House Democrats Seek To Put DC Electoral Vote Protestors On No Fly List

Flight attendants union head Sara Nelson called for DC protestors to be banned from flying and now the House Homeland Security Committee, under Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) is calling on the TSA and FBI to add protestors to the No Fly List.

I believe the actions of protestors that turned violent and stormed the Capitol were abhorrent. However placing people who were there, or even who entered the Capitol, on the No Fly List is an affront to civil liberties and democracy.

The No Fly List Is A Civil Liberties Nightmare

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. It’s a secret list that people haven’t been entitled to know they are on (until 2015), 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.’

Formal responsibility for the list rests with the TSA and under 49 U.S.C. § 46110 inclusion is only reviewable by circuit courts in which judges are required to defer to the TSA’s judgment about all alleged facts and are permitted only to review the administrative record created by and provided to them by the TSA itself.

That’s how people get on the list by mistake (FBI agent checking the wrong box on the form) and even maliciously (such as retaliation for refusing to cooperate in an investigation). People have gotten on by mistake (having a name similar to someone else).

We Should Follow Due Process Of Law

There were substantial arrests made after Wednesday’s events. This will follow due process of law – which is precisely the principle that is important to defend here, which some of the protestors were subverting when they moved from exercising freedom of speech to physical assault in an attempt to stop the counting of electoral ballots.

Capriciously 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.

The last thing we need is an open-ended response, like a new Patriot Act or limits on freedom of speech, that puts people on the No Fly List for conduct (even criminal conduct) in advance of trial, and when losing the ability to fly on commercial airliners in not proscribed punishment in law.

Expanding The No Fly List Will Be Used In Dangerous Ways

Individual airlines are free to choose to ban passengers. Having the government ban travel on all airlines without judicial review is frightening in a democracy.

And if it’s justified now in being used against unpopular people (in many cases criminals) then it will be used against unpopular people later the way that sedition laws were used against Eugene Debs, sending him to prison for an inflammatory speech in wartime that didn’t directly encourage violence, or the way the government cracked down on the Socialist Workers Party for antiwar rhetoric in World War II. Remember that expansions of power will be used later by the people you hate. Any new power should be one you’re comfortable with the next President Trump having and using.

Taking away the freedom to travel from people whose speech you dislike is a dangerous precedent. Those who have committed crimes should be charged, tried, and punished under existing law. Americans shouldn’t have freedoms taken from them when they haven’t even been charged with a crime.

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. I find it interesting that they didn’t propose this during the summer when all of the rioting, looting, and arson that was taking place all over the country last summer. I would have no problem with banning those that entered the Capitol but those that simply went to the rally and marched down the street? That becomes a slippery slope in my opinion. Would certainly weaken the first amendment. I want to see those that entered the capitol prosecuted and it will be interesting to see how many of them are members of Antifa and BLM. When the flight attendants of the world start making national policy what’s next?

  2. I agree with your take on the civil rights issue of the no-fly list, but I hope you’d reconsider your characterization of “substantial arrests”. There were 289 arrests of BLM protesters on June 1st this year in DC and yet 55 arrests Wednesday when thousands broke into the Capitol resulting in 5 deaths including a Capitol Police officer. More arrests were made of protesters in wheel chairs blocking a Capitol hallway last year than were made Wednesday. But, to your point, none of those other arrests resulted in a mass no-fly list penalty.

  3. Tons of Muslims got put on the no fly lists for no reason and without their knowledge. Interesting how civil liberties and 1st amendment issues are cropping up as a few white people get added

    Don’t agree with Gary on most things but will say he has spoken about this issue even post 9/11 and took a hard stance on it

  4. How many is tons? I think that is what Gary is trying to say as am I. Unless someone is a threat to travel safety they shouldn’t be banned.

  5. @Gary, please don’t use “protestors” as a catch-all that includes the violent mob. There are a subset of people who ATTENDED who may be worthy of that title, but the folks in question who entered and captured the capitol are insurrectionists and the two should not be confused. I agree that there should be due process before anyone goes on the list, but a lot of these people deserve to be convicted and then placed on the list. I think we’re basically in agreement here, but please do not use the term protestor as an umbrella term to cover both the violent insurrectionists and peaceful protestors. I strongly oppose what everyone there was protesting, but I will support everyone’s right to protest. Anyone who crossed that line is not worthy of that title – please don’t confuse the two. News organizations are being very careful to not confuse the two, please take care as well.

