DOJ Cries 'Terror' in Visa Lawsuit to Cover Up FBI Blunder

After seven years of litigation, two trips to a federal appeals court and $3.8 million worth of lawyer time, the public has finally learned why a wheelchair-bound Stanford University scholar was cuffed, detained and denied a flight from San Francisco to Hawaii: FBI human error.  FBI agent Kevin Kelley was investigating Muslims in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2004 when he checked the wrong box on a terrorism form, erroneously placing Rahinah Ibrahim on the no-fly list.  What happened next was the real shame.  Instead of admitting to the error, high-ranking President Barack Obama administration officials spent years covering it up.  Attorney General Eric Holder, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and a litany of other government officials claimed repeatedly that disclosing the reason Ibrahim was detained, or even acknowledging that she’d been placed on a watch list, would cause serious damage to the U.S. national security.  Again and again they asserted the so-called “state secrets privilege” to block the 48-year-old woman’s lawsuit, which sought only to clear her name. ... 

A month before Ibrahim’s trial, the judge said he learned the Kafkaesque truth. “I feel that I have been had by the government,” he said in a November pretrial conference.  Last week he laid it out all in his final order in the case, ruling for Ibrahim following a five-day, non-jury trial that was conducted largely behind closed doors in December.

'At long last, the government has conceded that plaintiff poses no threat to air safety or national security and should never have been placed on the no-fly list.  She got there by human error within the FBI.  This too is conceded.  This was no minor human error but an error with palpable impact, leading to the humiliation, cuffing, and incarceration of an innocent and incapacitated air traveler.  That it was human error may seem hard to accept — the FBI agent filled out the nomination form in a way exactly opposite from the instructions on the form, a bureaucratic analogy to a surgeon amputating the wrong digit — human error, yes, but of considerable consequence.'

- David Kravets, Feb. 11, 2014.