The ACLU is fighting to get answers for Americans put on the FBI’s “No-Fly” list.  Last Friday, the ACLU’s attorneys argued in the U.S. Appeals Court for the Ninth Circuit, representing 15 citizens and permanent residents, including four military veterans, who were banned by the FBI from flying to or from the US.  They were never told why or how they ended up on the list, or how to get off the list. 

Some of the victims are as follows: 

  Ibraheim (Abe) Mashal, a U.S. citizen and veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, is a traveling dog trainer and father of three. 
  Ayman Latif, a U.S. citizen and disabled Marine veteran.
  Raymond Earl Knaeble, a U.S. citizen and U.S. Army veteran.
  Steven Washburn, a U.S. citizen and U.S. Air Force veteran who was prevented from flying from Europe to the United States or Mexico; he eventually flew to Brazil, and from there to Mexico, where he was detained and finally escorted across the border by U.S. officials.

One victim is Abe Mashal, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and dog trainer.  “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.”  There is more to Mashal’s story, according to Wikipedia:

Abe Mashal, a 31-year-old Muslim and United States Marine Veteran, found himself on the No Fly List in April 2010 while attempting to board a plane out of Midway Airport. He was questioned by the TSA, FBI and Chicago Police at the airport and was told they had no clue why he was on the No Fly List. Once he arrived at home that day, two other FBI agents came to his home and used a Do Not Fly question-and-answer sheet to question him. They informed him they had no idea why he was on the No Fly List. In June 2010, those same two FBI agents summoned Mashal to a local hotel and invited him to a private room. They told him that he was in no trouble and the reason he ended up on the No Fly List was because of possibly sending emails to an American imam they may have been monitoring. They then informed him that if he would go undercover at various local mosques, they could get him off the No Fly List immediately, and he would be compensated for such actions. Mashal refused to answer any additional questions without a lawyer present and was told to leave the hotel. Mashal then contacted the ACLU and is now being represented in a class-action lawsuit filed against the TSA, FBI and DHS concerning the legality of the No Fly List and how people end up on it. Mashal feels as if he was blackmailed into becoming an informant by being placed on the No Fly List. Mashal has since appeared on ABC, NBC, PBS and Al Jazeera concerning his inclusion on the No Fly List. He has also written a book about his experience titled “No Spy No Fly.”

The stories of how some people have ended up on the No-Fly list are, in certain cases, stunning:  

  • Robert J. Johnson, a surgeon and a former lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, who ran as a Democrat against U.S. Representative John McHugh, a Republican, opposing the Iraq War, was put on the No-Fly list. 
  • U.S. Representative John Lewis (D-GA), widely known for his civil rights advocacy, has been stopped many times.
  • Walter F. Murphy, Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton, reported that he was on the Terrorist Watch list because, in September 2006, he had given a lecture at Princeton that was “highly critical of George Bush for his many violations of the constitution.” 
  • Jesselyn Radack, a former United States Department of Justice ethics adviser who argued that John Walker Lindh was entitled to an attorney, was placed on the No Fly List 
  • Nelson Mandela and other members of the African National Congress were on the list.

The No-Fly list was a creation of the Bush administration, following the 9/11 attacks.  Immediately after 9/11, the N0-Fly list included 16 individuals. In the time that has passed after 9/11, the list has expanded to include over 1,000,000 names.

The ACLU’s argument is that the No-Fly list violates the constitutional rights of Americans by preventing them from traveling, but without giving them any due process or opportunity to challenge the blacklist.