  6. Slippery slope. How about all those rioters over the summer? Maybe we should add pedophiles to the list? Who’d argue with that? Rapists too? Isn’t that a good idea? Hell, while we’re at it let’s just add ALL felons, right?

  7. @Darin – excellent point. These were no “protesters” – these were insurrectionists violently attempting a coup.

    Give them their day in court – but if(hopefully when) convicted, I’d fully be in anyone who was inside the Capitol on Wed being on the no-fly list. They are domestic terrorists, full stop.

    (Oh, and while the Trump administration was focusing on keeping out Muslims and generally not allowing any brown skin immigration, DHS had been calling out for years the main danger of white nationalist terrorism yet doing nothing about it…so Jan 6 should not have been a surprise).

  8. @UA-NYC

    Someone’s going to have to tell me when the definition of “insurrectionist” and “coup” changed.

    The Capitol is the people’s house. I hope no one ever puts you on a list for entering your own home.

  9. What if these insurrectionists had been Muslim? How might the reactions be different? How would this column be different?

  10. It’s not their speech that is the issue Gary, it is their action of taking the Capitol by force and using facist means, i.e. force, to thwart our democratic electoral process. There is still a debate, but it is incorrect to call the event of January 6 an issue of speech. You would not make that mistake if these people were Muslim.

  11. We are talking about members of organizations and forums that planned for months to take the Capitol by force. We should change the way we talk about them because they are white. This discussion would be so different if they were Muslim.

  12. Give some folks just the whiff of increased power, and they go full totalitarian on you. It’s not surprising that the cadres flourished during the Chicom Cultural Revolution. Even the Founders were aware of this herd..

  13. @Kingmaker – been spending a lot of time on the Q Anon message boards lately?

    Might want to look up the definition of “figuratively” vs. “literally” too.

  14. I’m guessing people using the words insurrection and coup were probably also very terrified by the bomb cyclones and murder hornets. These were doofuses who wanted to break something because the brand of television they watch told them to be terrified of election fraud. Your side has them too because their brand of television told them cops were hunting them. So let’s just all calm down and turn off the televisions for a bit.

  15. Do not call these people “protesters.” They came to usurp the democratic process, not to protest. You would not call this a “protest” if the people had been Muslim. Infuriating to read this.

  16. @OneX Marine, do you still think the country needs more politicians like Trump?
    @Kingmaker, The Capitol is the people’s house. That in no way means anyone is authorized to ignore police instructions and break in. Those who did are terrorists. The police officer who was injured died this morning. Some of them are murderers. Under felony murder, those not directly involved with his death might also be guilty of murder.

  17. The no-fly list shouldn’t even exist as currently structured, and it most certainly shouldn’t be used as an extra-judicial means of punishment. Those who stormed the Capitol should be procecuted for the laws that they broke, and punished according to statute. Neither the crime nor the punishment in any way relate to aviation, and calls to use the no-fly list here are political and dangerous.

  18. Never let a good crisis go to waste. One thing is for sure: demagogues will milk this for all its worth to tighten the screws on the opposition and eliminate dissent.

  19. @UA-NYC
    > been spending a lot of time on the Q Anon message boards lately?

    Wouldn’t know where to find them. But I do know they must be onto something, given the fear in the voices of political élites and major media talk about them.

  20. Only if they put all Anitfa and BLM thugs on the no fly list too. Including BLM’s Marxist leaders, such as Patrice Cullors. And 99.9% of the people who protested in DC had nothing to do with the capital building invasion. Anyone who is arrested for doing that should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law; which is quite unlike what happened in Portland when leftist radicals breached the federal courthouse.

    And UA-NYC should change his name to UA-HAV and move there to enjoy the fruits of the wretched ideology that he wants thrust upon the rest of us.

  21. @ John – I’ve never been accused of being a politician. That being said, while I don’t like some of the things that Trump has said or done I do like the things that he accomplished while being constantly harassed by the left and media. I also know that if enough gold bars fell out of his pockets to pay off the national debt the left and media would accuse him of littering. I’m a conservative, I believe in hard work, freedom, capitalism, the 1st and 2nd amendment among others and I’m reasonably certain that you are somewhere left of center.

  22. Make sure it’s only the WHITE vote protestors on the no-fly list. Be consistent with the overall hypocrisy.

  23. People who say a “coup” don’t know what a coup is. That is when the people, usually the military, take over the TV stations, Congress, and White House with tanks and guns, keeping the legislators and president as hostage. They then declare martial law for ordinary people. In Chile in 1973, the air force bombed the equivalent of the White House.

