Minority Report Meets the No Fly List
In the movie Minority Report, Hollywood depicts a future Washington, D.C., in which people are arrested by a special police force called Precrime, based on predictions that they will commit murders in the future. The film’s preventive policing model achieves a form of perfect safety, which is appealing. Until things go horribly wrong. Even in Hollywood, there are major issues with a crime prevention system that presumes future guilt without the ability to prove innocence.
They are far from alone. Based on a leaked government document published by the Intercept last August, there were approximately 47,000 people on the no-fly list, of whom about 800 were U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. In all likelihood, the numbers are higher now.
Worse, the U.S. government launched its predictive judgment model without offering any evidence whatsoever about its accuracy, any scientific basis or methodology that might justify it, or the extent to which it results in errors.
It gets worse still. Because the government’s predictive model results in the blacklisting of people who are not terrorists, individuals on the no-fly list need a meaningful method of redress—a fair way to demonstrate their “innocence” of crimes they will never commit. Without these basic requirements of a fair process, our clients can’t meaningfully challenge the government’s predictions.
According to the government, national security requires this secrecy, even though Congress and the courts have devised time-tested tools used every day in national security and other cases to protect the government’s secrets while providing individuals meaningful ways to challenge government deprivations of liberties. We have asked the court in our clients’ case to strike down the government’s current redress process as unconstitutional. Otherwise, dystopian science fiction will become reality.