The No-Fly List Takes a Hit

For more than a decade, the federal government assumed it could consign thousands of Americans to travel purgatory without justifying itself to anyone. That may be changing.

AirlinerCarpkazuAmericans have always treasured the freedom to pick up and go anywhere they please. Our forebears had to travel to get here, often had to travel more after they arrived and sometimes moved on to uncharted territories out West only to return East. No one stopped them, whatever direction they were going.

They had the good fortune to live and migrate before the creation of the all-encompassing national security state. After the 9/11 attacks, Americans woke up to find that their freedom to travel was not a fundamental right but a vaporous privilege, bestowed by the government and revocable at its whim.

Or rather some Americans came to that realization: people who tried to board commercial airliners only to be turned away without an explanation or much recourse. They had entered the murky labyrinth of the federal no-fly list.

One victim was Gulet Mohamed, who came to this country as a boy from Somalia with his immigrant parents and became a citizen. In 2011, he took a break from college to see a little of the world and improve his Arabic, spending time in Yemen, Somalia and Kuwait.

The latter country is where things went wrong. Upon trying to renew his visa, he was seized, beaten and tortured under interrogation. When his family bought him a plane ticket home, the Kuwaitis took him to the airport—where he was barred from boarding. Not until several days later, after a lawyer challenged his exclusion, was he allowed to fly back to the United States.

Once here, he went to court, arguing that he had been placed on the no-fly list, for reasons unknown to him, in violation of his constitutional right to travel, which has been repeatedly recognized by the Supreme Court. The government refused even to say whether Mohamed was on the no-fly list but insisted that even if he was, his right to travel was not abridged.

In the incomparable logic offered by the Justice Department, he was perfectly free to enter the United States —even if he was not allowed to get on the plane that would bring him here. If he could have found some other way to get back, the government claimed, he would have been greeted with open arms.

Secrecy is the standard mode of the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center, which compiles the list. Not only does it refuse to notify people of their inclusion, but it refuses to say how many names the list contains. As of 2012, though, the number reportedly amounted to 21,000.

As a rule, these are people who have not been arrested or convicted of breaking any law. They may venture into subways, elementary schools, shopping malls, government buildings, movie theaters and other sites where innocents could be slaughtered. Those on the list are treated as a mortal threat only aboard a commercial aircraft.

It's a strange policy with dire and often unjust results. Last week, though, its future was put in doubt. A U.S. district court in Virginia ruled that Mohamed had a right to challenge his apparent inclusion on the no-fly list because of its "profound" impact on his life.

Judge Anthony Trenga wrote that "a No Fly List designation transforms a person into a second-class citizen, or worse." It hinders him from visiting family and friends, making religious pilgrimages and taking vacations, and it could wreck his career.

"It is difficult to think of many job categories of any substance where an inability to fly would not affect the prospects for employment or advancement," he noted. Oh, and imagine the professional and personal rewards of being labeled a potential terrorist by your government.

All this happens with little protection against groundless suspicions. If Mohamed went through the usual procedure to challenge his inclusion, noted Trenga, he would not be told why he was included, he would not be able to see or dispute the government's evidence, and, when the government had completed its review, he would not even be told whether he was on the list or off.

This is not the first court to rule against the policy, and it's not likely to be the last. For more than a decade, the federal government assumed it could consign thousands of Americans to travel purgatory without justifying itself to anyone. But the no-fly list as currently administered may be headed for its final approach.

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  • John||

    http://bostonherald.com/news_o....._henriquez

    Democratic Rep in Mass beats his girlfriend seriously enough to get a six month jail sentence (which is a pretty good trick since most domestic violence first time offenders get probation or deferred adjudication)remains in office conducting business out of his jail cell. The state Democratic Party seems to have no interest in kicking him out of the state house.

    But remember, Tod Aiken saying something about rape and abortion means Republicans hate women. But allowing a convicted woman beater to remain in office and conduct business out of his jail cell doesn't mean the Democratic Party doesn't love women.

