New Lawsuit Claims FBI Used No Fly List To Pressure Muslims Into Becoming Informants

from the police-state dept

Over the past few months, we've covered the bizarre trial of Rahinah Ibrahim, who was incorrectly placed on the no fly list, leading to a series of other problems, meaning that the Stanford PhD grad student was unable to fly back into the US for the past ten years. When the unredacted ruling in that case was finally released last week, we discovered that Ibrahim is still in the "terrorist screening database" (TSDB), though not on the no fly list, and barred from getting a visa to travel back to the US, even though the US admits she's no threat, because of a "secret exception" to the "reasonable suspicion" standard. And, given that the exception is secret, we may never know what it is.

However, perhaps it has something to do with "when the FBI wants to intimidate you into becoming an informant," as a new lawsuit suggests. (And because none of the news sources reporting on this seemed willing to put the actual legal filing online, here it is.) The lawsuit was filed on behalf of four different men, who all had similar experiences with the FBI threatening to put them on the no fly list if they didn't become informants, reporting back on what others in their Muslim communities were up to -- and then finding themselves on the list after refusing.
Plaintiff Muhammad Tanvir is a lawful permanent resident of the United States whose most recent residence in the United States was in Corona, Queens, New York. Mr. Tanvir is Muslim. Mr. Tanvir was placed on the No Fly List after he declined multiple requests by FBI agents to serve as an informant in his Muslim community. He declined to do so because it would have violated his sincerely held religious beliefs. He also felt that he had no relevant information to share. After he learned that he had been placed on the No Fly List, he was told to contact the same FBI agents to clear up what he presumed was an error that led to his placement on the No Fly List. Instead, the FBI agents offered to help him get off the List—but only in exchange for relaying information about his community. Mr. Tanvir again refused. Mr. Tanvir does not pose, has never posed, and has never been accused of posing, a threat to aviation safety.

Plaintiff Jameel Algibhah is a United States citizen who resides in the Bronx, New York. Mr. Algibhah is a Muslim. Mr. Algibhah was placed on the No Fly List after he declined a request from FBI agents to attend certain mosques, to act “extremist,” and to participate in online Islamic forums and report back to the FBI agents. After Mr. Algibhah learned that he was on the No Fly List, the same FBI agents again visited him, telling him that only they could remove his name from the No Fly List if he agreed to act as an informant. Mr. Algibhah again exercised his constitutional right to refuse to become an informant and he remains on the No Fly List. Because of his placement on the No Fly List, Mr. Algibhah has been unable to visit his wife and three young daughters in Yemen since 2009. Mr. Algibhah does not pose, has never posed, and has never been accused of posing, a threat to aviation safety....

Plaintiff Naveed Shinwari is a lawful permanent resident of the United States who resides in West Haven, Connecticut. Mr. Shinwari is a Muslim. Mr. Shinwari was placed or maintained on the No Fly List after he refused a request from FBI agents to be an informant on his Muslim community. Subsequently, he was prevented from boarding a flight to Orlando, Florida, where he had found work. Following his placement on the No Fly List, the same FBI agents approached Mr. Shinwari, told him they were aware of his inability to board his flight, and again asked him to work as an informant. Mr. Shinwari again refused. Because of his placement on the No Fly List, Mr. Shinwari’s work has been disrupted and he has been unable to visit his wife and family in Afghanistan since 2012. Mr. Shinwari does not pose, has never posed, and has never been accused of posing, a threat to aviation safety....

