Civil Liberties

The No-Fly List Is a Civil Liberties Nightmare

Existing laws are more than adequate to handle the Capitol rioters.


Not long after the January 6 Capitol riot, politicians began lining up to call for more laws and broader government surveillance powers. Less than a week later, soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.) held a press conference at which he proposed expanding the federal no-fly list, which bars people from boarding airplanes, to include individuals accused of participating in the riot.

"The insurrectionists who breached the U.S. Capitol fall under the definition of threats to the homeland," Schumer told news cameras, holding up a piece of paper with an image of a "no" symbol over an airplane as a visual aid. "We are calling on the authorities…to put them on the no-fly list immediately."

Schumer's recommendation was supported by other Democrats, including the chair of the House Homeland Security Committee. The FBI and Transportation Security Administration have said they are looking into the suggestion.

This is not the first time politicians have touted the no-fly list as a solution to the crisis du jour. A common refrain during the Obama administration, echoed by both major-party presidential nominees in 2016, was that people in the FBI's Terrorist Screening Database, which includes the no-fly list, should not be allowed to buy guns.

Using the list to abridge civil liberties was a bad idea then, and it's a bad idea now. The no-fly list is a civil liberties nightmare: secretive and nearly impossible to challenge.

Although it existed prior to 9/11, the list ballooned afterward, from a total of 16 people to about 4,600 U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents as of 2017. A 2014 investigation by The Intercept found that 40 percent of the nearly 700,000 names in the broader Terrorist Screening Database were not linked to any specific terrorist group.

Because of government secrecy, false positives and other mistakes were absurdly hard to fix. Such was the case with Rahinah Ibrahim, a doctoral candidate attending Stanford University on a student visa. She ended up on the no-fly list in 2004 after an FBI agent checked the wrong box on some paperwork. At the time, the government had a policy of refusing to confirm or deny a person's watch-list status, putting Ibrahim in the position of trying to challenge a program that she could not prove affected her.

It took Ibrahim a decade to get off the no-fly list. In 2014, she became the first person to mount a successful challenge. Around the same time, the American Civil Liberties Union won a lawsuit challenging the list, which resulted in several concessions. The government now informs people of their status and gives them a summary of why they were added.

The legal challenges keep coming. In December 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that three Muslim men could sue several FBI agents for putting them on the no-fly list in retaliation for refusing to become informants. As Ramzi Kassem, the lawyer representing the three men, told NPR, the problem with the no-fly list is that it combines "tremendous power with a near-total lack of transparency."

The U.S. has a long, ignominious history of abridging civil liberties in times of fear and anger, and those with the fewest resources to fight back tend to bear the brunt of the government's expanded power. After the Oklahoma City bombing, Congress passed the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, a law that significantly limits inmates' rights to challenge their confinement through habeas corpus petitions. Just last year, the Voice of San Diego reported that city police were still using a municipal code enacted during World War I to issue tickets for "seditious language."

Along with expanding the no-fly list, lawmakers and pundits floated other ideas in the wake of the Capitol riot, including a new domestic terrorism statute. Existing laws are more than adequate to handle the Capitol rioters or anyone else who commits crimes against people or their property. Adding another level of illegality would give the government yet more leverage over unpopular defendants.

NEXT: Brickbat: They'll Never Miss It

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  1. If your fly is open, that can be pretty offensive, but I think it’s usually just accidental. Simple forgetfulness…

    Now if your have NO fly at ALL, and your pecker is hanging out, THAT has GOT to be a DELIBERATE choice! Not just a “wardrobe malfunction”!

    So I have ZERO sympathy for those on the “no fly” list!!!

    1. I would have a lot of sympathy for someone who had no fly because the government wouldn’t let him have one.

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    2. Stop kowtowing to the press’s narrative, there was no Capitol “riot” on January 6th. There were protesters that were invited in to the Capitol by actors planted as cops and people went in and milled around and took pictures. Don’t disrespect actual riots, by calling what happened then a “riot”.

  2. “The No-Fly List Is a Civil Liberties Nightmare.”

