There is a major decision out of Oregon where U.S. District Judge Anna Brown has ruled that the government’s no-fly list is unconstitutional since there is no meaningful way to contest inclusion of the list barring you from commercial flights. Brown issued a 65 page ruling with the holding that the “inclusion on the no-fly list constitutes a significant deprivation of their liberty interests in international travel.” It is a refreshing opinion from the federal courts which tend to be highly deferential to the government in this area.
Central to the decision is Brown’s recognition that “international travel is not a mere convenience or luxury in this modern world. Indeed, for many international travel is a necessary aspect of liberties sacred to members of a free society.” We have all heard horror stories of how people are mistakenly placed on this list and how they find themselves in an endless bureaucratic process to correct such mistakes. The sheer stupidity of many of these mistakes has been shocking with government officials barring people with similarly sounding names to terrorists like Bin Laden or the cavalier addition of names despite the huge cost to the individuals. The list is a CYA moment for many officials who want to be more safe than sorry, but those unfairly placed on the list find themselves in a governmental nightmare of red tape and delay.
In this case, the the 13 plaintiffs insisted that they have no links to terrorism and only learned of their no-fly status when they arrived at an airport. Four of them are military veterans.
The decision is well-written and well-researched and worth reading. It finally imposes a modest obligation on the government to act in a reasonable fashion.