Back in June of this year, Annabelle Bamforth at BenSwann.com reported on a case that the American Civil Liberties Union filed on behalf of 13 Americans who found themselves on the federal government’s no-fly list. At that June hearing, US District Judge Anna Brown ruled that the Department of Homeland Security’s Traveler Redress Inquiry Program, the process through which Americans found to be on the no-fly list request their removal, violates due process rights and is unconstitutional. At issue were the facts that individuals who contacted DHS through the program almost never received a meaningful reply and that those who were removed from the list were not being notified, as officials claimed doing so would jeopardize national security.
Now, Ars Technica is reporting that the Department of Justice, for the first time in US history, just announced the names of seven Americans who were removed from the no-fly list in response to the ruling. In a letter dated October 10, the DOJ declared that Ayman Latif, Elias Mustafa Mohamed, Nagib Ali Ghaleb, Abdullatif Muthanna, Ibraheim Y Mashal, Salah Ali Ahmed, and Mashaal Rana, seven of the 13 plaintiffs on the ACLU’s lawsuit, have been cleared to board planes again in the land of the free. NPR notes that the six additional Americans listed on the ACLU’s lawsuit who have not yet been cleared will be told the rationale behind their inclusion on the list by January of 2015, at which time they will be allowed to defend themselves from those allegations.
One of the Americans who was cleared in Friday’s letter from the DOJ, Ibraheim Mashal, is a veteran who served his country in the US Marine Corps. In a statement cited by Ars Technica, Marshal said, “More than four years ago, I was denied boarding at an airport, surrounded by TSA agents, and questioned by the FBI… That day, many freedoms that I took for granted were robbed from me. I was never told why this happened, whether I was officially on the list, or what I could do to get my freedoms back. Now, I can resume working for clients who are beyond driving distance. I can attend weddings, graduations, and funerals that were too far away to reach by car or train. I can travel with my family to Hawaii, Jamaica, or anywhere else on vacation.”
Ars Technica notes that, according to a leaked federal “watchlisting guidance” manual, over a dozen federal agencies have the power to nominate people for terrorist watch lists and “irrefutable evidence or concrete facts are not necessary” for inclusion. Over the past five years, 1.5 million Americans have been nominated for inclusion on terrorist watch lists. 470,000 names were nominated in 2013, of which 4,915 were rejected. By August of 2013, 680,000 people had been listed on the government’s master terrorist list, of which 280,000 are not accused of having any ties to a terrorist organization. By that same date, 47,000 people and 800 Americans had been identified as being on the no-fly list.
The ACLU declared victory in an October 10 blog post about the case and released this quote by the director of the American Civil Liberties Union National Security Project, Hina Shamsi, “This is a victory for transparency and fairness over untenable government secrecy and stonewalling. After years of being blacklisted and denied due process, seven of our clients know they can fly again, and the rest will soon be able to fight back against their unjust flying ban… The opportunity that the plaintiffs in our case are finally getting to clear their names should be available to everyone on the No Fly List as soon as possible.” This landmark case may lead to a future in which additional Americans are able to challenge the merits of their inclusion on the no-fly list.