In First, Government Officially Tells ACLU Clients Their No Fly List Status
Seven Plaintiffs in ACLU Lawsuit Told That They Can Board Flights, Others Will Be Able to Challenge Inclusion on No Fly List
The six men and one woman are part of an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit filed in 2010 on behalf of 13 Americans challenging their inclusion on the No Fly List.
A federal judge recently set deadlines ordering the government to notify all of the plaintiffs of their No Fly List status, give reasons to those still on the list, and provide an opportunity for them to challenge those reasons. The first of those deadlines is today, and the government must complete all of the notifications by January 16.
The government has long maintained that it could not tell anyone whether or not they were on the No Fly List or provide reasons for inclusion, claiming that doing so would expose national security secrets, but the court rejected that argument.
“This is a victory for transparency and fairness over untenable government secrecy and stonewalling,” said Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union National Security Project. “After years of being blacklisted and denied due process, seven of our clients know they can fly again, and the rest will soon be able to fight back against their unjust flying ban.”
Today’s letter from the government informed the seven plaintiffs that they “are not currently on the No Fly List.” One of the plaintiffs notified was Abe Mashal, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and dog trainer who suffered professionally and personally when he could not travel far from his home in Illinois.
“More than four years ago, I was denied boarding at an airport, surrounded by TSA agents, and questioned by the FBI,” said Mashal. “That day, many freedoms that I took for granted were robbed from me. I was never told why this happened, whether I was officially on the list, or what I could do to get my freedoms back. Now, I can resume working for clients who are beyond driving distance. I can attend weddings, graduations, and funerals that were too far away to reach by car or train. I can travel with my family to Hawaii, Jamaica, or anywhere else on vacation. Today, I learned I have my freedoms back."
In June, U.S. District Court Judge Anna Brown struck down as unconstitutional the government’s system for people to challenge their inclusion on the No Fly List, calling the procedures “wholly ineffective” and a violation of the Fifth Amendment's guarantee of due process. The judge ordered the government to provide meaningful redress, and in August the government publicly committed to reforming the entire redress system.
“The opportunity that the plaintiffs in our case are finally getting to clear their names should be available to everyone on the No Fly List as soon as possible,” said Shamsi.
According to leaked documents published by The Intercept, there were more than 47,000 people on the No Fly List as of August 2013, including 800 Americans. Their only recourse is to file a request with the Department of Homeland Security's Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP). However, DHS only responds with a letter that merely confirms the request was received and reviewed. The letter does not confirm or deny whether their names are on the No Fly List, explain why they were denied boarding, or indicate whether they can fly.
The documents also showed that in August 2013, there were 680,000 people on the government’s master terrorism watch list; even according to the government’s own records, 280,000 of them have no affiliation with a recognized terrorist group.
The ACLU has criticized the government’s broader terrorism watchlisting system, which includes the No Fly List, as overbroad and an ineffective waste of resources that uses racial and religious profiling instead of hard evidence of actual wrongdoing.
Today’s government filing is at:
More information on the case is at:
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.