    Of course it is. Why do you think politicians and government bureaucrats love it so?

    1. It has never been a nightmare for them. How many of them fly commercial regularly. They can hitch a ride with John Kerry to reduce his carbon footprint. It is like a “ride share” for hypocrites.

    2. But MEAN TWEETS! They voted to stop MEAN TWEETS. Who cares about civil liberty violations!!!! Got to deal with those MEAN TWEETS and INSURRECTIONISTS.

  3. Combine that with the threat of immunity passport revocation and you’ve got a society finally ready to submit to its betters.

    1. Actually, at that point, you have a society largely populated by people who have been boxed in by an unresponsive government, with a decreasing level of hope that it will get better — thus an increasing incentive to rebel.

  4. Meanwhile, despite claiming that so many of the rioters were perpetrating sedition, not a single one of 400 rioters that were arrested have been charged with sedition. In fact, one of the judges working through these cases became so sick of government lawyers going on television and potentially prejudicing juries with false statements, that he threatened to hit prosecutors with a gag order if they didn’t cut it out.

    The most serious charges against the rioters are assault, conspiracy, and obstruction, and those charges keep getting dismissed by judges and the defendants released (over prosecutors’ objections) when the judges determine the evidence doesn’t support any charge more serious than trespassing.

    The prosecutors are full of shit, and anyone is basing their opinions on what prosecutors have said publicly are basing their opinions on a source that has proven to be unreliable.

    1. What’s so hard to understand? Prosecutors are saints, it’s only the cops that should be hated.

      Apparently, anyway, since our VP was put in place because of her skin color even though as a prosecutor she put a whole shit ton of black people in jail. All this with the backdrop of BLM rioting over prosecutors and cops putting black people in jail.

      If she had the same track record, but was white, she would be labeled as part of the problem without a second of hesitation by her own party.

      In todays world, people must really believe it is impossible to be racist if you aren’t white. At it’s very core, that is incredibly racist yet no one seems to see it.

      I.E. Reason and logic are dead.

      1. Apparently, anyway, since our VP was put in place because of her (exposed) skin.


      2. I propose a “field study” in the Austin or Englewood neighborhoods in Chicago. Of course, the “field study” must be performed at night, nobody is out during the day there.

    2. Everyone here who remembers Preet Bahara knows how completely full of it federal prosecutors can be. This is an excellent example:

      “On Jan. 19, prosecutors said they believed Thomas Caldwell, a retired U.S. Navy officer from Virginia, had a “leadership role” within the Oath Keepers. The FBI, in a criminal complaint, described Facebook messages Caldwell allegedly sent and received “while at the Capitol,” including one urging him to turn on the gas and tear up the floorboards.

      “‘All members are in the tunnels under capital seal them in. Turn on gas,’” it read.

      A prosecutor in Florida read those words aloud in February in a bid to convince a judge to detain two of Caldwell’s co-defendants. Prosecutors now acknowledge that Caldwell was not even a dues-paying member of the Oath Keepers and that they lack evidence he ever entered the Capitol.

      There also are questions about the Facebook messages. Caldwell’s lawyer said in a March 10 court filing those messages were sent by two men who were more than 60 miles (100 km) away at the time and had no connection to the Oath Keepers. The comments were apparently satirical, albeit “tasteless,” his lawyer said, and Caldwell never responded to them.

      Prosecutors have made no references to these Facebook messages in subsequent indictments and court filings.


      March 24, 2021

      They basically just made it up when they applied it to this guy!

      The Democrats are simply trying to silence their critics and prevent people from coming to Washington DC to protest against their awful policies. They’re also relying on the news media to help intimidate people and make us afraid to criticize the Democrats’ government or protest against the government the Democrats’ control.

      Giving equal consideration to the Democrats’ claims about the Capitol rioters and why the Democrats should be free to crack down on speech, travel, and protest may prove to be an excellent example of bothsidism gone wrong. Three months later, using all the resources of federal law enforcement, they have only been able to identify and arrest 400 people, most of whom were probably only guilty of trespassing? This is not a national emergency.

