Today, American Civil Liberties Union attorney Nusrat Choudhury is in Portland arguing to a federal appeals court panel of judges a lawsuit challenging the government's "no-fly" list ought to be reinstated.
The ACLU lawsuit, first filed in 2010 on behalf of 15 plaintiffs who'd been placed on the list—including U.S. military veterans—was dismissed one year ago by U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown of Portland.
Brown's opinion (pdf) said her court lacked jurisdiction in the case and that it ought to have been filed against the Transportation Security Administration, rather than other federal law enforcement agencies.
"Yet, in court filings, the government itself admitted that the Transportation Security Administration plays only a ministerial role, and it is the [FBI-managed] Terrorist Screening Center that makes the decision to put people on the No-Fly List or remove them," Choudhury, pictured, writes on her blog, summarizing her arguments today to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel.
She goes on:
We filed our case against the right agency, and the government's effort to delay a hearing on the constitutionality of this unfair system is wrong.
Being unable to fly has severely affected the plaintiffs' lives, including their ability to be with their families, go to school, and travel for work. Plaintiff Abe Mashal, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and dog trainer, has lost the business of clients located outside of driving distance from his home in Illinois. He told us: "I have no idea why I'm on the list. I should have the chance to clear my name and live my life normally. This has been a real hardship for me both personally and financially."
It is unconstitutional for the government to put people on secret lists and deny them the right to travel without even basic due process. Without a meaningful way for people to challenge their inclusion on the list, there's also no way to keep innocent people off it.