CAIR Challenges Feds' Use of 'State Secrets' in Va. No-Fly List Case

Gulet(WASHINGTON, D.C., 7/8/14) –- The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, announced today that it has filed a motion in opposition to an affidavit submitted by Attorney General Eric Holder invoking the "state secrets privilege" in Virginia Muslim Gulet Mohamed's no-fly case.

Invoking the state secrets privilege allows the government to refuse to produce evidence in court that would reveal secret information that, if disclosed, might harm national security interests or relations with foreign countries. That privilege has been utilized increasingly by the government as a way to kick cases out of court and, in this case, to avoid a ruling on the constitutionality of the government's actions.

SEE: CCR Fact Sheet on State Secrets

"The government's resort to the state secrets privilege is a desperate attempt to avoid the increasing number of decisions that have found constitutional problems with the no-fly list," said CAIR Staff Attorney Gadeir Abbas, who is representing Mohamed. "This attempt to dismiss Gulet's no-fly list challenge is the most abusive use of the state secrets privilege in years." 

Abbas added: "Other courts have been able to determine that the no-fly list is unconstitutional without disclosing state secrets.  We are confident that this Court will see the Obama Administration's use of the state secrets privilege in this case for what it is: an abusive litigation tactic."

He noted that, in 2009, Holder issued guidance on the state secrets privilege that directed the Department of Justice to seek dismissal only when "necessary to protect against the risk of significant harm to national security." 

CAIR's motion, filed yesterday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia - Alexandria Division, states: "Having failed in other cases to defend its extra-judicial use of the No Fly List, the government has availed itself of the litigation equivalent of the nuclear option: the government wants to kick 21-year-old Gulet Mohamed completely out of court because Attorney General Holder submitted an affidavit invoking the state secrets privilege."

In its motion to the court, CAIR argued that publicly-available facts and those obtainable from sources other than the government, not state secrets, are at the heart of Mohamed's claims. CAIR's filing also argued  that the "fleetingly small risk" of state secret disclosure does not justify the dismissal of Mohamed's claims.

Mohamed was prevented from boarding a flight to the United States in 2011 and has alleged that he was tortured while in detention in Kuwait and faced unconstitutional coercion to answer questions by FBI agents who ignored his repeated requests for legal representation.

CAIR filed a lawsuit against the government alleging violation of Mohamed's right to return to the United States and his right to challenge his placement on the no-fly list.

In January, a federal judge in Virginia ruled that placement on the government's no-fly list "transforms a person into a second class citizen, or worse." That 32-page opinion allowed CAIR's lawsuit against the government on behalf of Mohamed to go forward.

CAIR recently welcomed a ruling by a federal judge in Oregon that those placed on the government's so-called "no-fly list" are being denied their constitutional right to due process. In a 65-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Anna Brown said government procedures to challenge inclusion on the list are "wholly ineffective."

CAIR has assisted a number of other American Muslim citizens who have been stranded overseas by government actions and says travel bans are often used by law enforcement agencies for the forced recruitment of informants.

Video: CAIR Rep Says FBI Uses No-Fly List for Forced Recruitment of Muslim Informants
Video: CAIR Lawsuit Challenges Government's 'No-Fly' List (Video)
Video: CAIR-LA Holds News Conference with Med Student on No-Fly List Detained in Bangkok

CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

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CONTACT: CAIR Staff Attorney Gadeir Abbas, 202-742-6410, 720-251-0425, [email protected]; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726, [email protected]; CAIR Communications Manager Amina Rubin, 202-341-4171, [email protected]