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Farag v. United States

United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York
587 F. Supp. 2d 436 (E.D.N.Y. 2008)


On August 22, 2004, Tarik Farag and Amro Elmasry (plaintiffs), both Arabs, flew from San Diego to New York. Both men were born in Egypt, but Farag had lived in the United States since 1971 and was an American citizen, and Elmasry had a valid U.S. visa. When Farag and Elmasry got off the plane in New York, at least 10 armed officers with police dogs frisked, handcuffed, and arrested them. Farag and Elmasry were taken to a police station and jailed for four hours, during which time they were interrogated about suspected terrorist-surveillance activity aboard the plane. The agents found no evidence of criminal activity. Farag and Elmasry brought suit, based on Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), against Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent William Ryan Plunkett and Detective Thomas Smith (defendants), two counterterrorism agents involved in the plaintiffs’ seizures and detentions, alleging that the seizure and subsequent imprisonment were unlawful. Plunkett and Smith moved for summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity and also submitted a lengthy list of activities undertaken by Farag and Elmasry that the government argued supported a probable-cause determination, including the men’s seat changing, constant watch-checking, and speaking loudly in Arabic aboard the plane.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Block, J.)

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