US government sued by people on watch lists

Ryan Devereaux reports that five people have now sued the government for infringing on their civil liberties by placing them on no-fly lists and otherwise harassing them using its massive database to put them on watch lists and used it to pressure them.

One of the plaintiffs, Yaseen Kadura, claims that, after he was placed on the no fly list, a Department of Homeland Security official contacted him and tried to pressure him to become a government informant in Libya, holding out the possibility of being removed from the list as an inducement.

The complaint, which names more than a half dozen senior U.S. officials, including Attorney General Eric Holder, FBI director James Comey and National Counterterrorism Center director Matthew Olsen, says the watchlisted plaintiffs were wrongly barred from flying, passing through security checkpoints, and owning firearms—not to mention denied the right to be free “from the unimaginable indignity and real-life danger of having your own government communicate to hundreds of thousands of federal agents, private contractors, state and local police, the captains of sea-faring vessels, and foreign governments all across the world that you are a violent menace. ”

There have been similar suits brought earlier, notably by journalist Chris Hedges, who argued that the vague language of the National Defense Authorization Act allowed the government to include journalists and human rights activists to be labeled as ‘terrorists’ and thus spy upon them and otherwise harass them. They argued that they had reasonable grounds for thinking that they had been victims of such actions and that it constituted an unconstitutional violation of their privacy.

In that case of Hedges v. Obama, the Obama administration refused to acknowledge whether they had such a comprehensive watch lists and argued that since the plaintiffs could not show that they had been harmed, they had no standing to sue. The courts unfortunately accepted this argument and the suit was dismissed.

But with Snowden’s revelations, the proof of spying and the existence of these watch lists has been documented and the government cannot deny their existence. So the case should go to trial and the government will have to defend its practices under oath and that will be interesting to see.

Of course, the government will try all manner of legal maneuvers to stop having to defend its practices and it is not clear how the courts will rule. But it is a step in the right direction.


  1. Dunc says

    I imagine that the most likely tactic will be to claim that the plaintiffs don’t have standing because they can’t prove they were on the watch list, whilst simultaneously refusing to either confirm or deny whether they were on the list on the grounds of “national security”. In short: “You can’t prove you were on our secret list, and we’re not telling”.

  2. says

    I wish I knew how to put people on the watch list. I’d have the whole thing cleared up pretty quickly, by watchlisting every congressperson, representative, and executive of every beltway bandit.

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