A federal judge told Justice Department attorneys that they are abusing the secrecy privilege by uniformly withholding information on why individuals are placed on no-fly lists as suspected terrorists, The New York Times reported.
The comment was made during a December hearing in the case of Stanford University professor and Malaysia native Rahinah Ibrahim, who sued the government after she endured an airport search and had her visa revoked. The FBI and Department of Homeland Security have refused to allow the release of information as to why.
Though many similar lawsuits have been dismissed, a divided panel of the U.S. Appeals Court in California (9th Cir.) allowed Ibrahim’s wrongful arrest suit to continue. At the December hearing, the San Francisco federal judge presiding over Ibrahim’s case, William Alsup, called the government’s identification of Ibrahim as a terrorist a "monumental mistake" and told Justice Department lawyers and that their reasons for withholding the five-year-old information were "baloney."
Ibrahim’s case could shed light on the the government’s process for placing an individual on a terrorist watch list, which has traditionally been so secretive that an individual cannot be told whether they are on a list, why they are on it, or whether they have been removed. Government officials allege that it helps prevent terrorism, but advocates for civil liberties counter that it allows the government to hide mistakes and prevents people from seeking redress.