Plaintiff Awais Sajjad is a lawful permanent resident of the United States who resides in Jersey City, New Jersey. Mr. Sajjad is a Muslim. Mr. Sajjad was prevented from flying because he was on the No Fly List. After he sought to be removed from the List, he was approached by FBI agents and subjected to extensive interrogation, including a polygraph test, after which he was asked to work as an informant for the FBI. Mr. Sajjad had no relevant information to share, so he refused. Because of his placement on the No Fly List, Mr. Sajjad has been unable to visit his family in Pakistan, including his ailing 93- year old grandmother, since February 2012. Mr. Sajjad does not pose, has never posed, and has never been accused of posing, a threat to aviation safety
Note how these are all US citizens or lawful permanent residents. The filing notes that while the FBI has used a number of other threats to turn Muslims into informants -- including threatening their immigration status or trying to prosecute them for minor crimes -- at least in those cases, the victims know what's happening. Since the no fly list is totally opaque, the FBI can abuse it widely, with almost no recourse.
Withholding immigration benefits or bringing criminal charges against American Muslims can be challenged and resolved under known legal standards through procedurally adequate administrative or judicial proceedings. Unlike those situations, the No Fly List operates under unknown standards and a vague set of criteria with a process that provides no opportunity to learn of the purported bases for placement on the List or to respond to such claims. This secretive process is conducted with no impartial determination on the merits, and without regard to the possibly retaliatory or unduly coercive motives of the field agents who place people on the No Fly List.
The full filing goes into a lot more detail on the four cases above, showing just how far the FBI is willing to go to try to intimidate people into becoming informants. They're not just asking them to provide information, but often asking them to travel to foreign countries, infiltrate various groups, and send back information. For a whole variety of reasons, the individuals found this to be completely unacceptable, and were subsequently punished by the FBI. The stories are rather heart-wrenching, as these individuals are bullied (sometimes to the point of breaking down and crying), as the FBI threatens all sorts of punishment if they don't do what the FBI wants, which often involves putting themselves in very dangerous positions.

Of course, this is exactly what happens when you allow for secret "lists" like this to proliferate, and give the FBI nearly unlimited power to spy on Americans. I'm assuming that, as in previous no fly list cases, the US government will freak out and claim all sorts of "national security" reasons why the entire case should be dropped. Hopefully, the courts will not allow such games.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    That One Guy (profile), Apr 24th, 2014 @ 1:44pm

    An offer they can't refuse

    'Hey, that's a nice ability to travel about freely you've got there, would be a terrible shame is something were to happen to it...'

    I'm guessing it's one of two things here:

    A) Classic gangster movies are standard teaching material for the FBI, with a focus on refining the techniques shown.

    or

    B) Classic gangster movies are completely and utterly banned from being watched by anyone in the FBI, whether in their professional or private lives, lest some agents start wondering 'Hey, what they're doing, isn't that remarkably similar to what we did just last week?'.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 24th, 2014 @ 2:13pm

    This is absolutely disgusting and appalling. I'm downright embarrassed by my country, my pride has long since been melted away.

     

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    silverscarcat (profile), Apr 24th, 2014 @ 2:15pm

    Only difference between the Mob and the FBI...

    Is who the government backs.

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward, Apr 24th, 2014 @ 2:26pm

      Re: Only difference between the Mob and the FBI...

      I think at times it may be both.

       

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      That One Guy (profile), Apr 24th, 2014 @ 2:26pm

      Re: Only difference between the Mob and the FBI...

      Not the only difference, the FBI also have shiny badges, and re-usable 'Get out of jail free' cards should they feel like letting off a little steam.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 24th, 2014 @ 2:24pm

    recruiting them to infiltrate terrorist groups?

    sounds like they were setting up one of those fake terrorist plots.

     

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      That One Guy (profile), Apr 24th, 2014 @ 2:38pm

      Re: recruiting them to infiltrate terrorist groups?

      As well as providing a good heaping dose of blackmail material should their informant ever get out of line.

      'So, you remember that time we had you infiltrate that group suspected of terrorism? Yeah, funny thing, turns out we kept records of that, though we seem to have 'misplaced' the 'we had you infiltrate' part of the report, making it look like you did it all on your own. Crazy huh? Anyway, just thought I'd bring it up, given it sounds like you've been talking to some lawyers and/or reporters, and we certainly wouldn't want any embarrassing papers to find their way to the local news agency...'

       

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        identicon
        zip, Apr 24th, 2014 @ 4:18pm

        Re: Re: recruiting them to infiltrate terrorist groups?

