Capitol Riot

No, Those Viral Videos Don't Prove That the Capitol Rioters Are Being Added to the No-Fly List

But these lawmakers think they should be.

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Democrats are urging the federal government to do everything in its power to prevent people present at Wednesday's riot on Capitol Hill from ever boarding a plane again, including adding their names to the FBI's infamous no-fly list. A number of misleading viral videos on social media have meanwhile given the impression that this crackdown on participants in last week's "Stop the Steal" rally-turned-riot is well underway.

On Monday, Reps. Peter DeFazio (D–Ore.) and Rick Larsen (D–Wash.)—both members of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure—penned a letter urging Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) head Stephen Dickson to use whatever powers he has to "detect instances in which those connected with last Wednesday's attack or their sympathizers may attempt to travel by air again to Washington, D.C." and to "prevent seditionists from jeopardizing aviation safety if they do board aircraft."

That would include slapping passengers who interfere with flight attendants with the maximum allowable $35,000 in civil fines and potentially referring these unruly flyers to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution, their letter reads.

DeFazio and Larsen also asked Dickson to work with airlines to "limit the chance that the Nation's commercial airline system could be used as a means of mass transportation to Washington, D.C., for further violence in connection with the inauguration."

Their letter comes just a few days after Rep. Bennie Thompson (D–Miss.) issued a statement demanding that the FBI and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) add anyone who'd even entered the Capitol building during Wednesday's riot to the no-fly list.

"I am urging the [TSA] and the [FBI] to use their authorities to add the names of all identified individuals involved in the attack to the federal No-Fly List and keep them off planes," said Thompson, who chairs the House Committee on Homeland Security, in a press release. "This should include all individuals identified as having entered the Capitol building—an intrusion which threatened the safety of Members of Congress and staff and served as an attack on our Nation."

On the very day of the riot, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA) similarly demanded that protesters who were present at the Capitol be barred from flying.

"Some of the people who traveled in our planes yesterday participated in the insurrection at the Capitol today," said AFA President Sara Nelson. "Acts against our democracy, our government, and the freedom we claim as Americans must disqualify these individuals from the freedom of flight."

Viral videos on social media meanwhile purport to show Trump supporters being booted from flights or prevented from boarding because of their participation in Wednesday's riot. Often these videos are accompanied by captions saying those being kicked off planes have been added to the no-fly list. The #noflylist hashtag went viral on Twitter on Monday.

A few of these videos—like one tweeted out by Bishop Talbert Swan that's garnered just under 900,000 views—are several years old and have nothing to do with the events at the Capitol on Wednesday.

Other videos instead show people who've been kicked off flights for not wearing masks and/or engaging in disruptive behavior, including one popular clip showing a weeping man in an airport complaining about being labeled a terrorist.

On Thursday, 14 passengers on an Alaska Airlines flight from Washington, D.C. to Seattle were banned from future flights by the airline after refusing to wear masks. That ban is in effect so long as the airline requires passengers to wear masks, according to USA Today.

In a Monday evening statement, TSA spokesperson Robert Langston said that people on the no-fly list can't be issued boarding passes, and that a boarding pass is needed to get past airport security checkpoints.  Thus, people already in their seats or at the gate—like most of these supposed rioter in these viral videos—are probably not getting the boot for being on the no-fly list.

The FBI's Terrorist Screening Center is responsible for maintaining the federal government's No Fly List. Agencies like TSA then use that list to vet passengers trying to board planes.

When asked by Reason whether those present at the Capitol during Wednesday's riot had been added en masse to the no-fly list, a TSA spokesperson said that "for security reasons we do not discuss the details other than to confirm that there are always multiple layers of security in place" and that "we will accommodate FBI requests and congressional authorizations related to no fly lists."

The FBI declined to comment for this story.

It's obviously within airlines' purview to kick off customers who are disruptive or violate company policies about wearing masks on flights. But trying to add people who were merely present at the Capitol last Wednesday to the FBI's no-fly list, as Democrats are requesting, raises some serious civil liberties concerns, says Patrick G. Eddington, a research fellow at the Cato Institute.

