For nine years, the U.S. government refused to let a Stanford PhD student named Rahinah Ibrahim back in the country after putting her on the no-fly list for no apparent reason. For eight years, U.S. government lawyers fought Ibrahim’s request that she be told why. Last April, despite his promise in 2009 to do so only in only the most extreme cases, Attorney General Eric Holder tried to block Ibrahim’s case by asserting the state secrets privilege, declaring under penalty of perjury that the information she wanted “could reasonably be expected to cause significant harm to national security.”
Last week, a federal judge publicly revealed the government’s explanation for Ibrahim’s long ordeal: an FBI agent had “checked the wrong box,” resulting in her falling under suspicion as a terrorist. Even when the government found and corrected the error years later, they still refused to allow Ibrahim to return to the country or learn on what grounds she had been banned in the first place.
Holder, in his April declaration, restated his own new state secrets policy, that “[t]he Department will not defend an invocation of the privilege in order to: (i) conceal violations of the law, inefficiency, or administrative error; (ii) prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency of the United States Government”.
Then he did exactly what he had said he wouldn’t do.
The bogus national security claims invoked were even more outrageous because they were used to continue the persecution of someone the government knew to be innocent.
Ibrahim’s ordeal started on January 2, 2005, when she arrived at San Francisco International Airport to catch a flight to Malaysia for a Stanford-sponsored academic conference. A citizen of Malaysia, she had been living in the United States for four years on a student visa. But when a ticket agent saw her name on the no-fly list, he called the police.
Read the rest at The Intercept here.