[Ppnews] Exile the Obama way

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Feb 6 11:33:00 EST 2013

  Exile the Obama way


Through utilisation of the federal No-Fly list, authorities are 
increasingly subjecting individuals to de facto exile.
Last Modified: 05 Feb 2013

On January 2, 2005, Rahinah Ibrahim, a PhD student in Construction 
Management and Engineering at Stanford University, arrived at San 
Francisco International Airport to board a scheduled international 
flight en route to Malaysia. Ibrahim was slated to attend a 
Stanford-sponsored conference in the country to present findings from 
her doctoral research; a trip she was taking despite being 
due to complications from a recent hysterectomy.

However instead of boarding her flight, Ibrahim found herself in 
handcuffs - detained by the San Francisco Police Department before being 
searched and locked in a holding cell by TSA agents without explanation 
as to the reason for her arrest. After being interrogated for several 
hours by the FBI it was revealed that she had been placed - for reasons 
not revealed to her - on a No-Fly list which prevented her from 
routinely boarding her flight. Despite this Ibrahim was cleared by the 
agents of being a security risk, assured there would be no future 
problems, and allowed to board a flight for Malaysia the following day.

However upon attempting to return to the United States after her trip, 
Ibrahim found herself again detained and prevented from boarding her 
by local authorities who had received instructions from the US Consulate 
that she was to be barred from returning home.

It has now been eight years and Ibrahim has still not been allowed to 
return to the United States, banished based on secret evidence which she 
is unable to view let alone contest and trapped in a Kafkaesque legal 
limbo which has made her an effective exile from the country.

*No fly, no way*

As shocking as Ibrahim's situation is, it is not unique 
over the past decade there have been countless documented cases of 
individuals who have suddenly found themselves permanently stranded 
abroad after being banned from the United States despite holding legal 
residency and/or citizenship in the country.

In April 2012, a 43-year old American citizen and US Air Force veteran 
named Saadiq Long was banned from boarding a flight to Oklahoma 
to visit his mother whose health had been deteriorating due to 
congestive heart failure. Long, who had grown up in Oklahoma but moved 
to Qatar for work, was told by officials from the Department of Homeland 
Security (DHS) that he had been placed on a No-Fly List which would 
exclude him from the country of his birth but was refused access to even 
the most basic details as to the reason for his placement on this list. 
Outcry over Long's case 
from American civil rights organisations eventually led to him being 
allowed to visit his mother - but the worrying precedent set by the 
arbitrariness of his de facto banishment has had an impact on countless 

In the past year alone 
the number of individuals placed by the Obama administration on the 
federal No-Fly list has doubled to over 10,000, with at least 500 being 
holders of American citizenship. A further 400,000 individuals 
<http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/07/us/07watch.html?pagewanted=all> of 
indeterminate citizenship are on a separate "watchlist" which flags them 
as being "reasonably suspicious" and potentially subject to exclusion. 
The names of those on these lists are not disclosed and neither is the 
reasoning or evidence as to why any particular individual may be 
flagged. The American Civil Liberties Union has represented many 
Americans who believe have been on the No-Fly list and have been banned 
from travelling for work or to visit family for reasons unknown to them. 
In the words of ACLU attorney Ben Wizner 

    /People who are protected by the Constitution have a right to
    fundamental due process. If the United States government is going to
    maintain a watch list and prevent people from flying, there has to
    be some way for people to confront the evidence against them and
    rebut it./

*Targeted bannings*

An identified trend has seen Muslims and those who claim ethnic descent 
from majority-Muslim countries being overwhelmingly targeted for 
seemingly inexplicable placement 
on these lists. Steve Washburn, a Muslim convert as well as a US 
military veteran was told by officials at Dublin International Airport 
that he was on a "terrorist watch list 
<http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/us-government-sued-aclu-fly-list/story?id=11054805&page=2>" and 
would not be allowed on his flight home to New Mexico or on any other 
future flights which would take him to the United States. Even high 
profile individuals such as Gilbert Chagoury, a multimillionaire 
businessman with close ties to former President Bill Clinton, have seen 
themselves effectively banned from travel by their unexplained and 
indisputable placement on the No-Fly list. After being detained and 
interrogated by agents for several hours and questioned about his views 
and purported ties to terrorists he would say:

    /I cannot accept being labelled a terrorist when I am known all over
    the world as a person who loves peace. It really hurts./

Gadeir Abbas, a lawyer with the Council on American-Islamic Relations 
(CAIR) says that calls from Muslim-Americans stranded abroad after being 
banned from boarding flights home have become a regular occurrence. "The 
amount of people who experience tragic, life-altering travel delays is 
significant," said Abbas.

In numerous cases individuals have claimed to be banned from travelling 
after refusing to become informants against their own community 
Ibrahim "Abe" Mashal, was told by FBI agents that his name would be 
removed from the No-Fly list if he would agree to go undercover and spy 
on other Muslims, while Mohammed Tanvir was coerced with threats and 
blackmail to become an informant spying on the South Asian community in 
New York. After refusing, Tanvir was placed on the No-Fly list, an act 
which his lawyer said was direct retaliation for his refusal to inform.

There is a recognised and genuine need to prevent known terrorists and 
those legitimately suspected of involvement with terrorism from 
travelling freely to the United States and elsewhere. However in 
practice it seems as though the ability to place individuals on No-Fly 
lists and other types of restrictive surveillance has been abused to 
harass and pressure innocent individuals, with specific emphasis upon 

In the case of Rahinah Ibrahim a federal judge in San Francisco recently 
blasted the government's usage of secret evidence against her 
citing their "persistent and stubborn refusal" to follow applicable laws 
and attempts to undermine "the traditional system of fair play where 
both sides have notice of the arguments and evidence being used against 

This system increasingly appears to be inapplicable to Muslim-Americans 
and those who claim descent from Muslim countries, for whom a parallel 
legal system exists which leaves them at the mercy of secret evidence 
and subject to effective exile from the United States through legal 
prohibition them flying home. The subversion of the US justice system 
towards this end has been a legacy of the past decades erosion of civil 
liberties and has continued with even greater vigor under the Obama 

As articulated by ACLU attorney 
Nusrat Choudhury, "It doesn't make anyone safer for innocent people not 
to be allowed to fly." Effectively granting government the ability to 
opaquely subject citizens to de facto banishment while abroad protects 
no one, but rather represents a troubling and potentially consequential 
deterioration of constitutionally protected rights in the post-9/11 era.

/*Murtaza Hussain is a Toronto-based writer and analyst focused on 
issues related to Middle Eastern politics.*/

/*Follow him on Twitter: @MazMHussain <https://twitter.com/MazMHussain>*/

*/The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not 
necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy./*

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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