U.S. Government "No Fly List" Is Unconstitutional and Ineffective

June 29, 2010

The United States' system of deciding who can and can't fly is broken. In recent years, thousands of people have been barred from commercial air travel because of their inclusion or apparent inclusion on a "No Fly List," a component of the federal government's watch list system, without being told why they are on the list or given a chance to rebut the basis of their inclusion.

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Many of these individuals are citizens and lawful permanent residents of the United States; some are veterans of the United States Armed Forces. U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents placed on the No Fly List while traveling abroad have found themselves stranded in foreign countries, effectively exiling them without explanation or appropriate visas, unable to return home to their families, jobs, and needed medical care in the United States. Those placed on the list while inside the United States have been prevented from traveling to visit relatives or access employment and educational opportunities

The Constitution does not permit such a fundamental deprivation of rights to be carried out under a veil of secrecy and in the absence of even rudimentary due process. The government has provided no process for individuals denied boarding on commercial flights to or from the United States or over U.S. airspace to find out the reasons for their inclusion on the No Fly List or to rebut the evidence or innuendo against them.

The ACLU and its affiliates in Oregon, Southern California, Northern California, and New Mexico have filed a legal challenge on behalf of 15 U.S. citizens and residents who cannot fly to or from the U.S. or over American airspace. Our plaintiffs include four U.S. military veterans, two of whom were unable to return home from abroad because of their inclusion on the No Fly List. Although the ACLU secured the return trip home of plaintiffs through what appear to be one-time waivers, none of the them have been told why they are on the list or given a meaningful chance to clear their names.

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