    These protesters are just opportunists that went through a broken window or, in some cases, through the door.

  24. @ derek – They use words like coup to make it sound much worse than what it was. Certainly the loss of 5 lives was/is tragic but it wasn’t like they were trying to drag Joe Bama out of his basement and make him give a speech without a teleprompter and show the world what is going to be the next President until they invoke the 25th amendment and then we get Spread Eagle. There is no excuse for what happened yesterday but we’ve had worse things happen in the history of this country and survived but then we weren’t full of snowflakes back then.

  25. The no fly list is a complete disaster, and while I think that the rioters who broke into the capitol building should be arrested and prosecuted, putting the entire crowd on the list is not the right way of doing.

    As Gary mentioned, even having a name similar to someone on the list can cause you to be blocked. Adding another few thousand people is going to cause many times that number to actually be blocked.

  26. @OneXMarine, you failed to answer my question directly which is typical of politicians not marines.

    What I don’t get is why people such as yourself always overlook the harm Trump causes our country merely because he passed a tax cut and trashed regulations every chance he got. These are standard positions that any Republican politician would pursue. Such measures are only temporary while the damage he causes is long lasting. Undying fealty to one man makes the Republican party seem more like a cult than a political party.

    America succeeds when we work together not when the president constantly divides us such as when he calls Black athletes respectfully taking a knee during the anthem “unpatriotic sons of bitches.” He has some goddamn nerve. If it wasn’t obvious before January 6 it must be clear now that Trump’s only loyalty is to himself not our democracy. A divided organization whether it is a country, an athletic team, a corporation, or a military unit is ineffective.

    I don’t know about you, but having a president mount baseless attacks on democratic elections long after they have been decided and inciting people to attack Congress is not what many in my family served, and fought and one nearly died for.

    The least we can ask of any president is that they respect our elections and the constitution, support not weaken the institutions of government, and tell the American people the truth. Trump is lying when he claims the election was stolen by massive voter fraud. Scores of courts and judges have dismissed his unsupported claims as having no merit. He doesn’t care that he is misleading his supporters including the ones he said he would go with to the Capitol and doing long-term damage to the country.

    He lied to them when he said the process of counting the previously certified electoral votes could overturn the will of the American people if Pence would only say so. Trump didn’t have the courage to go to the Capitol as he said he would, and he doesn’t have the courage to admit he lost the election. He is disgusting.

    Because of Trump’s deeply flawed character five people died at the Capitol. Tens of thousands are dead because of his lies about Covid-19 and inability or unwillingness to mount a spirited coordinated response. Yesterday more than 4,000 Americans died from Covid-19. Trump says nothing about Covid and has totally abandoned even pretending that he cares.

    I believe that the primary responsibility of a Commander in Chief is looking out for the safety and health of the American people. I believe in integrity and not lying constantly. I believe in the sanctity of elections. I believe that when someone takes an oath they are bound to uphold it. I believe that a president owes his loyalty to the American people, all of them, not the other way around. I believe that fulfilling those obligations and others that go with the office of president is more important than policies.

    From your comment, it appears those beliefs can now only be held by someone who is left of center. Trump is right, he could shoot someone in Tines Square and his deluded supporters wouldn’t care.

    Trump is a loser who just got fired from his job. He is irrelevant except in his own mind.

  27. OneXMarine ‘it will be interesting to see how many of them are members of Antifa and BLM.” I did not see any non-white skin in any of the photos of the Capitol break-in. Could you provide a link to support your supposition?

  28. @Nor4 – Are all members of Antifa and BLM people of color? I don’t watch a lot of TV but it seems to me that there were white folks among them in Portland and Seattle. How long have you been a racist? You basically said that only people of color belong to Antifa and BLM. My supposition is based on that the actions appear to more resemble an Antifa or BLM demonstration than a MAGA gathering. Hopefully the truth will come out. You should really work on your hatred of people of color. Is your white sheet out for cleaning?

  29. @OneXMarine
    To be clear, the conservative media has claimed that Antifa is an organization, which it is not. BLM is an organization.

    Also, “Antifa” is shorthand for “Anti-fascist”. You know what?, my uncle got a Silver Star in France during the Normandy invasion of WW2 for being a hero and an anti-fascist. Despite your conservatism, I am pretty confident you also would claim to be anti-fascist..

