if the government decides not to allow it? If so, the potential for abuse is incredible.

  • by profplump ( 309017 ) <> on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @04:31PM (#46231925)

    I know. The willful obstruction of justice isn't important. And even if it was, we don't have to worry because they'd never do that to a citizen. I know the summary and article note how a US citizen was also denied travel, but I'm sure there was a good reason for that too, that we don't need to understand.

    I'm not sure why we're even talking about this -- it's not like Canadians are human beings in the first place

  • by TheCarp ( 96830 ) <> on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @04:36PM (#46231985) Homepage

    Please cite where in the US constitution it states that only citizens have the right to fair trials or to petition the government for redress of grievance. All people dealing with the US government or within US boarders have those rights.

    These people are not just assholes, they are blatant criminals.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @04:40PM (#46232013)

    It seems to me we have become the very thing we used to criticize about the rest of the world.

    We have become the terrorist, the religious intolerant, the torturer, the nation that spies on its own citizens, the nation with secret courts, the suppressor of voters, and the nation that uses government to quell protesters. When fear is our motivation, the most irrational statements begin to sound reasonable and take on a life of their own and strange combinations of bedfellows develop.

    I imagine that even Bin Laden would be surprised the extent to which a single organized attack could inject its backward thinking into a nation that claimed to be so different than the rest.

  • Re:No fly list (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hey! ( 33014 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @04:42PM (#46232031) Homepage Journal

    It's called confirmation bias. Once Ibrahim was branded a "bad guy", mere lack of evidence was not enough to get her un-branded.

  • by suutar ( 1860506 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @04:46PM (#46232059)
    I'm not sure I agree that constitutes harm. They already looked like a bunch of incompetent cock-smokers.
  • by johanw ( 1001493 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @04:50PM (#46232111)

    More and more bright foreign students will choose a country with a friendlier climate to study. Let the US continue like this and remember how THEY got their leadership position in research: all those scientists who fled from Europe before, during and just after WW2. If the US becomes a country people don't want to travel to they can do the same for themselves when Germany did when it threw all Jewish scientists out.

  • by Your.Master ( 1088569 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @04:54PM (#46232153)

    Non-citizens absolutely have civil rights, especially (but not exclusively) ones who were legally there. She was not just denied entry into the US arbitrarily, she was actually abused while inside the US, and apparently basically deported. You can't just deport people legally in the US with the same impunity you can deny them entry, in part because of, again, civil rights.

  • Re:Um... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by s.petry ( 762400 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @04:57PM (#46232197)

    It takes a great amount of insanity to keep blaming the same repeated actions as "stupidity."

    George Gordon Byron
    “Those who will not reason, are bigots, those who cannot, are fools, and those who dare not, are slaves.”

  • Re:Um... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by icebike ( 68054 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @05:50PM (#46232715)

    Doesn't take a large conspiracy. Just one pissed off agent who disliked her.

    The conspiracy comes after, trying to cover your ass.

  • by DNS-and-BIND ( 461968 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @07:39PM (#46233695) Homepage

    Ah. But Obama was specifically elected on a platform of overturning the abuses of the "EVULLL" Bu$hitler administration.

    So, which is more evil? That which openly proclaims its evil and laughs about it, or that which claims to be good but is actually more evil than its predecessor?

  • by Catbeller ( 118204 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @07:56PM (#46233853) Homepage

    Or we can assume, because they took that job, that a large number of the people who make the decisions are Islamophobic bigots running hot from Fox News. A million people on that no-fly list.

    In the 1940s and 1950s, marxophobia gripped the popular imagination, fed by a national security apparatus that really had nothing else to do. The entire country danced the bigot's tango, investigating "commies" and "fellow travellers", ruining tens of thousands of lives.

    If you have a secret security apparatus, bigots consumed with confirmation bias will do what they always do; imply, smear, ruin people. Now we've given them the golden ticket, the end game of all control freaks: a perfect surveillance system.

    As Terry Pratchett says: "Don't give a monkey the key to the banana plantation."

  • Re:Um... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @11:22PM (#46235247) Homepage

    You are ignoring the real reason for the high cost of defending a mistake, the retention of that power to attack others by a simple flick of the pen. That's the reality of what it was all about, for what ever personal reasons the power of political appointees to destroy the lives of other people and the request of the political party apparatus, be that from within the political party or from significant campaign donors. Keep in mind there was the stated intention of extending to all forms of transport and if you think suspending drivers licences was in there as well for the future, you are quite foolish.

    So it was all down to retaining the power at the flick of a pen to effectively destroy a persons life outside of the purview of the courts and they fought tooth and nail to protect it and they still have not given up on it.

Loose bits sink chips.