      1. Remember that before you post hunting photos on the internet. That picture of you holding a weapon while wearing camo is the exact “SWAT porn” they will use to prove that you are an armed, committed terrorist. “We gotta go in hard boys, that turkey gun is a threat to America”.

        1. They’re just makin’ shit up, and they’ve been caught red-handed. If I were a judge, and the federal prosecutor read that statement to me during the arraignment, and I subsequently found out it was all bullshit, I’d want to know exactly when the prosecutor found out it was bullshit. Was it before or after the prosecutor read that statement?

          We’re all familiar with the fact that the FBI knowingly submitted testimony they knew to be unreliable to the FISA court to justify getting a warrant to do surveillance on the Trump campaign. What if that kind of thing isn’t unusual? What if that kind of thing is standard operating procedure? They apparently did the same kind of thing to Michael Flynn.

          To whom are these people accountable? Is it the Democrat in the White House? Is it the Democrat controlled Congress? I guess if you’re a federal prosecutor going after Republicans who speak out against and protest against the Democrat controlled government right now, you don’t have much to worry about if you cut some corners or perpetrate some injustice.

          1. I think the news so far has shown they are not accountable to anybody. Over and over again, these people are caught in lies, and nothing else happens. Then some low person on the totem pole gets caught doing something embarrassing, and they get rolled under the bus: thinking of Lisa Page and Peter Strzok here. They might have gotten dismissed from the FBI, but I can’t find a reference for it. Latest news, I think Strzok is waiting/has received some sort of book deal out of it.

            If these prosecutors overreach/outright lie, and nothing else happens, are they really accountable to anyone? Why should we expect anyone else in the government at an equivalent or higher level do act otherwise?

            1. It is like all concerns for criminal justice reform went out the window.

          2. Treason is only a crime if it fails. And only punishable if the accused does not have a dominant faction in government running cover.

          3. Remember the punishment kamala got for falsifying evidence and confession? Me eighter

          4. “What if that kind of thing isn’t unusual?”

            They argued that their targeting of Trump campaign associates wasn’t politically motivated, because they do this shit all the time to everybody.

    3. But Brian Sicknick is dead!!!

      1. So is Ashli Babbitt.

        1. so is that other officer who was just killed at the capital but no one remembers his name no flags at half staff no memorial why? wrong type of killer or is that the correct type of killer?

          1. Probably for the same reason you cannot be bothered too look up his name.

    4. Keep trying to dismiss what happened instead of reflecting on what it says about lies you have bought into and promoted.

      1. You’re an idiot.

      2. Keep trying to dismiss what happened


        1. You’ll have to take that up with Tulpa, NACL Guy.

          1. In this thread, WK continues to spin lies.

    5. Maybe if you write a whole lot of wordy comments you can suppress the creeping thought in the back of your mind that you were fooled by a low-life grifter for the last four years.

      1. The things I said about the protesters and the prosecutors were true (or false) regardless of how I feel about Donald Trump. The ad hominem fallacy has been explained to you many times, and you still don’t understand it. That is why you’re an idiot.

        General Premise: Idiots can’t understand the ad hominem fallacy.

        Specific Premise: White Knight can’t understand the ad hominem fallacy.

        Conclusion: Therefore, White Knight is an idiot.

        1. “ The things I said about the protesters and the prosecutors were [cherry picked to make me feel better about my own misgiven political sellout of my supposed libertarian beliefs to a grifter.]”

          Fixed it for you.

          1. You are not equipped to have a conversation with Ken or anyone else here, for that matter.

            Go beat yourself to death with a fire extinguisher.

            1. Jesus, that made me laugh.

            2. It isn’t that it hasn’t been explained to her.

              It isn’t that it’s been explained to her poorly.

              We’re dealing with someone who is demonstrably incapable of comprehending something as simple as the ad hominem fallacy–to the point that she steps in the same pile of shit again and again, like she did right there.

              When people can’t learn and/or don’t want to learn, there’s nothing we can do for them, and this person clearly doesn’t know or care whether she’s wrong or right. It’s even hard to feel sorry for them when they’re like that since, you know, they’re what’s wrong with society.

