For the First Time, U.S. Acknowledges Individuals’ Inclusion on No-Fly List

Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Abe Mashal, one of 7 people removed from the no-fly list (photo: AP/Sun-Times Media)

For the first time since the no-fly list was established shortly after the 9/11 attacks, officials in Washington have publicly acknowledged to some of those who had been prohibited from getting on a commercial airliner that they were on the list.


Seven people were officially identified as being on the list and removed from it, but only after the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) lost a fight in federal court to keep those names a secret. Six others will be told why they’re still barred from flying and given a chance to appeal their inclusion on the list. The 13 sued for the information with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and won a favorable ruling from District Judge Anna Brown in Portland, Oregon.


DHS had fought the lawsuit, claiming it needed to keep the list a secret to protect national security. Brown rejected that argument, saying the agency was violating the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights by denying their ability to fly and challenging the government’s assumption that they represented potential threats to air safety.


ACLU attorney Hina Shamsi told the Associated Press: “This is huge in terms of the secrecy regime, and a regime of unconstitutional unfairness crumbling.”


Until the ruling, people could learn of their status only by buying an airline ticket and attempting to get on a plane. Those who were denied boarding were assumed to be on the no-fly list. Those on the list had little recourse; they could challenge their inclusion, but were told only if their appeal was received and reviewed, not how it was decided.


As of August 2013, there were more than 47,000 on the no-fly list, about 800 of them Americans, according to The Intercept. That number is a small fraction of the 680,000 who were said to be on the government’s terrorism watch list at that time.


Plaintiff Abe Mashal, a former U.S. Marine who four years ago was banned from flying, declared: “Today, I learned I have my freedoms back.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

7 Plaintiffs in No-Fly List Lawsuit Cleared to Fly (by Steven Dubois, Associated Press)

Government’s Secretive “No-Fly List” Regime Crumbling, says ACLU (by Jon Queally, Common Dreams)

US Changing No-Fly List Rules (by Eileen Sullivan, Associated Press)

U.S. Government Watchlisting: Unfair Process and Devastating Consequences (American Civil Liberties Union) (pdf)

Barack Obama’s Secret Terrorist-Tracking System, by the Numbers (by Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux, The Intercept)

After 9 Years, Woman Gets off Secret No-Fly List, then Is Put on Secret Visa-Denial List (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

Thirteen on No-Fly List Sue Federal Government Claiming Secret List is Unconstitutional (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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