9 Years on the No-Fly List Because an FBI Agent “Checked the Wrong Box”

Fight disinformation. Get a daily recap of the facts that matter. Sign up for the free Mother Jones newsletter.


Over the years, I’ve written about a number of people who have been put on the no-fly list and prevented from entering the country for no apparent reason. Or, at any rate, for no reason the government cares to share with its victims. One of them is a Malaysian Ph.D. student named Rahinah Ibrahim, who was detained at San Francisco International Airport in 2005; eventually allowed to fly home; and then put on the no-fly list and never allowed back in the country. Why? As usual, no one is willing to say.

But this week we got a bit of a hint. Over at Glenn Greenwald’s new venture, The Intercept, Murtaza Hussain reports on the latest developments:

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.

[Eric] 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.

Is there more to this? Maybe. The government, needless to say, isn’t talking. But it sure looks as if Ibrahim became a target for investigation; an FBI agent then filled out a form wrong; she was later cleared of any suspicion; but the mistake lived on forever and now no one wants to admit it. Do you feel safer now?

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Or at least we hope. It’s fall fundraising time, and we’re trying to raise $250,000 to help fund Mother Jones’ journalism during a shorter than normal three-week push.

If you’re reading this, a fundraising pitch at the bottom of an article, you must find our team’s reporting valuable and we hope you’ll consider supporting it with a donation of any amount right now if you can.

It’s really that simple. But if you’d like to read a bit more, our membership lead, Brian Hiatt, has a post for you highlighting some of our newsroom's impressive, impactful work of late—including two big investigations in just one day and covering voting rights the way it needs to be done—that we hope you'll agree is worth supporting.

payment methods

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Or at least we hope. It’s fall fundraising time, and we’re trying to raise $250,000 to help fund Mother Jones’ journalism during a shorter than normal three-week push.

If you’re reading this, a fundraising pitch at the bottom of an article, you must find our team’s reporting valuable and we hope you’ll consider supporting it with a donation of any amount right now if you can.

It’s really that simple. But if you’d like to read a bit more, our membership lead, Brian Hiatt, has a post for you highlighting some of our newsroom's impressive, impactful work of late—including two big investigations in just one day and covering voting rights the way it needs to be done—that we hope you’ll agree is worth supporting.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate