Department of Homeland Security

DHS Will Now Indicate When Somebody's on Their No-Fly List

You are now free to discover whether you are actually free to fly the friendly skies.

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How many terrible trips before they beg to be put back on the list?
Credit: MattHurst / photo on flickr

Among the many, many problems with the federal government's opaque, inscrutable "no-fly list" system is that the government refuses to tell individuals if they are actually on the list. Individuals who find themselves turned away by airlines are left with a bureaucratic process akin to stuffing a message into a bottle and tossing it into the sea. If they know that they aren't actually terrorists, they submit information to the Department of Homeland Security and explain who they are to try to be removed from the list. But the federal government won't actually confirm that any individual is on the list, claiming national security. The federal government has been sued over this reversal of due process and has been losing. The government has been ordered to set up a more transparent system for people to challenge inclusion on the list.

Obviously, the secrecy over whether somebody is actually on the no-fly list would have to be one of the first things to go, and that's exactly what's happening. In response to a lawsuit, Attorney General Eric Holder has announced a change of policy. Those who run into refusals as part of this system and attempt to appeal will actually be informed whether they are on the list. The shift was noted by the Federation of American Scientists:

"Under the previous redress procedures, individuals who had submitted inquiries to DHS TRIP [the Department of Homeland Security Traveler Redress Inquiry Program] generally received a letter responding to their inquiry that neither confirmed nor denied their No Fly status."

"Under the newly revised procedures, a U.S. person who purchases a ticket, is denied boarding at the airport, subsequently applies for redress through DHS TRIP about the denial of boarding, and is on the No Fly List after a redress review, will now receive a letter providing his or her status on the No Fly List and the option to receive and/or submit additional information."

If the individual traveler chooses to pursue the matter, DHS "will provide a second, more detailed response. This second letter will identify the specific criterion under which the individual has been placed on the No Fly List and will include an unclassified summary of information supporting the individual's No Fly List status, to the extent feasible, consistent with the national security and law enforcement interests at stake."

As was previously leaked last summer, there are hundreds of thousands of people on government watch lists that have no known connections to terrorist groups. Being on a watch list isn't the same as being on the no-fly list, but the lists still make travel miserable for those people. In one of the lawsuits prompted by the no-fly list, the plaintiff was on the list entirely by accident. An FBI agent checked a wrong box on a form, and it took her years to fix, the federal government fighting her the entire time. This change will be a boon to others like her, one hopes.

Update: Here's a response from Hina Shamsi, the director of American Civil Liberty Union's National Security Project. They've been representing the people on the list in these cases:

"After years of fighting in court for complete secrecy and losing, it's good that the government is finally now going to tell people of their status on the No Fly List. Unfortunately, we've found that the government's new redress process falls far short of constitutional requirements because it denies our clients meaningful notice, evidence, and a hearing. The government had an opportunity to come up with a fair process but failed, so we're challenging it in court again."

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  1. Most transparent…ly opaque, anyway. At least they’re clear about not even pretending to be transparent.

  2. This change will be a boon to others like her, one hopes.

    I don’t see it.

    1. I share your lack of confidence, and do not anticipate any policy changes which will restore core rights aside from the particular due process issue described in the article.

      1. I’ve updated with a quick quote from the ACLU, who has been handling the lawsuits. They seem to agree.

        1. Thanks, Scott, I’m glad to read that the ACLU is keeping pressure on the government.

        2. I wish them luck.

  3. DHS “will provide a second, more detailed redacted response.”

    National security, you know?

  4. I’ve made $64,000 so far this year working online and I’m a full time student. I’m using an online business opportunity I heard about and I’ve made such great money. It’s really user friendly and I’m just so happy that I found out about it. Heres what I’ve been doing
    http://www.work-mill.com

    1. working online

      Sucker. Welcome to the new social welfare state lady, where instead of working and earning $64k/year that will net at $40k after taxes, you can simply shit out a kid or two and get handouts for about $70k net.

      1. I knew I was wasting my time with school.

  5. The No Fly List is one of the most bizarre responses to 9/11. I don’t get it. If someone is suspected of being a terrorist, then get a fucking warrant and surveil them and find out. There are procedures for that sort of thing. It makes no sense to have this large and vague class of people who aren’t allowed to fly, simply because someone thinks they might be terrorists. If they are, arrest them. If they aren’t, leave them alone.

    1. Why do you hate America Papaya?

      Alternate Sarc- Something something suicide pact.

    2. You can’t stage a security theater without targeting people randomly. If everyone’s permitted on the plane it looks like you’re not doing your job.

      1. If we know which people are on the list, why would we need the TSA?

      2. The in-airport stuff is random, based on the PC assumption that granny from Dubuque is as much a potential security threat as that 20-something Achmed. The No-Fly List is targeted, but it’s just such an inept and half-assed thing. I could see it if they whipped it up in the weeks following 9/11 because they didn’t have time for anything more thorough, but it’s absurd to have it in place for years. Investigate the people on the list, or GTFO.

        1. Let alone that anyone could ever take a passenger plane for their own purposes ever again.

          1. Andreas Lubitz disagrees with you.

            (I guess that should be “disagreed”.

        2. The No-Fly List is targeted, but it’s just such an inept and half-assed thing.

          It’s neither inept nor half-assed when the government wants to protect itself by preventing a witness from flying to a trial location to testify.

          1. I don’t think this makes sense as a conspiracy theory. There seem to be a lot more people on the list than problematic witnesses. Why not just deal with these witnesses directly, by framing them or whatever?

    3. It’s all theater.

      1. Specifically, Kabuki.

    1. Of course it never occurred to him to lay the blame for this girl’s “racism” on the defendants. This is more problematic than racism itself: this idea that one must be blind to the disproportionate realities of criminal offenses lest it be seen as ushering in a new era of lynchings and slavery.

      Look at your own, judge. If you dislike the way a race is being viewed broadly, maybe getting to root causes is worth some thought.

    2. I do not approve of this fuckery.

    3. Man, Right Wing News/The Courier-Journal doesn’t fuck around;

      “A judge fucked up in a screwball decision. Here’s his PR photo right in the middle of the article, his hometown/jurisdiction, full name, and a Youtube video that should make his identification and ridicule easy.”

      *cough* *cough*

  6. conFstiYtuTtionW

    1. I had to read through that thrice to get it, D.

      As far as your moniker goes….

      1. DEA
        ATF
        FBI
        IRS
        SEC
        CIA

        All on my shitlist.

        Couldn’t figure out how to shoehorn NSA in there, though I tried mightily.

        1. Do it backwords: DEATFBIRSECIASN.

          1. Agencia de Seguridad Nacional!

  7. The problem is that any unconstitutional edict from either the Legislative or Executive branch has one judicial cycle of life at least, as the mess works its way up the judicial court hierarchy.

    So they can do just about anything, at least for several years, as the worm turns, and the rulings are extruded.

    Much later, sometimes a reversal, rarely though justice for those wronged.

    1. Meanwhile, the legislators have passed and the executive have implemented at least a dozen more equally unconstitutional edicts.

  8. You are now free to discover whether you are actually free to fly the friendly skies.

    Me: “Am I on the ‘No Fly’ list?”

    DHS (or their Canadian cousin CSIS): “You are now.”

  9. the government refuses to tell individuals if they are actually on the list. Individuals who find themselves turned away by airlines are left with a bureaucratic process

    “You’re not allowed to board this plane.”

    “REFUSING GAYS SERVICE IS ILLEGAL!!”

    “That’s not the reason.”

    “REFUSING AIDS VICTIMS SERVICE IS ILLEGAL!!”

    “That’s not the reason.”

    “REFUSING MUSLIMS SERVICE IS ILLEGAL!!”

    “That’s not the reason.”

    “REFUSING NO-FLY-LIST PEOPLE SERVICE IS ILLEGAL!!”

    “No, it’s not!”

    “AH, HA!!”

  10. In other DHS news: TSA Screeners Manipulated System To Grope Men’s Genitals

    The agency has not released the names of the two fired employees

    I thought sex offenders were required to register on public lists.

  11. “In one of the lawsuits prompted by the no-fly list, the plaintiff was on the list entirely by accident. An FBI agent checked a wrong box on a form, and it took her years to fix, the federal government fighting her the entire time. ”

    I’m not one for conspiracy theories, but I’m sticking to this one. This story is entirely bullshit and there’s excellent reason to presume it so.

    I’ll say it one last time: the government claimed it was a clerical error so that the policy wouldn’t come into question. This was an 11th hour move to try to preserve the policy by claiming that merely more training was needed, maybe some more money for computer systems, but the list, its existence and the basis for its secrecy was beyond reproach.

    Do you really believe that the case escalated this high in the court system, and then this simple mistake was only “discovered” just as the judge had become utterly frustrated by the government’s claims, and the government’s case looked like it a was going to lose?

    And then her daughter suddenly and mysteriously ended up on the same no-fly list as she was boarding a plane to testify in this very case?

    Sorry. There was no mistake, only protectionism.

  12. Also, while I’m always happy to see Eric holder reform something by a simple proclamation that was here-to-fore impossible to reform, after losing lawsuits, I see this as only a minor victory.

    Wouldn’t you know you were on the no-fly list if you got mysteriously turned away when you tried to board your plane?

    It’s the getting off the list, and the elimination of the list that seems like the real goal here.

    1. ^This. Just like the minor sentencing reforms that Paul and Holder are getting ready to implement, the true solution to this is necessarily much more comprehensive and conclusive.

  13. If the individual traveler chooses to pursue the matter, DHS “will provide a second, more detailed response.

    Why don’t they save everyone some time and just do this as part of the *first* response?

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