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Watching the Watch List: Landmark Case Goes to Trial over Massive U.S. Terrorism "No-Fly" Database

With hundreds of thousands of people now on the government’s terrorist watch lists, a closely watched trial begins

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today in San Francisco. Stanford University Ph.D. student Rahinah Ibrahim is suing the U.S. government after she was barred from flying from Malaysia back to the United States in 2005 to complete her studies at Stanford after her name was placed on the list. The New York Times reports that the federal government’s terrorist watch list, officially called the "Terrorist Screening Database," has grown to at least 700,000 people, and those on the list are often subjected to extra scrutiny, prohibited from flying, and interrogated while attempting to cross borders. The government refuses to divulge who is on the list, how one can get off the list, and what criteria is used to place someone on the list in the first place. Oftentimes, people have no idea their name is in the database until they attempt to board a flight. We speak with Anya Bernstein, associate professor at the SUNY Buffalo Law School and author of the article, "The Hidden Costs of Terrorist Watch Lists."

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Thanksgiving is one of the nation’s busiest travel days. This year, hundreds of thousands of people may have been in for a rude awakening when they tried to board their flights. The New York Times reports the federal government’s terrorist watch list, officially called the "Terrorist Screening Database," has grown to at least 700,000 people, and those on the list are often subjected to extra scrutiny, prohibited from flying, interrogated while attempting to cross borders. According to the article, "Who Is Watching the Watch Lists?" the government refuses to divulge who is on the list, how one can get off the list, and what criteria is used to place someone on the list in the first place. Oftentimes people have no idea their name is in the database until they attempt to board a flight.

That’s exactly what happened to former Stanford student Rahinah Ibrahim in January of 2005 when she showed up at San Francisco International Airport with her teenage daughter for a flight to Malaysia. At the United Airlines ticket counter, Ibrahim was handcuffed and detained by police without explanation. Ultimately, she was allowed to fly home to Malaysia, but she has been unable to return to the United States because the State Department revoked her student visa.

Today, after an eight-year-long legal battle, Ibrahim’s case is going to trial in federal district court in San Francisco. This is one of Ibrahim’s lawyers, Marwa Elzankaly, in 2011 explaining to federal judge what Ibrahim is seeking to accomplish with the suit.

MARWA ELZANKALY: We sued the TSA, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, the Terrorist Screening Center and the FBI. We basically sued anyone who was involved or could have been involved in Ms. Ibrahim’s arrest and in her—the placement of her name on the no-fly list.

Original story:  http://www.democracynow.org/2013/12/2/watching_the_watch_list_landm...

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