Feds' Nervy Defense of No-Fly List Meets a Skeptical Judge

Reason 24/7ReasonIn Portland, Oregon, U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown heard arguments for and against the U.S. government's due process-free procedures for denying people access to commercial air travel, and seemed distinctly unimpressed by the line taken by the Justice Department. That may bode well for people who have not only been inconvenienced and enbarrassed by being booted from domestic flights, but also those unlucky souls who have been stranded in distant countries after being added to the no-fly list without explanation.

From Yahoo! News:

A federal judge took a dim view Friday of the government's argument that air travel isn't a fundamental right to U.S. citizens on the no-fly list.

The list, a well-protected government secret, decides who may fly from U.S. airports. It is also, according to testimony, shared with operators of passenger ships as well as 22 other countries.

Thirteen people on the no-fly list have sued the U.S. government, arguing that their placement deprives them of due process and smears their reputation by branding them as terrorists. Several of the men who filed suit have been surrounded at airport security areas, detained and interrogated.

The suit seeks to either remove the plaintiffs from the no-fly list or tell them why they are on it.

Yes, you read that right. The federal government frequently won't even tell people why they are forbidden to fly, and addition to the list can be so sudden and without warning that people have flown overseas only to discover that they can;t board a flight to return home. In preparation for making arguments on behalf of the plaintiffs, American Civil Liberties Union attorneys raised a few concerns about due process.

From the ACLU:

"We're asking the court to finally put a check on the government's use of a blacklist that denies Americans the ability to fly without giving them the explanation or fair hearing that the Constitution requires. It's a question of basic fairness," said ACLU Staff Attorney Nusrat Choudhury, one of the ACLU attorneys who will argue the case Friday in Portland. "It does not make our country safer to ban people from flying without giving them an after-the-fact redress process that allows them to correct the errors that led to their mistaken inclusion on the list."

Of people suddenly denied the ability to board a plane, the ACLU adds:

Their only recourse is to file a request with the Department of Homeland Security's "Traveler Redress Inquiry Program," after which DHS responds with a letter that does not explain why they were denied boarding. The letter does not confirm or deny whether their names remain on the No Fly List, and does not indicate whether they can fly. The only way for a person to find out if his or her name was removed from the No Fly List is to buy a plane ticket, go to the airport, see if he or she can get on the flight – taking the risk of being denied boarding and marked as a suspected terrorist, and losing the cost of the airline ticket.

But this is fine with the feds. In court, they argued that, because people stranded overseas have occasionally been able to book a slow cruise home on a banana boat or other non-verboten means of transport, all is well! That didn't sit well with Judge Brown. Again, from Yahoo! News:

Some of the men suing the government took alternate means to get back to the U.S. after their placement on the list, and government attorney Scott Risner used that as proof that they have alternatives to air travel.

U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown in Portland said the government's argument about alternatives to air travel doesn't take into account the reality of modern life and "seems fundamentally wrong."

People could also theoretically take a rocket ship, the judge said at Friday's hearing. She noted that sea and land travel may not satisfy the need to visit a sick relative in time, and the plaintiffs "don't have transporter rooms like in Star Trek."

If I were Judge Brown, I might avoid any overseas flights before issuing a ruling.

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  • Warrren||

    One of the founding ideals of a free republic is secret lists that tell people what they cannot do with no due process or appeal.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    A not so small step in the direction of the old CCCP. where you needed government permission to move about the country.

  • Warrren||

    We just can't let Kulaks wander around free, Comrade. It's for your own safety.

  • Live Free or Diet||

    American Express - Don't leave home without it.
    Soviet Express - Don't leave home.
    Post-9/11 Express - Can't get home.

  • HellsBells||

    So if you're banned from air travel and they share the list with passenger ships, are you automatically excluded from booking passage on a ship too? Or is that left to the discretion of the cruise line?

  • Sevo||

    Hey, no one is topping you from swimming! It's a free country!

  • Warrren||

    So only gay cruises then?

  • HellsBells||

    I guess we'd better bone up on show tunes.

  • Warrren||

    AnonBot is peddling sedition!

  • LynchPin1477||

    I think it's great that WomSom is starting to come around to libertarian views.

  • Duke||

    You know who else told people they couldn’t fly?

  • Warrren||

    Scientists?

  • bmp1701||

    Werner von Braun's dad?

  • Brett L||

    Professor Langley?

  • Almanian!||

    Anti-aircraft guns?

  • Warrren||

    Anti-gun crafts?

  • Duke||

    Was thinking of Daedalus at first but he said not to fly too close to the son.

  • Warrren||

    Jesus saves, but he does not provide lift.

