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In Historic Development, Seven Americans Are Notified by US Government They Aren’t on No Fly List

Ibrahim Mashal, one of the Americans notified he isn’t currently on the No Fly List

As a result of a court ruling that found thirteen United States citizens who were placed on the No Fly List had their rights to “procedural due process” violated, seven US citizens have been notified by the government that they are not currently on that particular watchlist.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had been involved in representing these individuals in their lawsuit against the government. Hina Shamsi of the ACLU’s National Security Project declared, “After years of being blacklisted and denied due process, seven of our clients know they can fly again, and the rest will soon be able to fight back against their unjust flying ban.”

One of the individuals on the list [PDF], who was notified that he was not currently on the No Fly List is US Marine Corps veteran Ibraheim Y. Mashal.

“More than four years ago, I was denied boarding at an airport, surrounded by TSA agents, and questioned by the FBI,” Mashal recalled. “That day, many freedoms that I took for granted were robbed from me. I was never told why this happened, whether I was officially on the list, or what I could do to get my freedoms back.”

Mashal had been working as a dog trainer when he found out he was not allowed to fly from Chicago to Spokane, Washington, to meet with a woman who had hired him to train her dog. An airline representative told him on April 20, 2010, he was on the No Fly List. That same day FBI agents interrogated him at Midway International Airport and in his home.

“Two of the FBI agents who questioned me the day I was denied boarding asked me to speak to them again,” Mashal stated in a court declaration [PDF]. “Because I had nothing to hide, I met with them on June 23, 2010. The agents again asked me deeply personal questions about my religious beliefs and practices, political opinions and family. They told me that if I would help the FBI by serving as an informant my name would be removed from the No-Fly List and I would receive compensation. I told the agents that I did not feel comfortable answering their questions without my attorney present. The agents promptly ended the meeting.”

Mashal is one of the founders of a national non-profit organization, Always Faithful Service Dogs, which provides service and therapy dogs to disabled military veterans in the country. He is the organization’s president and head dog trainer, but Mashal for the past years he had been unable to attend events in California or Boston or go to Board of Directors meetings in California because he is on the No-Fly List.

“Now, I can resume working for clients who are beyond driving distance. I can attend weddings, graduations, and funerals that were too far away to reach by car or train. I can travel with my family to Hawaii, Jamaica, or anywhere else on vacation. Today, I learned I have my freedoms back,” Mashal stated.

Nagib Ali Ghaleb, who lives in Oakland, California, tried to travel in 2010 to San Francisco from Yemen, where his wife and children were living. The flight was scheduled to stop in Frankfurt. He was not permitted to board the flight from Frankfurt to San Francisco and flew back to Sanaa. A US Embassy official informed Ghaleb he was not permitted to be on any flights to the US.

“About two weeks later,” according to a court declaration [PDF] from Ghaleb, “a US official asked me to come to the US Embassy for questioning.

“I met with two officials, one of whom was an FBI agent. The interrogators offered to arrange for me to fly back immediately to the United States if I would agree to tell them who the ‘bad guys’ were in Yemen and in San Francisco. The interrogators insisted that I could provide the names of people from my mosque and my community. When I told the interrogators that I was not interested in spying on the Yemeni community, they told me that if I did not cooperate, they would have me arrested and jailed in Yemen. They advised me to ‘think about it.’”

Judge Anna J. Brown, who was appointed to the US District Court for the District of Oregon by President Bill Clinton, ruled [PDF] in late June that Attorney General Eric Holder, FBI Director James Comey and other government officials were required to provide some notice to plaintiffs on their “status on the No Fly List and the reasons for placement on that List.” The plaintiffs were also permitted to “submit evidence relevant to the reasons for their respective inclusions on the No-Fly List.” Government officials “must include any responsive evidence that plaintiffs submit in the record to be considered at both the administrative and judicial stages of review.”

That means that the government, pursuant to the court’s decision, has to provide some kind of notice to the other six US citizens who the ACLU represented. The government must provide them some kind of explanation as to why they are on the list and grant them an opportunity to challenge their inclusion.

“Each plaintiff submitted applications for redress through the Department of Homeland Security Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP),” Brown wrote in her decision. “Despite plaintiffs’ requests to officials and agencies for explanations as to why they were not permitted to board flights, explanations have not been provided and plaintiffs do not know whether they will be permitted to fly in the future.”

