No-Fly List Found to Violate Constitutional Rights

A U.S. anti-terrorism “no-fly” program barring people from boarding planes without providing a reason or court hearing is unconstitutional, a federal judge in Oregon ruled.

U.S. District Judge Anna Brown in Portland ruled today in a lawsuit brought by 13 U.S. citizens and permanent residents that the government violated their right to due process by blocking them from flying since 2009. The plaintiffs, who say they pose no threat, included a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and an imam at a Portland mosque.

They filed complaints with the U.S. Homeland Security Department, which they said didn’t confirm or deny the existence of any terrorist watch-list records about them or explain why they are barred from flying.

“Notice of the reasons for inclusion on the no-fly list” and a chance to present evidence “would help ensure the accuracy and completeness of the record,” the judge wrote. She said travelers should have a chance to correct “simple factual errors” with “easy, ready and persuasive explanations.”

The U.S. no-fly list has been challenged in suits across the country by individuals and rights groups saying people are wrongly denied the right to remove their names.

The government says it provides a process by which travelers who believe they are improperly or unfairly barred from boarding planes can file a complaint. It defends its refusal to say whether anyone is on the list as necessary to protect national security.

Travelers can seek court review of their inclusion on the list, and the program is legal because those on the list can travel by other means, federal officials said in court filings.

Brown’s partial ruling left some claims unresolved.

A Justice Department spokeswoman, Dena Iverson, said the department was reviewing the decision and had no immediate comment.

The case is Latif v. U.S. Justice Department, 10-cv-00750, U.S. District Court, District of Oregon (Portland).

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