Woman spent years on no-fly list after FBI agent checked the wrong box
February 10, 2014   By:    No-Fly List   Comments are off   //   577 Views

A former Stanford University doctoral student spent nearly a decade on the no-fly list because an FBI agent checked the wrong box on a form, inadvertently nominating her for the list.

A federal judge ruled in favor of Rahinah Ibrahim, who was forbidden from boarding a plane from her home country of Malaysia to the United States in 2005, because she was on the no-fly list and her student visa had been revoked. The United States also denied Ibrahim a visa to attend the court case proceedings, which began as a bench trial in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in December.

The ruling (.pdf) was issued in January but wasn’t made public until Feb. 6.

Although partly redacted, the ruling reveals that an FBI agent “misunderstood the directions on the form and erroneously nominated Dr. Ibrahim to the TSA’s no-fly list.”

Another part of the form even stated, “It is recommended the subject NOT be entered into the following selected terrorist screening databases,” but the agent accidentally checked a box that placed her on the no-fly list.

The Terrorist Screening Center, part of the FBI, has a redress unit, but the ruling notes that it “does not undertake additional fieldwork” to see if someone was improperly placed in on terrorist watchlists, instead relying on existing records.

Ibrahim sought redress but “received a vague and inconclusive response,” Judge William Alsup writes in the ruling.

Alsup ordered the federal government to search all its terrorist watchlists by April 15 for mentions of Ibrahim and either remove her or add a correction saying that the designation was a mistake.

Ibrahim is set to become the first person to successfully sue for removal from the no-fly list, though others have tried.

The Justice Department and FBI declined to comment on the ruling.

Ross Feinstein, the Transportation Security Administration’s press secretary, noted in an email that TSA “is a customer of the Terrorist Screening Center,” not in charge of it.

For more:
download the ruling in Ibrahim v. Homeland Security Department (.pdf)

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