An Associated Press report today reveals that, “Even as the Obama administration says it’s close to defeating al-Qaida, the size of the government’s secret list of suspected terrorists who are banned from flying to or within the United States has more than doubled in the past year.” The AP’s Eileen Sullivan reports that the “No Fly List” has grown to about 21,000 people, including some 500 Americans.
The AP also created an interactive feature that illustrates the layers of analysis considered by various agencies in placing individuals on the list. You can take yourself through the decision process here.
The ACLU has filed a legal challenge on behalf of fifteen American citizens and lawful permanent residents who cannot fly to or from the U.S. or over its airspace because they are on the list. Today’s article quotes one of the ACLU lawyers working on the case, Nusrat Choudhury, who said, “The news that the list is growing tells us that more people’s rights are being violated. It’s a secret list, and the government puts people on it without any explanation. Citizens have been stranded abroad.”
Indeed, none of our plaintiffs, including two veterans of the U.S. Marine Corps (one of whom is disabled), a U.S. Army veteran, and a U.S. Air Force veteran, have been told why they are on the list or given a meaningful chance to clear their names (watch a video with retired Marine Ayman Latif here). Yet, they have been prevented from flying to visit relatives, go to school, and access employment opportunities. Those who were stranded abroad due to placement on the No Fly List while traveling overseas were permitted to fly home to the U.S. on what appear to be one-time only waivers due to the ACLU’s intervention through its lawsuit.
To deprive people of their right to travel without any notice or opportunity to object is unfair and unconstitutional. The news that the list is getting bigger only magnifies the problem.