  • Duke||

    Squirrels!

  • Cliché Bandit||

    I need a new monitor and keyboard...thanks Warren

  • Sevo||

    Jesus saves the best ass for himself! Or is that Brigham Young? Or both?

  • Warrren||

    I said "more men!"

  • Copernicus||

    The Widow Von Zeppelin?

  • Mike M.||

    In court, they argued that, because people stranded overseas have occasionally been able to book a slow cruise home on a banana boat or other non-verboten means of transport, all is well!

    Hey mister bureaucrat, let me on that airplane, daylight come and me wanna go home.

  • GroundTruth||

    Is this the first sighting of a return to sanity, or the last flicker of the death of liberty?

  • SweatingGin||

    After reading some of the comments at Fluff Post for the last thread, I'm pretty sure we're boned. Be sure to click the 'Favorites' tab.

    Maybe they'll put up a story about the no-fly list, and they can have their two minute hate at anyone who wants to know why they are on it, or who is on it.

  • HellsBells||

    Wow...I'm just not jaded enough yet. The depth of such rampant idiocy still takes me by surprise.

  • Warrren||

    Rookie.

  • juris imprudent||

    Don't worry 'bout it kid, it'll come to you in time. It ain't like hittin' the curve or nuthin'.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    Snowden basically embodies some of Washington’s worst fears: A disaffected, Ron Paul-supporting mole within the defense industry, carrying no elite credentials and a bundle of messianic aspirations, and the improbable wherewithal to blow a hole in the national intelligence establishment.

    No elite credentials? S
    Say it ain't so!!11!!1

  • Hyperion||

    The stooped is deep over there, very deep.

    Some of them honestly believe that Snowden is a Russian/Chinese spy. Or that he's just an evil capitalist who sold our secrets to the Russians and Chinese to get rich.

    Some of them are also calling for Greenwald to be arrested or disappeared, or even just outright murdered.

  • Duke||

    Look guys, I don’t know what all the fuss is about. Trisha over at HuffPoo has it figured out:

    I still can't figure out why American's have no problem with security breaches on facebook, but are sooooo concerned about the govt. I bet google, facebook, yahoo, Verizon, etc. know more about you and track you more that the govt., and no one seems to care. Odd. Guess it's OK to give away your privacy to big corporations but not the govt.

    Because, when you really think about it, there is no difference between Facebook and FedGov.

  • Warrren||

    Did we elect Zuckerberg? No. Therefore-oh dear God I can feel my brain dissolving-therefore-ahhhh-therefore-must stop......

  • SweatingGin||

    Every time I'm driving, and see that blue light with the 'f' on it in the mirror, I get a little nervous. Never know if the facebook thugs are going to decide to make it a bad day, or if they're out looking for someone vaguely similar to me.

  • Warrren||

    Excuse me sir, we believe you may know these people.

  • Duke||

    Sure, the government can tax you, beat you, arrest you, incarcerate you and kill you. But that’s literally NOTHING compared to be unfriended by an ex or being tagged in a goofy picture.

  • LynchPin1477||

    You forgot the worst part of all. Facebook might actually *gasp* make money from the information you voluntary give them! Oh the humanity!

  • Emmerson Biggins||

    Making money isn't the problem. It's making money without pointing a gun at somebody. Thats the real problem.

  • Paul.||

    But that’s literally NOTHING compared to be unfriended by an ex or being tagged in a goofy picture.

    Or getting an ad for a gay resort because you spend all day searching for gay porn. You've been digitally outed! oMGz!1!!

  • Hyperion||

    Right, because you know, Yahoo and Verizon frequently send goon squads in to break down peoples doors, sometimes even the wrong doors, in the middle of the night, and claim the right to disappear anyone they don't like, at any time, without any reason that they have to reveal to anyone.

    Yep, Yahoo and Verizon are exactly like the feds. I didn't realize there was someone as smart as Trish over there, my bad...

  • HellsBells||

    I once forgot to pay my phone bill and they shut off service. The terror was indescribable. The whole family just huddled together silently while I was forced to give those bastards a credit card number from my cell phone. *sob

  • Hyperion||

    I actually know a few people, that I swear I believe that if their cell phone was dislodged from their hand for 2 seconds, they would fall to the floor and go into something like an epileptic seizure, flopping around like a fish out of water.

  • HellsBells||

    I know what you mean. I knew this lady that would invite me over for coffee and then spend the entire time texting other people and posting what we were doing on her fb page. She did not remain an acquaintance for long.

  • juris imprudent||

    Thank gawd this is just some online twit. If I actually had to confront this person to person, I'd have a very human reaction - and probably go to jail for it.