              Socialists from Orwell to Christopher Hitchens had important and interesting things to tell us. There are interesting discussions to be had about associating with authoritarians like Pinochet–even if we hate his authoritarianism. I’m all about listening to people that disagree with me, and I abhor elitism and the appeal to authority. I’ve learned plenty from the observations and opinions of average people. I want to hear what they have to say!

              But I draw the line around anybody who doesn’t care whether she’s wrong or right. I tried to show her the the difference between good arguments and bad. She genuinely doesn’t care whether she’s wrong or right. There’s no good way to deal with someone like that. I’m not even sure you can deprogram a cult victim if they don’t care whether they’re wrong or right. It’s like a fundamental requirement.

              NPCs don’t care whether they win or lose the game. When people choose to be NPCs, I guess that’s sad, but it’s also pathetic. I feel for ’em, but I can’t quite reach ’em.

              1. “ad hominem fallacy”

                Dude, I’m blatantly criticizing you for being a supposed libertarian and selling out your principles to Trump the Grifter.

                For my criticizing you to be a fallacy, I would have to be using my criticism of you to advance some argument other than that you are worthy of criticism.

                1. What you’re saying wasn’t stupid because it was intentionally stupid?

                  1. My point about why my criticism of you is not a fallacy is perfectly valid.

                    Are you saying you don’t understand the difference between Person Y criticizing Person X purely as criticizing Person X, and Person Y criticizing Person X as a fallacious method of arguing against a position Person X has taken on a debate topic not directly related to Person X’s personal traits or beliefs?

                  2. Telling that you are trying to stake out the position that you are some kind of master of rhetorical sciences, but you immediately descend to, “You are a meany, poopy face!”

        2. While not disagreeing with your conclusion, your syllogism is invalid. Specifically, you have your General Premise backwards. What you argued is:
          – All men are mortal.
          – Socrates is mortal.
          – Therefore, Socrates is a man.
          That is logically invalid because Socrates could be a woman.

          If you invert your General Premise to “Those who can’t understand the ad hominem fallacy are idiots”, your syllogism would work.

          1. Thank you for the correction.

  5. the government had a policy of refusing to confirm or deny a person’s watch-list status, putting Ibrahim in the position of trying to challenge a program that she could not prove affected her.

    What reason was given for refusal when she tried to board a plane?

    “We can neither confirm nor deny that we’re not allowing you to fly.”

    1. As I understand, you are just held in place by the TSA, questioned or ignored until your flight leaves, and then released with no apology. Lather, rinse, repeat. You have to eventually figure it out on your own, and still you never really know.

      [I, number 6, could be completely wrong about this.]

  6. If you have ever met anyone from the TSA “red team” you will realize that all of this is for nothing. While the TSA excels at delaying you before your flight, treating you like a child, and feeling up your daughters and wives, they are absolutely ineffective at stopping explosive devices from getting through. Their “high tech” equipment will alert on the lanolin products in a mother’s baby bag, but it will still miss commonly used actual explosives. Those “essential” government hires will get a solid look at your scrotum, just in case that is a threat to America. Try as I might, I have never been able to hide a grenade in my jock nor have I been able to retain any amount of C4 under my silky coin purse.
    I wise man once told me, “if we don’t pay them to do that, we will just pay them to do nothing”. In the case of the TSA, we would all be better off if we just paid them to stay home.

    1. “”Those “essential” government hires will get a solid look at your scrotum, just in case that is a threat to America.””

      We are all Bill Clinton now.

  7. “The insurrectionists who breached the U.S. Capitol fall under the definition of threats to the homeland,” Schumer told news cameras.

    He then went on to say, “To protect the homeland, from now on these people will have to wear a cloth badge sewn onto their clothes, and to work and live only in designated areas.”

  8. Citation please on any no-fly list prior to 9/11? It seemed to me to be a brand stinking new, fresh out of the dump, idea on September 12. A bad idea then and a bad idea now.

