Stranded Californian Joins Hundreds of U.S. Citizens on No-Fly List

Wednesday, July 04, 2012


Add 20-year-old Ali Ahmed of San Diego to the growing list of U.S. citizens from California zapped by the U.S. government’s anti-terrorist no-fly list. Ahmed was traveling to Kenya last week—his first return visit to the country most of his family emigrated from in 1999—to see his father and meet his fiancée for an arranged marriage.

He was denied entry to Kenya and flown to Bahrain. The U.S. embassy there said he could leave Monday but he was blocked at the airport and stranded in the country. Ahmed is on a no-fly list of reportedly 20,000 people, 500 of whom are U.S. citizens, and like them he cannot find out why he is on the list, much less get off it, without going through a long, complicated process.

The no-fly list is a subset of a 500,000-name list of people associated with terrorism around the world.  The FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) maintains the lists, which are based on input from other federal law enforcement agencies.

Three Californians are among a group of 15 plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit in August 2010 alleging that they have been unconstitutionally deprived of the freedom of air travel and been denied their Fifth Amendment due process rights. Although the government has argued that flying is not a constitutional right, the Supreme Court has recognized a constitutional right to travel since at least 1823, in the case of Corfield v. Coryell.

Some of the 15 men are stranded outside the country. Plaintiffs include a U.S. Marine veteran and an imam from an Oregon mosque. The group suffered a setback in May when U.S. District Court Judge Anna Brown ruled that for technical reasons the case must start in appellate court, where facts already in evidence would be reviewed.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which represented the group, wants to start in the lower court, where evidence can be presented and a factual record established for appeal. The ACLU is appealing Brown’s decision.

Last month, a San Diego man who found himself stranded in Costa Rica when he showed up on the no-fly list, managed to make his way to Mexico and then walked across the border into the U.S. Kevin Iraniha, a 27-year-old American-born Muslim and self-described peace activist, had just graduated with a master’s degree in international law at the University for Peace in San Jose, Costa Rica.

Iraniha said he was questioned by the FBI about a trip to Iran, where he has family, and travels in Egypt and India, but not told why he was on the list.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

San Diego Man Stranded after Told on No-Fly List (by Julie Watson, Associated Press)

Many of 500 Americans on No-Fly List Don’t Know Why (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)

San Diego Man on No-Fly List Returns Home (by Ashly McGlone and Susan Shroder, San Diego Union-Tribune)

3 Calif. Residents Battle in Court over No-Fly List (by G.W. Schulz, California Watch)

Federal Judge in Portland Dismisses Lawsuit Challenging No-Fly List (by Helen Jung, The Oregonian)

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