"Clearly, anyone with an outstanding arrest warrant for the commission of a federal crime would absolutely qualify for inclusion on the official 'No Fly' list," Eddington tells Reason. But "if the person in question entered the Capitol without actually committing a violent act, property destruction, etc., I think putting that person on the "No Fly" or TSA's "Quiet Skies" selectee list would be wholly incompatible with the [Fourth] Amendment."

Eddington notes that the FBI has a long history of placing people on the no-fly list who've never been accused of a crime. A simple typo can see a person wind up on the list. Up until a few years ago, the government wouldn't even confirm whether someone had been placed on the no-fly list, let alone offer reasons for why his right to fly was being restricted.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has challenged the constitutionality of the no-fly list in multiple lawsuits with mixed success.

In 2014, the group scored an initial victory when a U.S. district court told the federal government it had to tell people if they were on the no-fly list and give them an opportunity to challenge their placement there.

In 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit sided with the government in another lawsuit brought by the ACLU in which the group argued the government's new system of notifying people and allowing them to challenge their placement on the no-fly list was still falling short of what the Constitution requires.

After the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, lawmakers from both parties floated proposals to prevent people on the no-fly list from possessing firearms.

"Our nation's watchlisting system is error-prone and unreliable because it uses vague and overbroad criteria and secret evidence to place individuals on blacklists without a meaningful process to correct government error and clear their names," said the ACLU at the time in opposition to those efforts.

"I realize that feelings are running very high right now as a result of the insurrectionist mob assault on the Capitol," says Eddington. "But it's exactly in times of stress like this that lawmakers and the public usually make bad, constitutionally-violative choices, which is why cooler heads and common sense need to prevail here."

But with even more "Stop the Steal"-type events planned in D.C. for President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration, there's a real possibility that more violence will only cement lawmakers' desire to redirect blunt war-on-terror-era tools to combat the threat posed by right-wing street mobs.

History would suggest the cooler heads are at a disadvantage in resisting this.

NEXT: Millions of Users Are Flooding Encrypted Apps After Social Media Purges

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  3. “limit the chance that the Nation’s commercial airline system could be used as a means of mass transportation to Washington, D.C., for further violence in connection with the inauguration.”

    So –
    No more congressional members on airlines?

    1. I remember when Ted Kennedy got put on the no-fly list. (One commenter remarked, he was meant to be put on the no-drive list.) He pulled a few strings and got to Washington.

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    2. thats okay they will be provided private planes. for their own security

      1. Maybe that’s why Gates just invested in a private jet company?

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  4. I’m old enough to remember when the Left pretended to be opposed to the no-fly lists.

    1. And I’m old enough to remember when at least some on the left consistently pushed back against government power, and promoted individual liberty.

      1. I’m friends with people from fundamentalist Christians to self-proclaimed hard Lefties. Both groups still hate and fight against government overreach on civil liberties. It’s hard-wired in being American. And that’s good news for libertarianism.

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      2. That’s nothing… I remember when at least some Democrat House members realized they were only 1 out of 435 civil servants who held the same position, not micro-dictators who thought they could demand agencies do their political bidding.

      1. On Nancy’s laptop, duh

        1. Deleted from twitter, of course.

      2. Finally. I’ve been asking that too ever since the Capitol PD officer’s death came out.

        Though it had to be asked by theculturechronicles.com, and not by anyone at an official press organization.

        What the Hell happened to this country?

    2. Turns out all that civil rights stuff was just political posturing to go after Bush.

    3. But then they learned that even a no-fly list can be used for fun and profit.

    4. They’re a horrible thing to inflict on people just because you suspect them of committing acts of war on Americans.

      Totes cool for MAGAHeads, though.

  5. Our Rulers are in no mood to be hampered by anything like the Fourth Amendment.

    1. I have relatives in Kowloon. They can’t ever send their children to college inside China, and can’t travel more than 100 miles from HK. Christian, of course.

      1. WWJD? He never traveled more than 100 miles from Jerusalem. So what? (haha)

  6. SleepyJoe will execute every last one of them.

    1. Mostly peacefully?

  7. Hey, if Arabs are added to the no-fly list just because, Yee-Had! and Y’allQaida! sure as shit should be for insurrection and felony murder.

    1. The crowd didn’t kill any of the 5 who died that afternoon in the building, even the cop. The cop’s death has been walked back by his family as some sort of medical issue. It’s why his employers didn’t hold a hero’s funeral.

