The Volokh Conspiracy
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Terror Watch Lists Run Amok
After eight years of confounding litigation and coordinated intransigence, the Justice Department this week grudgingly informed Rahinah Ibrahim, a Malaysian architecture professor, that she was no longer on the federal government's vastly overbroad no-fly list….
In a recently unredacted portion of his January ruling, Judge Alsup noted that in 2009 the government added Dr. Ibrahim back to its central terrorist-screening database under a "secret exception" to its own standard of proof. This would be laughable if it weren't such a violation of basic rights. A democratic society premised on due process and open courts cannot tolerate such behavior.
Now, from a New York Times editorial Friday:
While the nation suffered through the shock of another bloody massacre, on Thursday every Senate Republican except Mark Kirk of Illinois voted against legislation to prevent people on the F.B.I.'s consolidated terrorist watchlist from purchasing guns or explosives. …
"If you need proof that Congress is a hostage to the gun lobby, look no further than today's vote," said Senator Dianne Feinstein, who sponsored the terror watchlist measure….
The House speaker, Paul Ryan, issued his party's weak defense of arming potential terrorism suspects on Thursday morning: "I think it's very important to remember people have due process rights in this country, and we can't have some government official just arbitrarily put them on a list." Mr. Ryan's Senate colleagues demonstrated that they are more worried about the possibility that someone might be turned away from a gun shop than shielding the public against violent criminals.
"Due process"—what a "weak defense"! "Vastly overbroad" lists "run amok"—how wonderful!
[UPDATE: For more on this, including some brief thoughts related to the no-fly list itself, see this post.]