Thursday, September 05, 2013

124.3 - Good News #3: Federal court recognizes "Do Not Fly" list raises Constitutional questions

Good News #3: Federal court recognizes "Do Not Fly" list raises Constitutional questions

One other bit of good news, a bit subtle this one, but still important. Remember the No-fly list? That secret list of suspected terrorists that would get you banned from getting on an airplane anywhere in the US, a secret list with no way to know if you were on it until you were barred from a plane, no way to know how you got on it, no way to know why you were on it, and essentially no way to ever get off it or even respond to the claims about you - which, again, were secret?

We've largely forgotten about it, other issues have taken up our attention, but the list still exists and there are still people, an estimated 20,000 people, who can't fly anywhere and have no idea why.

The American Civil Liberties Union has been fighting in court for over three years about this. It's representing 13 US citizens who are on the No Fly List with know way to know why or how to get off. A District Court had dismissed the case on jurisdictional grounds, but in July 2012, the 9th Circuit Appeals Court reversed and now the district court is considering the case on its merits.

The good news here is that last Wednesday, August 28, US District Judge Anna Brown dismissed the government's argument that air travel is "a mere convenience" and ruled that constitutional rights to due process are at stake when the government places Americans on the No Fly List. That doesn't sound like much, maybe, but in the words of ACLU Staff Attorney Nusrat Choudhury, "For the first time, a federal court has recognized that when the government bans Americans from flying and smears them as suspected terrorists, it deprives them of constitutionally protected liberties, and they must have a fair process to clear their names."

This is not a final win, the case isn't over, but it does mean the government now is in the position of having to be able to prove either that it has offered due process - which rationally, it can't - or that it has some new way to guarantee it.

And so another part of our paranoid, unconstitutional, freedom-hating War on Terror is showing the strain. Good news indeed.


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