The emperor doesn’t care that he has no clothes

A Malaysian scholar, Rahinal Ibrahim, is suing the U.S. government to be removed from a no-fly list and to be told why she was put on the list to begin with.  But the government refuses to tell her whether she is on such a list.  The judge and her lawyer, who was given a special security clearance, have been told, but they are forbidden to pass the information on.  Even the verdict may be kept secret from her.

And a key witness, an American citizen, who happened to be out of the country, was denied permission to fly back to the United States to testify.

Are officials of the Department of Homeland Security are so insulated from public opinion and common sense that they do not realize how ridiculous this is?  Or do they have such a sense of power that they don’t care whether what they do makes sense or not?  If you are forbidden to fly, you know that you are on a no-fly list, so why pretend that it is a secret?

It is not just that the emperor has no clothes.  The emperor doesn’t care whether people notice he has no clothes or not.

Rahinal Ibrahim

Rahinal Ibrahim

One of the key concepts of a free government—more fundamental that democracy or the Bill of Rights—is the idea of the rule of law.  Life can be tolerable even under a dictator or king if you can be safe so long as you obey the law.

What makes a totalitarian government different from an authoritarian government is that under the rule of a Stalin or a Hitler, it is impossible to obey the law—because you can’t survive without breaking the law, or because the laws are contradictory, or because the laws are secret, or because people in authority can exercise power regardless of law.   Under totalitarian rule, everybody is guilty or potentially guilty, and only escape punishment because of the indulgence of the government.

The USA operates under the rule of law for most people most of the time.  But, as this incident shows, the rule of law does not operate for all people all the time.  What can be done to someone of Muslim heritage with a dark skin can be done to those of us of Christian heritage with white skins, and there are worse things that can happen than being on no-fly lists.

Click on In Bizarre No-Fly List Trial, Even the Verdict Might Be Secret for details by David Kravetz for Wired.  Hat tip to Jack Clontz.

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One Response to “The emperor doesn’t care that he has no clothes”

  1. EthnicKonflict Says:

    How did she end up on the list to begin with? That, too, must be a secret.


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