Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) along with Congressmen Eric Swalwell (D-CA) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) have introduced legislation to create a national no fly list for “passengers who participate in in-flight violence.” They tried this last year, but it did not go anywhere.
The problem with their approach is delegating authority to TSA to create “a formal process for companies and authorities to work together to develop a cohesive list of those bad actors.”
- People who violate laws should be prosecuted and punished according to the law
- That punishment might even be enhanced, compared to current law, by adding travel restrictions
- What’s insane though is taking away civil rights protections – imposing travel bans as an administrative penalty without due process.
Proponents would say that there will be due process since bans would be limited to those who receive “a civil penalty or conviction” according to the text of the legislation. However the executive branch imposes civil penalties itself those are not imposed by a court.
Banning passengers from airlines – restricting their right to travel – is something that should only be done after a fair trial, something two separate branches of government (executive prosecuting and judicial convicting) agree on and with full rights of appeal.
We’re also far from the world of the pandemic where first time flyers were bringing their own alcohol on board (since airlines had stopped serving it) and getting into fights over masks. Proponents of ‘doing something’ that involves unilateral authority for the TSA to strip Americans of their rights argue that FAA data shows that there were “831 unruly passenger incidents in 2022, up from 146 in 2019.”
However it’s a mistake to make this comparison. Most pandemic-era passenger incidents involved masks, and the federal mask mandate was in place for nearly four months of 2022. The better data comparison will be a 12 month lookback starting in May, and to watch the downward trend. This bipartisan group is willing to hand more power to the Executive to address a problem very much in decline already using a handful of terrible anecdotal incidents.
- If you’re a Republican do you want the Biden administration deciding if you have the right to fly? Remember that an Obama Homeland Security official wanted the unvaxxed put on a No Fly List and the Biden Administration has considered adding groups it believes are extremist to No Fly lists.
- If you’re a Democrat, do you want Donald Trump or the next President like him, to decide who can fly and who cannot – on their own authority as unitary executive?
Remember that when David Dao was dragged off of a United Express flight and bloodied he was initially accused of being a disruptive passenger.
Note also that currently-managed No Fly Lists include people added by mistake (FBI agent checking the wrong box on a form or having a name similar to someone else) and even added maliciously (such as retaliation for refusing to cooperate in an investigation). Denying the freedom of travel, without a judicial trial, is precisely mob rule outside of the rule of law.
Violent passengers on planes should be addressed by prosecuting those passengers for their behavior and imposing punishments according to law, not by layering on administrative travel bans. Any punishment that encumbers an American’s right to travel should be subject to an appropriate level of judicial review and scrutiny.