        The FBI often encourages its collaborators to be as radical and extreme as possible, in order to bait and entrap genuine extremists. But the technique can backfire badly, leaving people vulnerable to prosecution from other authorities. A ranting radio racist named Hal Turner, while on the FBI payroll, was tried and convicted for incitement - despite his schtick having helped him collect names and addresses of like-minded radicals that the FBI was happy to receive.

        His cover blown when he confessed his collaboration at his trial, Turner was thereafter useless to the FBI as an agent provocateur, so they basically threw him to the wolves and washed their hands of it. And after getting out of prison, he could very well be targeted by the people he ratted out.

        It's this kind of "double jeopardy" that's the reason why no one should ever become a government informant.

         

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      mhab, May 7th, 2014 @ 3:49pm

      Re: recruiting them to infiltrate terrorist groups?

      "terrorist"

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 24th, 2014 @ 2:25pm

    So that's why they want to keep the no-fly list secret. They don't want people to know why they are doing it.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 24th, 2014 @ 2:27pm

    I see is FBI is as worse as ever. Missing J. Edgar Hoover much?

     

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      identicon
      David, Apr 24th, 2014 @ 10:49pm

      Re:

      To stop hooverism, the reigning time of FBI czars was limited to ten years by law.

      The current czar is on the job for about thirteen, and everybody pretends not to have noticed.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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    Special Agent Dickwad (profile), Apr 24th, 2014 @ 2:37pm

    Of course we used the No-Fly list!

    When someone is not breaking the law we, as Special Agents of the FBI, use every tool we've been given to make people do the right thing and help us.

    It's not like we just don't care!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 24th, 2014 @ 2:45pm

    9/11 unleashed the petty tyrant that lives inside most law enforcement personnel.

     

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      Jerrymiah, Apr 24th, 2014 @ 3:13pm

      Re: 9/11 unleashed the petty tyrant that lives inside most law enforcement personnel

      And I would also add "US and British governments".

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 24th, 2014 @ 3:34pm

    sometimes i wonder if bin laden was connected enough to know that he won.  bigtime he did.

     

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      John Fenderson (profile), Apr 24th, 2014 @ 3:40pm

      Re:

      Based on what he said after the attacks, he knew.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Apr 25th, 2014 @ 5:57am

        Re: Re:

        America literally started fighting and destroying itself after 9/11 and we happily advertised it to the world.

        Bush a great leader? Yea, for 2 feel good seconds of speech then he had to one up Bin Laden with DHS and the Patriot Act, destroying far more liberty and instilling far more fear and terror than any bomb strapped Muslim ever could!

        You can't out do the Government peeps... they hate the competition.

         

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      That One Guy (profile), Apr 24th, 2014 @ 3:46pm

      Re:

      I'm not sure if it was said before, or after 9/11, but at one point he said that all he'd have to do was attack the US once, and the USG would take it from there, 'destroying itself from the inside'.

      Talk about an accurate prediction, the USG has done more to destroy the country than he ever could have dreamed of managing.

       

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        Just Another Anonymous Troll, Apr 25th, 2014 @ 7:14am

        Re: Re:

        The terrorists can fly planes into our buildings and kill people, but in the grand scheme of things it does not matter. I know it is sad if you lost someone in the Twin Towers, but it is also sad to lose someone period. About 1800 people die from smoking-related illnesses every day. So In two days, more people have died from smoking than 9/11. And this goes on every day. They flew planes into buildings not because their grand plan was to destroy those buildings and kill the occupants. That was just means to an end. The end is to scare you into submission. And it's working. The fact that our government is willing to take away our rights because we might get attacked by terrorists is appalling. "Those who would give up their liberty for a little temporary safety deserve neither and will lose both" - Benjamin Franklin.

        In short, the 'victory' of the terrorists will not be found in explosions and death. Their victory will be wrought by loyal American hands.

         

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 24th, 2014 @ 3:35pm

    Random Selection?