      Use your damn brain.

  8. It’s almost like they’ll abuse any tools you give them.

  9. ‘Member when the left was about criminal justice reform and a transparent Gove system. If you you say yes you are a liar, because they were never for those things

  10. Welcome to your social credit score.

    1. International Monetary Fund now says your real credit score should be based on your browsing history. How’s that for some shit?

    2. China China China!

  11. “Acts against our democracy, our government, and the freedom we claim as Americans must disqualify these individuals from the freedom of flight.”

    Isn’t it interesting how quickly the left has embraced support for our government? Last week the government was enforcing white supremacy.

    This argument applies to those who burned the police station as well, but no one considered this punishment. The disproportionate reaction is entirely because left wingers accept antifa (really profa) as allies.

    1. So, in about nine days, if Portland is still trying to burn down federal buildings will they finally get added to the list?

  12. People are so gullible. In this case it’s mostly harmless. No patriots (real or imagined) were harmed in the compiling of these old clips. But there’s also a lot of doxxing going on, with real world consequences, and history shows the Internet does not always get the right man.

  13. “prevent seditionists from jeopardizing aviation safety if they do board aircraft.”

    “Of course, non-seditionists will remain entirely free to jeopardize safety.”

  14. So the lock down of DC has started soon they will have gates at all entrances and you will need a pass to enter just like Berlin before the wall came down. A capital that only the few approved may enter and you may not question why you can not enter.

    1. It’s pretty easy to seal off DC to outside traffic-only a few major highways go into it and most is surrounded by water.

      1. never been there but that was my understanding as well. those masons planned it that way

    2. Bets on whether this goes away after the Inauguration?

  15. don’t worry reason they’ll eventually come for you no matter how much bootlicking you do in the meantime.

  16. I’m waiting for my donation to Ron Paul back in 2008 to land me on the no-fly list, or cause me some kind of trouble more serious than the emails I still get from him.

  17. “Acts against our democracy, our government, and the freedom we claim as Americans must disqualify these individuals from the freedom of flight.”

    Fortunately, peaceful protesters and their Marxist enablers who ransacked cities won’t be impacted by such a thing.

  18. If people who attended the Rally/Riot in DC are put on the no-Fly list, then it should also apply to people who attended the various BLM Protests/Riots as well.

    I can see the argument of anyone who actually have been proved to have engaged in violence at any of the events being on the list, but not until a court of law actually convicts them. Until that point they should be treated just like any other citizen.

  19. re: “Clearly, anyone with an outstanding arrest warrant for the commission of a federal crime would absolutely qualify for inclusion on the official ‘No Fly’ list,”

    Uhm, no they would absolutely not. They would qualify for immediate arrest but can not be banned from forever traveling by air unless and until that becomes part of their sentence.

  20. They should be banned from flying for being willing disease vectors.

  21. “detect instances in which those connected with last Wednesday’s attack or their sympathizers may attempt to travel by air again to Washington, D.C.”

    That’s a wide a net. So we’re punishing empathy now? That’s psychotic.

    1. What do we do with ISIS?

      ISIS never got that close to the heart of US democracy.

      Do you march in protest for the rights of ISIS? They haven’t killed nearly as many Americans as Trumpers.

      1. I assume we let them on planes because if we don’t, it’s systemic racism.

        1. *Checks*

          We spend zillions of dollars to try to prevent ISIS from getting on planes.

          1. The systemic racism of the Bush/Trump administration knows no bounds, amirite?

            1. Systemic racism is in the system dude. Bigger than any one administration.

              Bush is getting credit these days for not turning his bloodthirsty subjects against Muslims, for some reason.

              1. Of all the victims of the MAGA murders, which do you think was the most egregious?

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                2. I said “murder.”

                  I think your comparison to ISIS and Trumpheads is technically called “pulling statistics out of your butt.”

              2. I understand completely why you can’t give a coherent answer.

  22. “But trying to add people who were merely present at the Capitol last Wednesday to the FBI’s no-fly list, as Democrats are requesting, raises some serious civil liberties concerns, says Patrick G. Eddington, a research fellow at the Cato Institute.”

    The very existence of the no-fly list raises serious civil liberties concerns. Did we somehow forget that?

    1. The question was addressed in the article.

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