ACLU Files Lawsuit Against The No Fly List After American Citizen Was Barred From Coming Home

With the Biden administration looking to add ‘domestic extremists’ to the No Fly List. Democrats wanted to put Capitol Rioters on the list and President Obama wanted to ban anyone on the list from owning guns.

These efforts have had a lot of support from readers, but anyone who cares about civil liberties should be very, very concerned. And a new lawsuit hopes to expose some of these challenges.

A U.S. citizen on the government’s No Fly List is suing the federal government because he hasn’t been able to get an answer to why he is on the list, or challenge the evidence against him. He is supported in this effort by the ACLU.

There are 1.2 million people in the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Database. This generally flags people for extra screening.

The ‘No Fly List’ is the government’s pre-crime profiling that keeps people off of U.S. airlines and airlines flying to the U.S. without having been convicted or even charged with a crime. Here’s how the No Fly List works. It includes U.S. citizens who want to fly home, which is a protected right. In 2016 there were 81,000 people on this list, including 1000 U.S. citizens and permanent residents.

It’s a secret list that people haven’t been entitled to know how they got on or to confront the evidence relied upon to put them on it. Legally there is very little recourse, and when challenged the government claims ‘state secrets.’

People get on the list by mistake (FBI agent checking the wrong box on the form or having a name similar to someone else) and even maliciously (such as retaliation for refusing to cooperate in an investigation). Denying the freedom of travel, without trial, is precisely the mob rule outside of the rule of law that we’re supposed to be pushing back on after the events of January 6th. Having the government ban travel on all airlines without judicial review is frightening in a democracy.

The ‘War on Terror’ tools that Democrats criticized when they were introduced by President Bush are being deployed on American citizens, which we learned from Edward Snowden (well, I told you about it pre-Snowden). So it’s no surprise that to see a new Democratic administration look at taking this even further, eroding American liberties.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Oh come on Gary! Only evil Republican Presidents, especially Donald Trump, would encourage the FBI to put American citizens on the No Fly List that clearly should not be. My fantastic President is to sharp and quick on his feet to have made the statements you allege. Stop reporting fake news!

  2. My favorite example of people being revealed as not understanding the scope of surveillance was when John Oliver interviewed Snowden and regular folks on the street in NYC about it. The basic interview would generally go like this:

    Oliver: “Do you support surveillance to stop terrorists?”
    Random person: “Yeah, of course! Got to stop them!”
    Oliver: “So you support the government being able to see your dick pics?”
    Random person: “………wait, what? No, of course not!”

    People have opinions on stuff they don’t understand all the time, and they don’t care until it smacks them in the face. We’d all be better off if we were even a bit more humble about it.

  3. It appears from other postings that there is no “list” but several produced by different agencies and apparently not all coordinated. Given the usual inefficiencies of governments working with huge amounts of data the possibility of error is tremendous. And when everything is secret “for the good of the state” then no one is accountable. Terrifying and typical of vast bureaucracies, no matter their justifications. (Incidentally the list also implies that the government doesn’t trust its own airport security to be adequate. If they did, it wouldn’t matter who flew.)

  4. Wheres the ACLU’s outrage over Americans being stuck overseas under the current mandatory covid test requirements to return home even for those that are vaccinated

  5. I spent a brief period in the late 00’s on the ‘Selected’ category (you can fly, you just need to jump through extra hoops at the airport and can’t check-in online) for nothing at all that I can figure out (I’m not politically active, don’t go to rallies, have an ordinary job). Eventually, after filing an appeal it stopped and I received a letter from the TSA denying I was on the list in the first place. They couldn’t deny the big SSSS printed on my boarding pass, however. Took months and still no idea what triggered it. It may have been because I had to make an emergency flight home from Denver to Detroit interrupting a conference because of a family emergency. That’s the only triggering event I could imagine.

  6. @jamesb2147 is correct. People want their cake and want to eat it too. Mainly out of ignorance. Government surveillance is government surveillance. What that typically means is that the government listens to all communications. Not everything is relevant but everything is heard.

  7. @jamesb2147 is correct. People want their cake and want to eat it too. Mainly out of ignorance. Government surveillance is government surveillance. What that typically means is that the government listens to all communications. Not everything is relevant but everything is heard.

  8. You’re right Gary about the no fly list being completely abusive and unconstitutional. Anyone can get put on it on a whim and without charge. That’s the problem with red flag gun laws too. A person can have committed no crime and be put on the list because a cop/judge/prosecutor/agent doesn’t like how you looked at him. Free speech is guaranteed and a sacred principle. So is the right to assemble (Jan 6). It seems people who support the no fly list want to add people just for their speech or assembly alone. That’s how the American Revolution started.

    You should change the last paragraph. Capitol protestors sought a redress of a fraudulent election. Their actions were extremely mild. We must remember that George Washington used violence to fight for free speech/gun rights/economic freedom/religious freedom. That’s what this country was founded on. I wish Republican politicians actually represented conservatives and forcefully advocated for our people. Unfortunately, Trump is too cognitively impaired/cowardly to form a new party that actually represents its constituents and mobilizes 80% of the counties in the country with conservative majorities. Too many Republican politicians don’t realize the illogicality of many of their positions. They claim to not trust the government and want to get government out of our lives but they don’t realize this applies to government and our bodies (drug laws/abortion/seat belt laws).

  9. This is another instance of the secret courts and unaccountable minions of the President, giving lie to the claim that the USA is an open and free democracy. Americans love to say that their government was formed by the rejection of an English monarch, but no king today or in history wields the power of the President of the United States. (“Hail to the Chief”)

    As the saying goes: “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Republican or Democrat, the machinery of government moves inexorably in the same direction to oppress dissent and exert ever more control. Figures like Trump and Biden come and go but the system endures.

  10. For US citizens hit by no fly listing when abroad, the USG can grant one-time waivers for them to fly back to the US. But often, sort of like the Saudis, they really want a pretext to get the person into the embassy for questioning or to try to use the person as a witting or unwitting asset.of the government.

    In other words, it’s not just about keeping people from flying or flying back to the US. It’s also about coercing Americans to become assets for exploitation.

  11. @Sxc7885 No one is stuck overseas because of COVID test requirements. Every country has COVID testing.

  12. @Allison

    If they test positive, they won’t be able to board the flight, though? So they become stuck overseas.

  13. “Their actions were extremely mild.”

    @Jackson Waterson, I’ll make sure to tie your hands together with huge zip ties I “find,” spray you in the face with bear spray, crush you between 2 doors, hang you from a branch with a noose, and club you over the head until you die from a heart attack or internal bleeding — then call it “extremely mild. “

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