The federal government requires mask-wearing on planes, not because planes are the place where Covid-19 is most likely to spread, but because it’s where they have the strongest claim to a legal basis along with other interstate transportation.
But the federal mask mandate is legally questionable. It relies on a similar stretch of CDC statutory authority as the federal eviction moratorium which the Supreme Court struck down. However if the mask mandate isn’t extended past January 18, 2022 I’ve expected that the rule will simply lapse before it’s finally adjudicated in the challenges currently facing it (which are, as far as I’m aware, proceeding pro se).
And my bet has been that as low as we’re not seeing a major spike in Covid-19 cases before the Christmas holidays, that the rule will be allowed to sunset. If it’s extended, it might be for another six months. The Biden administration, though, will want to ‘declare victory’ on the virus before midterm elections one year from now.
One of the people challenging the legality of the federal mask mandate is Michael Faris, and he’s filed a motion with the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals seeking to be removed from a government terrorism watchlist he was placed on after seeking to litigate the mask requirement.
- He filed his suite against the mask rule on October 19. He claims that he should be considered medically exempt from the mask requirement, which the federal regulation allows for, but that he hasn’t been able to obtain such an exemption from any airline.
- On October 21 he couldn’t check in for his flight home from Southern California to Kentucky on United Airlines. He was eventually issued an ‘SSSS’ boarding pass. “Agents told Faris this meant he had likely be placed on a terrorist watchlist.”
“TSA’s action placing Mr. Faris … on its terrorist watchlist for filing this lawsuit challenging the FTMM represents the absolute worst form of vengeance against citizens exercising our First Amendment right to petition the government for a redress of grievances,” according to the court filing. “Suing TSA does not constitute a threat of terrorism nor any other risk to transportation security that warrants placement on the watchlist.”
Another passenger who filed suit against the mask mandate claims to have been placed on a watchlist as well, which they discovered after trying to check in for a Delta flight on October 26.