The plaintiffs have no idea what information was used against them and have been given no right to comment on any of the evidence the government claims to have, Brown noted.

The government’s failure “to provide any notice of the reasons for plaintiffs’ placement on the No-Fly List is especially important in light of the low evidentiary standard required to place an individual in the [Terrorist Screening Database] in the first place,” she additionally argued. “When only an ex parte [single party] showing of reasonable suspicion supported by ‘articulable facts taken together with rational inferences’ is necessary to place an individual in the TSDB, it is certainly possible, and probably likely, that ‘simple factual errors’ with ‘potentially easy, ready, and persuasive explanations’ could go uncorrected.”

Indeed, in the case of Dr. Rahinah Ibrahim, she sued government officials and overcame the government’s tactic of invoking “state secrets privilege” to prevent her from being able to challenge her placement on the No Fly List. Ibrahim eventually learned that she had been put on the list by “mistake.”

This is a hugely significant development in the struggle to establish meaningful due process rights for citizens improperly placed on watchlists. As Shamsi said, “The opportunity that the plaintiffs in our case are finally getting to clear their names should be available to everyone on the No Fly List as soon as possible.”

The government must complete all of the notifications and further reviews by January 16, according to the ACLU. By then, thirteen Americans will have effectively challenged the authority of the government to blacklist them without regard for the liberty interest they have in being able to travel internationally by air.

CommunityFDL Main BlogThe Dissenter

In Historic Development, Seven Americans Are Notified by US Government They Aren’t on No Fly List

Ibrahim Mashal, one of the Americans notified he isn’t currently on the No Fly List

As a result of a court ruling that found thirteen United States citizens who were placed on the No Fly List had their rights to “procedural due process” violated, seven US citizens have been notified by the government that they are not currently on that particular watchlist.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had been involved in representing these individuals in their lawsuit against the government. Hina Shamsi of the ACLU’s National Security Project declared, “After years of being blacklisted and denied due process, seven of our clients know they can fly again, and the rest will soon be able to fight back against their unjust flying ban.”

One of the individuals on the list [PDF], who was notified that he was not currently on the No Fly List is US Marine Corps veteran Ibraheim Y. Mashal.

“More than four years ago, I was denied boarding at an airport, surrounded by TSA agents, and questioned by the FBI,” Mashal recalled. “That day, many freedoms that I took for granted were robbed from me. I was never told why this happened, whether I was officially on the list, or what I could do to get my freedoms back.”

Mashal had been working as a dog trainer when he found out he was not allowed to fly from Chicago to Spokane, Washington, to meet with a woman who had hired him to train her dog. An airline representative told him on April 20, 2010, he was on the No Fly List. That same day FBI agents interrogated him at Midway International Airport and in his home.

“Two of the FBI agents who questioned me the day I was denied boarding asked me to speak to them again,” Mashal stated in a court declaration [PDF]. “Because I had nothing to hide, I met with them on June 23, 2010. The agents again asked me deeply personal questions about my religious beliefs and practices, political opinions and family. They told me that if I would help the FBI by serving as an informant my name would be removed from the No-Fly List and I would receive compensation. I told the agents that I did not feel comfortable answering their questions without my attorney present. The agents promptly ended the meeting.”

Mashal is one of the founders of a national non-profit organization, Always Faithful Service Dogs, which provides service and therapy dogs to disabled military veterans in the country. He is the organization’s president and head dog trainer, but Mashal for the past years he had been unable to attend events in California or Boston or go to Board of Directors meetings in California because he is on the No-Fly List.

“Now, I can resume working for clients who are beyond driving distance. I can attend weddings, graduations, and funerals that were too far away to reach by car or train. I can travel with my family to Hawaii, Jamaica, or anywhere else on vacation. Today, I learned I have my freedoms back,” Mashal stated.

Nagib Ali Ghaleb, who lives in Oakland, California, tried to travel in 2010 to San Francisco from Yemen, where his wife and children were living. The flight was scheduled to stop in Frankfurt. He was not permitted to board the flight from Frankfurt to San Francisco and flew back to Sanaa. A US Embassy official informed Ghaleb he was not permitted to be on any flights to the US. (more…)

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."

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