Did you hear the one about the woman who couldn’t fly to testify at a trial about the government’s “no-fly list” because the government put her on a “no-fly list”?
No? It happened this past weekend, when Raihan Mustafa Kamal, the daughter of the woman suing the Department of Homeland Security – and incidentally a U.S. citizen – tried to board a plane to San Francisco in Kuala Lumpur and was told by Malaysian Airways that the Department of Homeland Security had put her on a no-fly list.
Not an Onion article. I swear.
The Identity Project blog is covering the trial, which kicked off earlier this week with a ridiculous situation, highlighted by BoingBoing. Apparently, one of the people set to testify in the case, Ibrahim’s oldest daughter, Raihan Mustafa Kamal (an American citizen, born in the US), was blocked from boarding her flight to the US to appear at the trial, and told that she was on the no fly list as well. Kamal, a lawyer, was an eye witness to her mother being blocked from boarding her flight. The US knew that Kamal was set to testify and from all indications, in a move that appears extremely petty, appears to have purposely blocked her from flying to the US. Kamal was directly told by the airline that DHS had ordered them not to let Kamal to board. The airline even gave her a phone number for a Customs and Border Patrol office in Miami, telling her to call that concerning her not being able to board.
Just so you understand what’s happening: the Federal government is being sued. The Federal government, in defending that lawsuit, has apparently just blocked the opposite party from providing a witness. It’s as if the state charged you with murder, but you have a rock solid alibi of your family, so on the day your family was going to testify, they took your family and moved them to Guantanamo and then pretended like nothing happened and they didn’t know anything.
Judge Alsup ordered the government defendants’ lawyers to investigate and report back. “You’ve got ten lawyers over there on your side of the courtroom. You can send one of them out in the hall to make a phone call and find out what’s going on.”
At the end of the first day’s session of the trial (more on that below), the governments’ lawyers told Judge Alsup that they had made inquiries and had been told that “the plaintiff’s daughter just missed her flight” and was rebooked on a flight tomorrow (Tuesday) afternoon.
Which was a total lie. Judge Alsup was given a copy of the “no-board” order from the DHS but he wants to wait for the witness to testify in person before taking action against the Government. Which is fine1. It’s not like they’re going anywhere.2
But that’s not all. You know what the trial is about? It’s about just what the hell are those ‘no-fly lists’ anyway?
It’s a trial about a woman who got put on a no-fly list for no reason and she can’t find out why and can’t get back in the country. She couldn’t even come to the US to testify and had to do so via video from London.
There are so many levels of meta-subversiveness that it would make a hipster’s head spin.
On top of that, just because they didn’t feel like they’d gotten in a full day’s of shitting on the Constitution, the government argued that publicly available information was classified and thus should not be considered. We’ve already read once today about how that’s just an awful tact to take.
This year will go down in history, I think, as the year that we started to finally pay attention to the power and mission creep of our government. The extensive surveillance, the pursuit of whistleblowers and now this, this most outrageous of all.
This is what happens when the Government plays unfair. When it’s gotten too big for its own head and its ego is bigger than the national mall. This is what happens when it flexes its muscle: it deprives a United States Citizen of the most basic and fundamental of rights: to enter her own country. Why? Because it wants to keep its dark secret dealings dark and secret.
A government that is willing to do this is no longer, as Lincoln put it, a government “of the people, by the people and for the people”. Rather, it’s a government that is in spite of the people.
It would be almost comical if it weren’t so damn tragic. It’s the sort of government you hear about in Africa or Latin America. Heck, it’s something you might see in a video game or a movie. It’s almost as if the bureaucracy has achieved sentience and is now an independently thinking entity by itself, protecting itself. It’s the Red Queen. It’s V.I.K.I. It’s HAL. Spynet has become self-aware and it doesn’t care who you are.
Image via the most awesome SMBC.