I reported earlier about a federal judge who had slapped down the government over the way they abused their no-fly lists to harass people who had little or no recourse, because they were not told they were on the list or how they could get off it.
In another ruling issued on January 22, 2014, U.S. District Judge Anthony Trenga rejected the government’s request to dismiss a case brought by Gulet Mohamed, a U.S. citizen who alleges that he was prevented from returning to the United States from Kuwait because he appeared on the No Fly List, and that he was subsequently subjected to beatings and mistreatment while in detention in Kuwait.
Judge Trenga was unsparing in describing the consequences of inclusion on the No Fly List: “The impact on a citizen who cannot use a commercial aircraft is profound,” he wrote, and “placement on the No Fly List is life defining and life restricting across a range of constitutionally protected activities and aspirations.” In short, in Judge Trenga’s words, “a No Fly List designation transforms a person into a second class citizen, or worse.”
Judge Trenga echoed — and cited to — the judge’s decision in the ACLU’s lawsuit, which we filed in June 2010 on behalf of 13 U.S. citizens, including four military veterans, who were barred from flying to, from, or within the United States because of their apparent placement on the No Fly List. In our case, the judge added that “[t]he realistic implications of being on the No Fly List are potentially far-reaching,” and can prevent a listed person from traveling by air, sea, or land.
Gulet Mohamed’s situation provided a textbook case of the problems with the list.
The government has refused to say why it would have placed Mohamed on the no-fly list; in fact, the government won’t even confirm that Mohamed, or anyone else, is on the list at all. The government says only that people are placed on the list when it has “reasonable suspicion to believe that a person is a known or suspected terrorist.”
Trenga wrote that a citizen’s right to due process should provide a meaningful opportunity to challenge the government’s rationale for placement on the list.
Mohamed, an Alexandria resident and naturalized U.S. citizen, was 19 when he was detained by Kuwaiti authorities in 2011. Mohamed says he was beaten and interrogated at the behest of the U.S. and denied the right to fly home.
U.S. authorities allowed Mohamed to fly home after he filed a federal lawsuit, but Mohamed says he remains on the list without justification.
You can read judge Trenga’s order here. This ruling rejected a procedural hurdle thrown up by the government. The ruling on the actual case is due shortly.