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Apr 24 2014

Using the ‘no fly’ list as a means of coercion

I have written many times before about how the US government abuses is infamous ‘no fly’ list. People arrive at an airport either within the US or abroad to come to the US and are told that they cannot board the plane. No reasons are given for the denial and the affected people cannot find out why they are on the list or whether they are on the list at all or what they can do to try and get off it. It is as perfect an example of the arbitrary denial of due process as one can think of.

Now as a result of a lawsuit, another form of abuse of the list has come to light and that it is being used to coerce people to become government informants.

Awais Sajjad, a lawful permanent U.S. resident living in the New York area, learned he was on the no-fly list in September 2012 after he tried to board a flight to Pakistan at John F. Kennedy International Airport and was turned back.

At the airport, FBI agents questioned Sajjad, a Muslim, before releasing him. But they later returned with an offer. In exchange for working for them, the FBI could provide him with U.S. citizenship and compensation. The FBI, the agents reminded Sajjad, also had the power to decide who was on the no-fly list.

When he refused, the FBI agents “kept him on the list in order to pressure and coerce Mr. Sajjad to sacrifice his constitutionally-protected rights,” according to an amended lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court in New York.

(You can read the lawsuit here.)

NPR told a similar story yesterday about the case of Naveed Shinwari.

Note that although the list is supposed to keep ‘terrorists’ off planes, the government clearly did not think that either Sajjad and Shinwari were, since they offered to take them off the list and even offered to give Sajjad citizenship if he played along with them, since real terrorists would have jumped at such an offer. So this was purely a coercive measure.

Flying is no longer a luxury that can be dispensed with. Not being allowed to fly can be a real hardship for many people these days and the government having this kind of power and using it in this way is dangerous.

5 comments

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  1. 1
    Marcus Ranum

    The funny part is that some people complained it might be used coercively, but were poo-pooed with denials. “No, way!!! It’s only going to be used against people with islamic last names, like Greenwald!”

  2. 2
    Marcus Ranum

    Honestly, I want to legally change my name to Bin Dover except I fly a whole lot.

  3. 3
    colnago80

    Re #2

    Since Greenwald was able to fly in to the US to collect his reward for reporting, apparently he’s not on a no fly list.

  4. 4
    Marcus Ranum

    Since Greenwald was able to fly in to the US to collect his reward for reporting, apparently he’s not on a no fly list.

    “Glenn Greenwald” has been whitelisted since his boyfriend was blacklisted.

  5. 5
    readysf

    This is not only dangerous, but shameful that there isn’t more outrage.

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