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Khorrami v. Rolince

August 27, 2008


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 03 C 6579-James B. Zagel, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wood, Circuit Judge

ARGUED MAY 6, 2008

Before EASTERBROOK, Chief Judge, and WOOD and TINDER, Circuit Judges.

The underlying allegations in this appeal paint a sorry picture of false accusations, roughshod law enforcement tactics, and prejudice. Yet at the same time, they remind us of how difficult it has been for law enforcement authorities to learn how to carry out their counterterrorism responsibilities in the post-9/11 world. We conclude, however, that this appeal from the district court's order denying qualified immunity to certain officials and refusing to dismiss the case is not properly before us. We therefore dismiss the appeal for want of appellate jurisdiction.


Ahmed Khorrami was born in Iran and moved to the United States in 1973 for an education at Purdue University. He went on to receive advanced degrees in aeronautics from the California Institute of Technology, Berkeley, and Oxford. He returned to the United States in 1997 with joint Iranian-British citizenship in order to become a pilot. He completed his training in 2000, and in August of that year he applied for an adjustment of his immigration status based on his marriage to a U.S. citizen. In February 2001, the INS issued Khorrami advance parole authorization, and he began working for Skyway Airlines in Milwaukee in July.

Dr. Khorrami's story is not terribly unusual up to this point, but it changed dramatically after September 11, 2001. (Our account of the facts is based on Khorrami's complaint, which must be taken as true at this stage of the litigation. Erickson v. Pardus, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007).)

Within days after the attacks, Khorrami's friends told him that they had been contacted by the FBI. His wife-who had been part of a relief team comforting grieving families at Newark Airport-flew back to Chicago on September 16 because she was worried about him. On September 17, Khorrami agreed to be questioned in his home by two FBI agents. He told the agents that he would speak to his employer later that day.

Khorrami and his wife visited Skyway Airline's offices and met Khorrami's supervisor, Captain George Velguth, as well as another FBI agent. Khorrami informed this agent of the morning's interview and provided contact information for the FBI to use. The agent then informed Velguth that Khorrami had been cleared by the Chicago FBI and was free to leave.

Suddenly, the situation deteriorated. An FAA security agent burst into the office and ripped Khorrami's airport security I.D. from around his neck. Other government agents appeared, now from the INS as well as the FBI.

This time, Khorrami was interrogated for twelve hours, and the proceedings were not polite. An INS agent directly accused Khorrami of taking part in the terrorist attacks, saying "I know you're one of them." The INS agent also accused him of entering into a phony marriage and threatened to cancel his visa. When Khorrami asked why, the agent's reply was "Because I feel like it, I can and will do it," then added "You're a Muslim and you're fair game." When reminded that the President himself had told Americans not to jump to conclusions and discriminate against Muslims, the agent replied "Didn't you see him wink when he said that?"

After midnight (by this time September 18), Khorrami was taken to Milwaukee FBI headquarters for further questioning. Khorrami's advance parole was canceled and he was given a Notice to Appear. He was then hauled off to the Waukesha County Jail around four or five o'clock in the morning.

Mrs. Khorrami stayed in contact with FBI and INS agents throughout her husband's detention. On the night of September 18, she was told that the Chicago FBI had asked that Dr. Khorrami be removed from the suspect list. She also received a call from the FBI in Washington confirming that his name would be removed from that list and assuring her that the FBI would rescind the letter canceling Dr. Khorrami's advance parole.

The very next day, the INS agent who had canceled Dr. Khorrami's advance parole returned to interrogate him some more. He admitted that he had canceled the parole in order to assist the FBI, which wanted to detain Khorrami ...

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