  • Sevo||

    "Because, when you really think about it, there is no difference between Facebook and FedGov."

    Dead strawmen; no use killing 'em again but brain-dead lefty apologists just won't quit.

  • Rights-Minimalist Autocrat||

    Did not take me long to get to this gem:

    It's the Wallmart way of hiring the lowest bidder, rather than paying what a person is worth.

    Sorry, that's all the stupid I can take. I'm tapping out.

  • Hyperion||

    It's really Ron Paul supporters that we should all be afraid of. says Murphsurf3 at the HuffPo:

    Snowden basically embodies some of Washington’s worst fears: A disaffected, Ron Paul-supporting mole within the defense industry, carrying no elite credentials and a bundle of messianic aspirations, and the improbable wherewithal to blow a hole in the national intelligence establishment

  • Duke||

    carrying no elite credentials and a bundle of messianic aspirations...

    You mean Barack Obama?

  • Warrren||

    Zing!

  • PapayaSF||

    +1

  • juris imprudent||

    You mean Barack Obama?

    Nah, he said "blow a hole" not blow into a hole.

  • SweatingGin||

    Right after the election, and after Sany Hook, the Progrfascists got into a fever pitch, and I started to get really paranoid.

    In the early part of the year, they started calling for repealing the 22nd amendment, or just ignoring the constitution. I got more paranoid.

    The scandals came, and it quieted them down for a few weeks.

    Now they've had a chance to digest the monitoring, and decided that, since it's Obama doing it, they like it. They're back to the fever pitch, and I get the feeling they're going to go full retard before this is done.

  • Hyperion||

    At least they're so busy right now screaming for their master to murderdrone Snowden and Greenwald that they don't have time to don hoodies and scream for the blood of the evil white Hispanic.

    One boogeyman at a time...

  • SweatingGin||

    Good point.

    This one will probably wind down just in time for that.

    And they can spy on people who aren't sufficiently bloodthirsty in their attacks on the white Hispanic!

  • Hyperion||

    Now, the FluffPostites are vigorously arguing that the NSA snooping must be ok because it operates within the guidelines of the Patriot Act. They're fucking defending the Patriot Act! Aren't these the very same liberals who went ape shit when the patriot act was passed under the evil Boosh? This shit is getting surreal.

  • juris imprudent||

    Nothing surreal at all about TEAM loyalty. You just have an unrealistic expectation of principle.

  • Paul.||

    Actually, it was Michael Moore who was going apeshit about the PATRIOT act, and was doing a fil... ok, yeah, those same liberals.

  • Rich||

    "It does not make our country safer to ban people from flying without giving them an after-the-fact redress process that allows them to correct the errors that led to their mistaken inclusion on the list."

    It most certainly *does* make our country safer, by preventing some potential terrorists from ever boarding a plane.

  • Warrren||

    Well, drone operators have to fly home for the holidays just like everyone else.

  • HellsBells||

    I now have a version of "I'll be droned for Christmas" running through my head...

  • LynchPin1477||

    Read that quote again. It is not saying what you think it is saying.

    And if you want to stop a potential terrorist from boarding a plane, why not arrest, charge, and try them for a crime?

  • PapayaSF||

    Or something else. The more I think about the no-fly list, the less sense it makes.

    OK, here's Citizen Achmed who you think might be a terrorist. Well, what the hell do we have the FBI and NSA for? Get a warrant and surveil the shit out of him. Or, let him fly, but make sure he gets a cavity search before the flight, and that the air marshal knows to keep an eye on Achmed in seat 21A. But just "you can't fly," or even worse, "you can't fly back home" seems idiotic.

  • LynchPin1477||

    Why ban someone from flying? The only reason I can think is because you think they pose an imminent threat to the plane. If that's the case, you had better have already arrested them.

  • Rrabbit||

    Here a list of reasons:

    o government incompetence
    o to keep the population in panic about them terrorists
    o you embarrassed the government, but they could not find anything that would stand up in court, thus they needed some other way to retaliate
    o because fuck you, that's why

  • LarryA||

    Particularly if the reason you can deny them air transportation is that they can take a tramp steamer, etc, that you can't trace.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    I know, let's ban everyone from flying. It's inherently unsafe to let anyone fly.

  • juris imprudent||

    Yes Rich, some potential terrorist that can't fly but can do a whole bunch of other shit because we don't kick his ass out of the country. Yeah, LOTS safer.

  • LarryA||

    It most certainly *does* make our country safer, by preventing some potential terrorists from ever boarding a plane.

    What part of "mistaken inclusion on the list" did you not understand.

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