  • Almanian (yeah, I said it)||

    Now, let's all head to the Kennedy Compound for some drinkin' and date-rapin'!

  • Cdr Lytton||

    As long as I don't have to ride with Ted!

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    I'll ride with Ted. I've got an sir tank.

  • Malkavian||

    Well, to be fair, if more politicians conducted their business out of jail cells, I think we all might be better off.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    *sigh* AIR tank

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    This guy was a piker. James Michael Curley could hold office while in prison, not once but twice - and get pardoned!

    "Curley's first public notoriety came when he was elected to Boston's Board of Aldermen in 1904 while in prison on a fraud conviction. Curley and an associate, Thomas Curley (no relation), took the civil service exams for postmen for two men in their district to help them get the jobs with the federal government. Though the incident gave him a dark reputation in Boston's non-Irish circles, it aided his image among the Irish American working class and poor because they saw him as a man willing to stick his neck out to help those in need....

    " In June 1947, he was sentenced to 6 – 18 months on the mail fraud conviction and spent five months at the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, Connecticut, before his sentence was commuted by President Truman under pressure from the Massachusetts congressional delegation. City Clerk John B. Hynes served as acting mayor during his absence. Truman gave Curley a full pardon in 1950 for both his 1904 and 1947 convictions."

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J.....rison_term

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    To be fair, some of his Dem colleagues don't want him in office:

    "The handcuffed lawmaker has been hauled before the state House Committee on Ethics twice within a week, as the House moves quickly to boot him if he refuses to quit. Top Democrats including Gov. Deval Patrick and House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo have repeatedly called for his resignation."

  • John||

    A lot of Republicans wanted Aiken to drop out of the race for Senate. That didn't seem to matter though.

  • Almanian (yeah, I said it)||

    Don't know why you guys continue to support teh turrrrstssz - his last name was MOHAMED, for fuck's sake! What more do you need?!

    Just hope a plane doesn't drop on my head because of YOUR softheadedness.

    If the "no fly list" saves even ONE life, it's worth it.

    /derp

  • Aresen||

    In the current "security state", I predict that the government will ignore the court until the SCOTUS rules against it. (Assuming that the Nazgul would.)

    Even then, the government would look for any way to 'interpret' such a decision in its own way.

  • thom||

    There will eventually come a day when the government will insist that the Supreme Court can't rule against it because of national security. This issue seems like a candidate for that.

  • Malkavian||

    He was from Somalia. No wonder he wasn't allowed to fly - DoJ just wanted him to build a road to US.

  • Rich||

    If Mohamed went through the usual procedure to challenge his inclusion, noted Trenga, he would not be told why he was included, he would not be able to see or dispute the government's evidence, and, when the government had completed its review, he would not even be told whether he was on the list or off.

    Would he be allowed to keep asking "Could I speak with your supervisor?"?

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    "travel purgatory"

    Hey, at least you eventually get let out of Purgatory!

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  • DenverJay||

  • DenverJay||

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  • DenverJay||

    this is as close s I can get:

    http://instantrimshot.com/?play=true

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  • Tamfang||

    ...the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center ... refuses to say how many names the list contains. As of 2012, though, the number reportedly amounted to 21,000.

    Reportedly? What leaker traitor reported it?

  • pob||

    my bf's cousin just got a new green Volkswagen Beetle Convertible by working from a laptop... see it here ➤➤➤➤➤➤ www.works77.ℂℴ¬m

  • julia14juli||

    my best friend's sister-in-law makes $70 /hour on the computer . She has been without work for 7 months but last month her check was $12532 just working on the computer for a few hours. you can look here

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  • Eric Hamous||

    This is an innovative technique of the government, which helped to catch the terrorism suspects. As the world has no proper security against the terrorists, there are many entries on the list has to lack details that could make it easy to know if a traveller is fake or real. It sounds simple, but it's proving tricky to execute.

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