    Unless you have been *convicted* of a having been involved in a violent protest, the First Amendment is pretty clear about a right to peacefully assemble, which necessitates being able to get to such gathering (on your own nickel).

    1. Wikipedia cites to 2 sources for that claim. The first is a physical text which I cannot easily verify. The second is a powerpoint presentation compiled by the ACLU which does not divulge the source of their information. It was, however, entered into the public record in Gordon v FBI (2003) and was not, as far as I can tell, opposed or controverted in that case.

      So yes, there’s a citation but it’s not a particularly good one. Which doesn’t change your main point that it was a bad idea then and a worse one now.

      1. Too bad that it wasn’t nipped in the bud pre-9/11, it would have been much easier than killing the cancer that it has become now.

  9. OT:

    Fauci tamps down fears of another coronavirus wave

    That pretty much means a fourth wave is coming, doesn’t it?

    1. Hopefully it won’t be much longer until he’s gone from the NIH and hawking “Doc Fauci’s Miracle Elixir” on late night cable.

  10. Ask yourself whom they do not propose putting on the no-fly list and you can glean their true motivation.

    1. Your comment is a marvel of fact-free paranoia and vague insinuation.

      1. Do you want that government boot with salt, or with pepper?

        1. He doesn’t care, as long as he can wash it all down with a tall glass of hydroperoxyl.

          1. Hey, it’s NACL2 Dude!

            1. NACL2? That’s one seriously unstable molecule.

              1. Totally! It even contains some elements that don’t exist. And you discovered it!

  11. A “no fly” list is evidence that the TSA is incompetent to fully search the persons and baggage of those deemed a potential terrorist.
    Instead, these folks are denied the ability to fly, no matter how invasive a search they may wish to put up with, and basically told to drive from one place to another in a van or car that can contain any number of undetected explosive and WMD devices.

  12. And it’s white leftists who keep asking for its use along with sedition charges. Yep that’s right the people in power are all white supremacists who claim allegiance with the far left and communism, and they want to destroy civil rights.

    You voted for this crew, you got what you deserved.

  13. The No-Fly List Is a Civil Liberties Nightmare

    But oh-so useful once we could stick Trump voters on it.

  14. Are they also going to put all those who burned up Chicago and Kenosha WI on the no-fly list?

    Nah. I didn’t think so. It’s only a “riot” if you’re conservative. If you’re liberal, then it’s a “protest”.

    1. … and a *peaceful* protest at that, according to the vast majority of news sources.

      1. Yes, those were peaceful fires, peaceful broken windows, and peaceful looting.

        In the rare times when liberals around me admitted that something wasn’t peaceful, they’d still excuse it by saying things like “their frustration is understandable…”

        Am I evil that I sort of hoped the “peaceful protestors” would smash up my liberal friends houses and places of employment? I wonder how “understandable” it would be then.

  15. Remember, any time, Schumer, Pelosi, and company talk about “civil rights” or “civil liberties”, they are only talking about the kind that won’t inconvenience their Administrative State.

  16. It was late 2002 and I am a prolific airline flyer. All over the USA. International also. All of a sudden my airport experience changed dramatically. Every single time at airport given “special boarding ticket” with some kind of XXXX code for carry-on inspected and full body pat down. Every time no matter which airline and wondered why so I asked ticket agent one day. She replied “your name and DOB and US Passport are all listed a Dangerous Known Associate from the TSA” and I thought WTF is this? How did I wind up on Feds radar? Proven again at entry to Canada and taken to back room where announced “we will go through all baggage carefully and we demand your computer password”. I asked politely why and here’s word for word what Female Sergeant told me while she was whacking my Passport in her hand “we do not have a problem with you but your own government certainly does”. And then one day years later all this BS stopped. No more special boarding pass. No more intrusion. Went to several foreign countries no prob so apparently now off the “special list” and why is that? That is the power of an unelected unaccountable powerful agency of the government. And they don’t care because no one can make them care.

  17. Once Biden’s high-speed rail network exists, do you suppose there might (also) be “no-ride” lists?
    It’s closing in from all directions.

  18. Thanks for sharing. I like all the comments on this post

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