  30. @ WileyDog – You are correct, I am anti-fascist. But you will never find me burning stores, looting, or attacking police or any of the violence that went on this past year. Your uncle was a brave man and part of the greatest generation. I had an uncle wounded at Normandy and another wounded at the Battle of Midway. I have nothing but the highest regard for all of the men and women who served in WWII, or any war for that matter. I watch documentaries and read what ever I can get my hands on about WWII and the rise of Hitler and WWII. I have never seen so much division in this country in my life and I’m 71 years old. The politicians stoke the fire and people on BOTH sides are unable to have a civil discussion about the issues. I’m afraid we are entering a very dangerous period in the history and future of our country.

  31. The big problem is how do you separate the traitorous terrorists who broke in with guns and bombs from the raucous but peaceful protesters who stood on the streets outside and didn’t break any laws? It would be both dangerous and hypocritical to group them together. That’s what the Q types do, and we’re better than that. Simply putting all of the protesters on the no-fly list is inherently wrong. Prosecute only the criminals – to the fullest extent of the law – but not bystanders.

  32. Anyone who took part in the breaking and entering of the Capitol building or grounds, harm to other persons, constructing, transporting or placing pipe bombs or weapons, theft, damage to a national monument, endangering the life of a member of Congress or law enforcement, theft of mail and classified documents, and/or conspiracy to commit these crimes should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law for these offenses as a terrorist. Upon conviction, the maximum legal penalties should be applied. In addition, a percentage of the total amount of damages, repairs and restitutions should be assessed and all convicted should be prohibited from flying – period. They represent a grave risk to others and our collective security.
    Let them fly private – on Trump’s plane.

  33. @ Joyce Tarantino -Why not ban all felons? Rapist, child molesters, speeders, reckless drivers, failure to use turn signals, over weight people, skinny people, blue eyed people, bad breath people, people with their pants hanging down their butt. Why don’t we just have the almighty airline personnel walk through the terminal before each flight and decide who gets to fly and who doesn’t? Why don’t we ban all registered Republicans?

    I’m all for prosecuting the people that damaged the Capitol and injured and even killed people. Lock them up for life, I don’t care. But how did they get pipe bombs on aircraft with the eagle eye TSA and the ever vigilant F/A’s? Be careful what you wish for, someday the shoe will be on the other foot or maybe someone will decide that you just look a little crazy and you’re on the banned list.

    I doubt if putting 10’s of thousands of people who attended the rally is logical or would hold up in a court of law.

    I wonder if Ted Bundy ever flew? Or Timothy Nichols?

  34. The No-Fly List should not be applicable to US persons. The No-Fly List needs to be eliminated for Americans, not expanded. The ticketed Americans whom the government should stop from flying should be limited only to those Americans who are arrested and/or convicted, but that doesn’t require a No-Fly List either; what that requires is letting the justice system have its course.

  35. A massive expansion of the No Fly List with people with very common names in the US? That’s one way to keep the FBI in parts busy due to mistaken identity.

  36. “Taking away the freedom to travel from people whose speech you dislike is a dangerous precedent.” Who the hell is talking about speech? Who is talking about people that did not enter the capitol? They are talking about terrorists who invaded the capitol, injured 50 cops, killed one of the cops, some were searching for Pence so they could kill him, and rioted in the capitol in an attempt to overthrow a lawful election. Don’t minimize their conduct. They specifically are talking about doing this for people who are actually identified as engaging in these crimes. There are already more terrorist attacks being planned in the coming weeks. We dont have years to wait for the results of a trial. Ban anyone who is charged in the interest of national security and let the case be litigated in the courts and then remove them if they end up being exonerated. Can’t have these clowns flying around when they are actively plotting more terrorist attacks. Its absurd you think its ok to allow them to continue on.

  37. I think it’s a great idea. These terrorists plotted to not only break the law, some were prepared to take hostages, hold trials and execute our elected officials. Maybe you didn’t see the photo, but they erected a gallows, and some of these animals carried rope to take prisoners. Fuck them. You want to play tough guy, you lose tough also. As far as I am concerned, every person there should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Maximum prison time. They can’t fly when they are in jail. Yeah all this Qanon shit was fine when you played in your basement. The screwballs on the trump team have lost their marbles. Jail time for them and their fearless lying leader also.

  38. A terrorist is a terrorist is a terrorist. These terrorists should be added to the No Fly List. Period.

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