    Bottom of page 27 indicates that the explanation that one received for getting put on the list was misidentification or random selection.

    Random selection is a valid justification for putting someone on a no-fly list?!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 24th, 2014 @ 3:56pm

    Curious why the airline mattered

    I found it interesting that in some of the cases, FBI agents urged their victims to use certain airlines (e.g. DELTA, Kuwaiti, or US-based airlines). I wonder what extra benefits or cooperation the FBI receives from their preferred airlines.

     

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      Special Agent Dickwad (profile), Apr 24th, 2014 @ 4:00pm

      Re: Curious why the airline mattered

      Drink coupons. It was all about the drink coupons.

      We gave 'em all to the Secret Service though...

       

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    identicon
    zip, Apr 24th, 2014 @ 4:32pm

    another victim

    There have been other cases of this, people being threatened with "no fly list" purgatory if they refuse to turn FBI informant. Two years ago Truthout did a story on Kevin Iraniha, a US-born citizen with an Iranian father, who fell into that same trap.

    http://truth-out.org/news/item/9748-placement-on-no-fly-list-as-pressure-to-become-fbi-informan t-the-latest-victim

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 24th, 2014 @ 4:48pm

    So Sad.

    How sad is it that people are starting to think the F.B.I., DHS, and the terrorists are on the same moral level?

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 24th, 2014 @ 10:28pm

      Re: So Sad.

      It's not sad that people are thinking that so much that they are actually operating on the same moral levels.

       

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Apr 25th, 2014 @ 6:00am

      Re: So Sad.

      How about not sad... but About time!

      People need to wake up and realize that a government using terrorism to take your liberty, has become the terrorist!

       

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Apr 30th, 2014 @ 6:32pm

      Re: So Sad.

      Same level?

      Hell, they're probably on the same payroll.

       

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    Just Another Anonymous Troll, Apr 25th, 2014 @ 7:18am

    In a stark contrast to my previous post, I might actually enjoy this. I could have a little fun with Uncle Sam.
    "110% of the Muslims in the community you sent me to spy on are terrorists. The extra 10% are zombies who have risen from the grave to continue blowing things up. All of them have laser vision, including the zombies. Their next target is the little $&@# who keeps putting Muslims on the no fly list at random"

     

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    identicon
    Anon, Apr 25th, 2014 @ 7:39am

    No as bad as...

    Consider the case of Mahrer Arar. He was a Canadian citizen, returning to Canada from th middle east after a vacation (Tunisia?). He was detained at JFK, then "deported" to Syria, where the Syrians (they were our best friends, of course) interrogated him for terrorist connection due to a favour he did for a fellow Syrian immmigrant in Ottawa. (Co-signed a lease or something).

    He was interrogated as only the Syrians can, since it's illegal even in the USA (and Canada). After a year of torture, the Syrians concluded he was not connected to terroism and released him.

    he successfully sues the Canadian government (it was obvious they had provided the questions to the USA, who passed them to the Syrians. The Canadians settled for $10M and an apology.

    The USA of course, continues to insist he's a terrorist, their actions were justified, he can't sue because they can't discuss the case due to national security - and he's still on their no-fly list.

     

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    Matthew Cline (profile), Apr 25th, 2014 @ 11:26am

    The "Secret exception"

    Maybe the "secret exception" is "we want to get leverage on this person".

     

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    GEMont (profile), May 1st, 2014 @ 11:11am

    Like I've been saying for months.
    The Fed is heavily into blackmail.

    Because it works.

    And because the victims seldom report the blackmail demands.

    The only reason we hear about this particular form of extortion by the fed is because its not blackmailing a criminal who wants to keep his crimes secret, or about some rich/VIP dude's unpopular sexual preferences.

    Those types of federal extortion are never reported by the victims.

    Blackmailing Muslims to become unwilling and unpaid federal agents, spying on their own people, is rather stupid, and is almost guaranteed to get reported. Its the sort of stupidity that takes a federal agency to achieve.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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