Federal Judge Rules No-Fly List Process Is Unconstitutional
Originally published on Tue June 24, 2014 5:21 pm
A federal judge in Oregon says the process surrounding the federal government's "no-fly list" is unconstitutional.
Specifically, U.S. District Judge Anna Brown said the process doesn't give Americans on the list an effective way to challenge their inclusion.
"In a 65-page opinion issued Tuesday ... Brown ordered the government to come up with a new way for the 13 plaintiffs to contest their inclusion on the list that prohibits them from flying in or through U.S. airspace. The government must provide notice to the plaintiffs that they are on the roster and give the reasons for their inclusion, Brown wrote. She also ordered that the government allow the plaintiffs to submit evidence to refute the government's suspicions.
"The decision marks a big win for the plaintiffs, all U.S. citizens or permanent residents, and the American Civil Liberties Union, which argued the case on their behalf. The plaintiffs have all been denied boarding due to their placement on the list, they argue, despite never having been charged with a terrorism-related offense."
In the opinion, Brown writes that being placed on the list has far-reaching implications. Flying internationally, she writes, is not a luxury, but a right. She concludes:
"One need not look beyond the hardships suffered by Plaintiffs to understand the significance of the deprivation of the right to travel internationally. Due to the major burden imposed by inclusion on the No-Fly List, Plaintiffs have suffered significantly including long-term separation from spouses and children; the inability to access desired medical and prenatal care; the inability to pursue an education of their choosing; the inability to participate in important religious rites; loss of employment opportunities; loss of government entitlements; the inability to visit family; and the inability to attend important personal and family events such as graduations, weddings, and funerals. The Court concludes international travel is not a mere convenience or luxury in this modern world. Indeed, for many international travel is a necessary aspect of liberties sacred to members of a free society.
"Accordingly, on this record the Court concludes Plaintiffs' inclusion on the No-Fly List constitutes a significant deprivation of their liberty interests in international travel."
Update at 5:18 p.m. ET. Finally Getting Due Process:
The ACLU's National Security Project Director Hina Shamsi sent out this statement about the case:
"For years, in the name of national security the government has argued for blanket secrecy and judicial deference to its profoundly unfair No Fly List procedures, and those arguments have now been resoundingly rejected by the court. Our clients will finally get the due process to which they are entitled under the Constitution. This excellent decision also benefits other people wrongly stuck on the No Fly List, with the promise of a way out from a Kafkaesque bureaucracy causing them no end of grief and hardships. We hope this serves as a wake-up call for the government to fix its broken watchlist system, which has swept up so many innocent people."