The Department of Homeland Security’s method for the public to challenge placement on a no-fly list is unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled [PDF] Tuesday. US District Judge Anna Brown ordered the authorities to revise the process she declared as "wholly ineffective."
Brown’s ruling stems from a case brought by 13 people on a no-fly list. The judge wrote that the redress process does not provide "a meaningful mechanism for travelers who have been denied boarding to correct erroneous information in the government’s terrorism databases."
It was the first time a court declared the Traveler Redress Inquiry Program run by the Department of Homeland Security as unconstitutional.
“Our clients will finally get the due process to which they are entitled under the Constitution. This excellent decision also benefits other people wrongly stuck on the no-fly list, with the promise of a way out from a Kafkaesque bureaucracy causing them no end of grief and hardship. We hope this serves as a wake-up call for the government to fix its broken watch list system, which has swept up so many innocent people," said Hina Shamsi, the national security project director of the American Civil Liberties Union.
The decision comes months after a Muslim woman was the first to successfully challenge her placement on a watch list. But that decision did not raise the broader constitutional issues like the case decided Tuesday. The Justice Department said it was reviewing the decision and declined comment on whether it would appeal.
Under the redress program, the government responds to passengers with a letter that neither explains why they are on a watch list that usually bars them from flight nor says whether they’ve been removed from a watch list.
Brown ordered DHS to disclose to the plaintiffs, with unclassified information, why they were placed on a watch list.
Sheikh Mohamed Abdirahman Kariye, who is the imam of Portland’s largest Mosque and a plaintiff in the case, was elated with the decision.
“I have been prevented by the government from traveling to visit my family members and fulfill religious obligations for years, and it has had a devastating impact on all of us," he said in a statement. "After all this time, I look forward to a fair process that allows me to clear my name in court.”
David Kravets / The senior editor for Ars Technica. Founder of TYDN fake news site. Technologist. Political scientist. Humorist. Dad of two boys. Been doing journalism for so long I remember manual typewriters with real paper. Bikram Choudhury is my master.
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