May 11, 2012 – The American Civil Liberties Union argued in a federal appeals court Friday morning that its challenge to the government’s secretive No Fly List should be reinstated. The ACLU represents 15 U.S. citizens and permanent residents, including four military veterans, who are banned from flying to or from the U.S. or over American airspace, causing great personal hardship. They have never been told why they are on the list or given a reasonable opportunity to get off it.
The national ACLU, along with its affiliates in Oregon, Southern California, Northern California and New Mexico, filed the lawsuit against the FBI, which creates and controls the list. In May 2011, the district court in Portland dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction, ruling that the lawsuit should have been filed against the Transportation Security Administration, which administers the redress process for travelers denied boarding.
“It is unconstitutional for the government to put people on secret lists and deny them the right to travel without even basic due process,” said Nusrat Choudhury, staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project. “Without a meaningful way for people to challenge their inclusion on the list, there's no way to keep innocent people off it. We filed our case against the right agency, and the government’s effort to delay a hearing on the constitutionality of this unfair system is wrong.”
Being unable to fly has severely affected the plaintiffs’ lives, including their ability to be with their families, go to school, and travel for work. Plaintiff Abe Mashal, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and dog trainer, has lost the business of clients located outside of driving distance from his home in Illinois.
“I have no idea why I’m on the list,” said Mashal. “I should have the chance to clear my name and live my life normally. This has been a real hardship for me both personally and financially.”
Friday’s arguments were held at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, sitting in Portland at the historic Pioneer Courthouse. In addition to Choudhury, attorneys on the case are Hina Shamsi of the national ACLU; Kevin Díaz and cooperating attorney Steven Wilker with the ACLU of Oregon; Ahilan Arulanantham and Jennie Pasquarella with the ACLU of Southern California; Alan Schlosser and Julia Harumi Mass of the ACLU of Northern California; Laura Ives of the ACLU of New Mexico; and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP.
More information on the case and legal documents are available at: