U.S. District Judge Anna Brown, ruling on a lawsuit filed in
federal court in Oregon by 13 Muslim Americans who were branded with
the no-fly status, ordered the government to come up with new
procedures that allow people on the no-fly list to challenge that
"The court concludes international travel is not a mere convenience
or luxury in this modern world. Indeed, for many international
travel is a necessary aspect of liberties sacred to members of a
free society," Brown wrote in her 65-page ruling.
"Accordingly, on this record the court concludes plaintiffs
inclusion on the no-fly list constitutes a significant deprivation
of their liberty interests in international travel," Brown said.
The decision hands a major victory to the 13 plaintiffs - four of
them veterans of the U.S. military - who deny they have links to
terrorism and say they only learned of their no-fly status when they
arrived at an airport and were blocked from boarding a flight.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which brought suit against the
policy in 2010, argues that secrecy surrounding the list and lack of
any reasonable opportunity for plaintiffs to fight their placement
on it violates their clients' constitutional rights to due process.
“For years, in the name of national security the government has
argued for blanket secrecy and judicial deference to its profoundly
unfair no-fly list procedures and those arguments have now been
resoundingly rejected by the court," Hina Shamsi, the ACLU's
national security project director, said in a written statement.
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"This excellent decision also benefits other people wrongly stuck on
the no-fly list with the promise of a way out from a Kafkaesque
bureaucracy causing them no end of grief and hardships," Shamsi
The government contends there is an adequate means of contesting the
flight ban and that individuals listed under the policy may
ultimately petition a U.S. appeals court directly for relief.
Attorneys for the U.S. Department of Justice, which defended the
lawsuit, declined to comment, other than to say they needed more
time to read the ruling.
The no-fly list, established in 2003 in the aftermath of the Sept.
11, 2001, attacks, bars those on it from flying within the United
States or to and from the country. As of last year, it included some
20,000 people deemed by the FBI as having, or reasonably suspected
of having, ties to terrorism, an agency spokesman said at the time.
About 500 of them were U.S. citizens.
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