The US Government Did Not Revoke Khizr Khan’s ‘Travel Privileges’

Here’s the anatomy of a fully made-up “news” story, abetted by a media that could care less to check any fact as long as the story feeds the preconceived notions of its audience.

You remember Khizr Khan (above), the guy who used his soldier son, killed in Iraq, as a prop at the Democratic National Convention to criticize Trump’s immigration policy and help elect Hillary Clinton? Well, like all good Americans, Khan exploited his exploitation into a minor media career. He was booked to talk in Canada by a speaker’s bureau called Ramsey Talks. A decent gig – tickets ran $89 a seat.

Then Trump supposedly struck. Ramsey Talks released a statement on its Facebook page saying:

Late Sunday evening Khizr Khan, an American citizen for over 30 years, was notified that his travel privileges are being reviewed. As a consequence, Mr. Khan will not be traveling to Toronto on March 7th to speak about tolerance, understanding, unity and the rule of law. Very regretfully, Ramsay Talks must cancel its luncheon with Mr. Khan. Guests will be given full refunds.

Mr. Khan offered his sincere apologies to all those who made plans to attend on March 7th. He said: “This turn of events is not just of deep concern to me but to all my fellow Americans who cherish our freedom to travel abroad. I have not been given any reason as to why. I am grateful for your support and look forward to visiting Toronto in the near future.

A major Canadian broadcast outfit (CTV) ran the story based solely, only, 100% on that single unverified and unsubstantiated Facebook posting, saying the Trump administration interfered with Khan’s “travel privileges” to prevent him from speaking, because of some sort of revenge for Khan’s statements this summer.

The Internet then, as expected, lost its shit.

Twitter boomed, and within an hour or two the story appeared in the New York Times, LA Times, Boston Herald, CNN, Maddow, and across the globe. Every one of those stories was based on nothing but that Facebook post. Reuters, the only outfit that apparently bothered to commit a minor act of journalism and reach out to Khan, was told by him no comment. All of the web’s many experts on stuff became experts on passport law, immigration, naturalization, and visa lore. Amazingly creative theories of “denaturalization of Muslims” were concocted out of thin air.

The only problem is that none of this is true. It in fact could not be true.

The U.S. has no law that deals with reviewing or rescinding “travel privileges.” No U.S. government agency calls people at home to tell them their travel privileges are under review. If, in very, very limited specific legal instances a court has ordered someone not to travel, their passport itself can be revoked in response to that court order. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection people, the State Department, and the government of Canada all eventually denied doing anything to Khan in any way or having anything to do with this story, so please stop calling them to ask.

Khan, or Ramsey Talks, seems to have made this all up.

Now, funny thing, this made-up story about Khan being denied travel hit just as Trump’s new Executive Order (“Muslin Ban 2.0”) was announced. Gee willikers Biff, you think this tale of a Muslim patriot denied travel was timed for that news cycle? Maybe so that when Khan’s speech is rescheduled tickets will be more expensive and sell out faster? Maybe so Khan and/or Ramsey Talks could get a zillion dollars of free publicity? Hah hah, coincidence, amiright?

As I write this, not one of the media outlets that ran with the false story has published a correction, update or apology. The Washington Post has semi-backed away, but left itself plenty of wiggle room in not admitting it was wrong.

The problem is if you Google Khan’s name, the story is still flowing around the web, and is now being cited in unrelated stories as “proof” of whatever else the writer believes is fascism and the end of freedom in America.

BONUS: A source inside CBP tells me that what is most likely to have happened is that Khan’s membership in one of the expedited processing programs was set to expire. These are programs run by private companies that gather information and submit members’ names for background checks to allow them to use expedited processing lanes at the airport when re-entering the United States from a foreign country. Khan/Ramsey likely confused, by accident or on purpose, the expiration of that membership with some nefarious U.S. government action, and the media took it from there. Khan’s only privilege under fire was that of standing in a shorter line at the airport.

Peter Van Buren blew the whistle on State Department waste and mismanagement during Iraqi reconstruction in his first book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. His latest book is Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99 Percent. Reprinted from the his blog with permission.

16 thoughts on “The US Government Did Not Revoke Khizr Khan’s ‘Travel Privileges’”

  1. As a Canadian, I can’t add much to this story. I don’t know the reputation of Ramsey Talks. However, that can be pursued on the internet by anyone as well as I can do it.
    On the mention of CTV: They have a reputation of being rightist and prowar, sometimes maddeningly prowar. Moreso than CBC but that’s a small distinction these days. I would be quite interested in hearing how the CBC handles the story because that could be revealing.

    So in order to contribute to this story I’ll just add the following:

    Peter wrote this paragraph: “The U.S. has no law that deals with reviewing,……………………………………. so please stop calling them to ask.”

    Which I won’t challenge because I believe it to be factually true. My challenge to Peter’s story will come from a different perspective, and is as follows:

    On occasion since the Trump presidency began there have been instances of border officials in the US illegally stopping some people from crossing borders. This leaves open the possibility that this could have happened in this instance. That remains speculation on my part, but it’s solidly based speculation at least.

    And besides that, we can only speculate further on the issue of credibility that has arisen since Trump became president. That alone leaves the matter very much up to question!

    To Peter’s credit, which I will mention out of courtesy to him, I would say that he’s right on all his claims of this issue with the Khans becoming a media circus for purposes of the campaign.

  2. Just to add some evidence to back up what I said about border agents taking it upon themselves to illegally stop some people at the border, and specifically Muslims:

    It’s just too bad that Peter didn’t think of these kind of possibilities, but it’s not surprising because Peter seems to get a bone in his teeth sometimes and forgets some of the possibilities.

    Other possibilities that are out now is the story from ‘Hot Air”.

    I’ve posted the link by ‘hot air’ in hopes that Peter will stay with this story and look as some alternative explanations for what happened.

  3. In all prior news commentary that I had read, Mr. Khan was quoted as saying that the govt was “reviewing” his travel status. I never read even once that he said the govt was “revoking” his travel status. But I praise him for using due caution and not leaving the US and thereby giving the govt a chance to harass him (and worse) when coming back home.
    I guess this is an object lesson for any American citizen who speaks out against govt policies.

    1. My guess is that some border agent took the law into his own hands. There’s good reason to believe that because Trump is promoting that kind of practice. If he can’t get what he wants with his Muslim ban then he’s going to demonstrate his power illegally.

      Peter Van Buren should be picking up on that by now but he’s apparently headed for the hills and doesn’t want to stand his ground on his assertions.

      1. The interesting thing to remember is that Mr. Khan has been a citizen for over 30 years. He is also a lawyer, grad of Harvard Law School.

        1. What’s interesting about that? Trump’s willing goons at the border would make no distinctions. He’s a Muslim and now it’s pretty damn likely that he was illegally stopped at the border. As Trump is now fond of doing illegally because he couldn’t do it lawfully.

  4. What’s the purpose of that link? Is it a conspiracy theory or just something about the terrorists time in the US? I’m not very good at figuring out innuendos on conspiracies.

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