Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

For Immediate Release


Abdullah Hasan,

Press Release

ACLU Comment on Appeals Court Ruling in No Fly List Challenge

PORTLAND, Oregon -

A federal appeals court today rejected four U.S. citizens’ requests for a fair process to clear their names from the government’s No Fly List. The four men have never been charged with a crime. Each has been barred from flying for more than nine years. The decision came in an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit, Kashem v. Barr, on behalf of clients who challenged both the government’s criteria for placing people on the No Fly List and its revised procedures for people seeking removal from it.

“This decision lets the government hide behind overblown secrecy claims to deny our clients’ constitutional right to due process,” said Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project. “Our clients have been unable to fly to visit family, pursue job opportunities, or fulfill religious obligations for over nine years based on vague criteria, secret evidence, and unreliable government predictions. These citizens have never been charged with a crime and asked for fair notice and a fair process to clear their names and regain rights most Americans take for granted. Instead, the court has left them trapped in an indefinite Kafkaesque nightmare.”

The government was previously forced to revise its procedures for people to challenge their placement on the No Fly List as a result of an earlier ruling in this case. In 2014, the district court ruled that the government’s original procedures were “wholly ineffective” and violated the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of due process. The court required the government to revise its procedures to confirm whether people were placed on the No Fly List, give reasons for their placement, and provide a meaningful opportunity to challenge the reasons. The government then notified seven of the ACLU’s original clients that they were cleared to fly.

The remaining ACLU plaintiffs challenged the revised procedures in 2015, arguing that the government again failed to remedy constitutional defects. They explained that the government’s stigmatizing allegations were based on secret reasons, unreliable second-hand assertions, and secret evidence they could not meaningfully contest. The plaintiffs sought all the reasons for their placement on the No Fly List, the basis for any reasons, and a meaningful opportunity to dispute the placement before a neutral decision-maker.  They also challenged the government’s criteria for placing people on the List as unconstitutionally vague. One of the plaintiffs is now represented by separate lawyers.

The No Fly List is a secret government database of people—many of whom have not been charged with a crime—that the government has barred from flying in or over U.S. airspace. The government has said that as of June 2016, there were approximately 81,000 people on the No Fly List, of whom approximately 1,000 were American citizens or legal residents. The No Fly List is a subset of a larger terrorism watchlist, which as of 2017 had ballooned to approximately 1.2 million people, of whom about 5,000 are American citizens or legal residents.

The ACLU has criticized the government’s entire terrorism watchlisting system, which includes the No Fly List, as discriminatory and an overbroad and an ineffective waste of resources. The system is not predicated on actual criminal wrongdoing but instead relies heavily on vague and overbroad criteria and racial and religious profiling.

The ruling is here:


The American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920 and is our nation's guardian of liberty. The ACLU works in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

Fears of Hate-Inspired Serial Killer Grow as 4th Muslim Man Murdered in Albuquerque

"We're scared for our families, we're scared for our children," said one local Muslim leader. "And we are incredibly confused about why this is happening."

Jake Johnson ·

UN Chief Denounces Shelling of Ukraine Nuclear Plant as 'Suicidal'

To avert a public health calamity, Ukrainian officials are calling for the Zaporizhzhia site to be demilitarized and run by a team of peacekeepers.

Kenny Stancil ·

Big Pharma Bemoans 'Tragic Loss' as Democrats Take Modest Action to Curb Drug Prices

Patient advocates, meanwhile, applauded passage of the Inflation Reduction Act as a "historic victory for consumers and a historic defeat for Big Pharma's monopoly control."

Jake Johnson ·

Sanders Says Senate Bill 'Nowhere Near' Enough as Dems, GOP Tank His Amendments

The Vermont senator nevertheless supported final passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, calling it "a step forward" on climate and drug prices.

Jake Johnson ·

Senate Barely Approves Scaled Back Legislation on Climate, Taxes, Healthcare

But thanks to Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), there was a huge, last-minute win for the private equity and hedge fund industries

Common Dreams staff ·

Common Dreams Logo