• What to Do if You Think You’re on the No-Fly List

    April 25, 2015

    Tags: , , ,
    Posted in: Democracy, Post-Constitution America

    It has come to this. There is a self-help guides from the ACLU on what to do if you think you are on the U.S. government’s no-fly list. Oh, and the TSA says 99 percent of the people who contact them about no-fly have been denied boarding only because their names are similar to a real bad guy. In most applications, a 99 percent failure rate is cause for alarm for an organization. In America, it is cause for alarm for us.

    Background

    On September 10, 2001, there wasn’t any formal no-fly list, though the FBI held a folder of 16 names of suspicious flyers. Among the many changes pressed on a scared population starting September 12 was the creation of two lists: the no-fly list and the selectee list. The latter was for person who would undergo additional scrutiny when they sought to fly. The former, like its name, meant if your name was on the list you simply could not board a flight inside the U.S., out of the U.S. or from some other country into the U.S.

    The flight ban can also extend far outside of America’s borders. The no-fly list is shared with 22 other countries.

    Names are nominated for no-fly or selectee by one of perhaps hundreds of thousands of government officials: an FBI agent, a CIA analyst, a State Department visa officer and so forth. Each nominating agency has its own criteria, standards and approval processes, some strict, some pretty sloppy. Your name may end up on the list based on scraps of online postings or as the result of a multi-year detailed investigation or because of a bureaucratic typo. The nominated name is sent to The Terrorist Screening Center (TSC), located in a classified location in suburban Northern Virginia. TSC is a multi-agency organization administered by the FBI, staffed by officials from the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of State, and all of the intel community.

    A key issue is that people are never notified they are on the no-fly list. The only way to even get a hint is to buy an airplane ticket and be prevented from boarding once you arrive at the airport after at check-in the airline receives a “no-fly” message. Through the interrogation process you may (or you may not) learn you might live in the list. You will never have any idea why you are on the list; maybe you share a similar name with some real or imagined bad guy. Still on the list? The only way to tell is to buy another ticket and see if you can board. Repeat.

    What Do You Do?

    For the most part, once denied boarding, you are on your own to get home. It is a long walk home from L.A. if you live in New York. But, in the topsy-turvy post-9/11 world, though the U.S. will not let you on an airplane (Twin Towers!) you can, for now, as a suspected terrorist, travel by ship, train, bus, rental car, horseback, donkey cart, unicycle or other means. Of course none of those conveyances have even rudimentary screening or security.

    One option if you find yourself denied boarding is to contact the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) via their TRIP Program and ask them to remove your name from the no-fly list. You might succeed just by asking nice; the TSA itself says that 99 percent of individuals who apply for redress are not on the terrorist watchlist, but are misidentified as people who are. To start, you simply use DHS’ online form. They strongly encourage an online submission, warning on their web site that “if documents are mailed, it may take 10-15 business days to receive your submission due to federal government mail screening requirements,” something left over from the very small and long ago anthrax powder letters mailed to a handful of people in 2001. Careful though– proving you are not a terrorist must be done in a 10 meg attachment or less or DHS will reject your request.

    If DHS agrees you are not a terrorist, you get a redress number which you can use when booking a ticket. There is never an explanation, and DHS is not allowed to tell you you are still on the no-fly list, or ever were, or why they did or did not issue you a redress number. If you never hear back from DHS and wonder if you are allowed to fly, the only way to tell is to buy another ticket and see if you can board. Repeat. Even with a redress number, DHS advises arriving at the airport extra early in anticipation of extra screening and questioning.

    What If You Stranded Overseas?

    One popular trick the government likes to occasionally use is to wait for someone to depart the U.S., then slap him/her on the no-fly. The traveler, stuck abroad, clearly has fewer resources to challenge anything or file internet forms and wait by the post box.

    A nice scheme, but since U.S. citizens have a right under the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution to return to U.S. territory after traveling abroad, and lawful permanent residents (“green-card holders”) have a similar right to return under the Immigration and Nationality Act, in fact such a move by DHS is essentially unconstitutional and/or illegal.

    So, as one part of the government says you are a terrorist and cannot fly to America, another part of the government is constitutionally obligated to get you back to America. Denied boarding overseas due to the no-fly? Someone in the U.S. (can be a lawyer) must call the State Department and ask that they help you. The ACLU has a handy cheat-sheet with all the details. At some point you will visit the American Embassy in your country of no-fly exile, and, after an average two week delay, re-book your ticket to return to the United States. The cost of all this is on you, and you can expect a detailed welcome from the FBI and others when you touch down in the Homeland. Coming “home” may then mean your mom’s place in Cleveland, or it can mean a jail cell near the airport in Cleveland.

    Bad Guys?

    We’ll admit that there probably are some really bad people out there who’d we would just prefer not sitting next to us on a flight. But who ends up on the no-fly instead?

    The Associated Press reported in 2012 that the federal no-fly list had “more than doubled in the past year” and had grown to about 21,000 people, including some 500 Americans. CBS’ news show, 60 Minutes, states the no-fly list actually has 44,000 names on it. A CBS reporter claims to have seen a portion of the names on no-fly in 2007, and noted Saddam Hussein was on the list, as well as 14 of the 19 September 11th hijackers, all of whom were very dead at the time. Osama bin Laden was also on the list on the off-chance he would have decided to fly to the U.S. under his real name for some reason.

    Represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, a group of thirteen Americans who were barred from boarding domestic flights or planes leaving or bound for the U.S. between June 2009 and November 2012 is suing. One of the plaintiffs in that case is Army veteran Raymond Earl Knaeble, who found himself unable to fly coincidentally after converting to Islam. Four others in the no-fly lawsuit are also military veterans. One was forced to return to the U.S. from Columbia by bus, a long and dangerous trip. Another plaintiff was placed on the list only after he flew from California to the U.S. Virgin Islands. He was forced to take a five-day boat trip and a four-day train ride home.

    How Can This Be Legal?

    Like much of the (known) legislation passed after 9/11, it has been very hard to challenge the no-fly in courts. One significant issue is standing, the right to sue. Persons typically never know for certain they are on the no-fly list, the government will never confirm or deny someone is on the list, and so, absent proof, one may not be able to sue the government. The government has and likely will also continue to cite national security and classified information to block cases from even entering the court system.

    In the lawsuit noted above, the ACLU is arguing that the no-fly list is a violation of the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment. The Fifth Amendment says to the federal government that no one shall be “deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.” The meaning is that all levels of American government must operate within the law and provide fair procedures. For example, you cannot be arrested and tried without having legal counsel, being informed of the charges, having the chance to review the evidence against you and so forth. Creating a secret list without any clear means of challenging placement on that list, is, the ACLU contends, unconstitutional.

    The government argues in return that national security prevents a more open system– we can’t tip off the terrorists– and that limited judicial review covers any due process requirement. No-fly list appeals may ultimately go to a federal appellate court, but that court makes decisions based only on government input. The person affected is not even present and will never know what evidence the government presented against him in this secret court.

    The ACLU’s case against the no-fly list is currently being heard in U.S. District Court, in front of a judge who at least appears to be asking serious questions of the government, and who has stated she holds not being able to fly is indeed a case of the government depriving someone of their “liberty,” as stated in the Fifth Amendment. The outcome of the case is of course uncertain, and will no doubt be appealed as far as it can go.

    Until then Americans, happy travels!



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    Copyright © 2019. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

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  • Recent Comments

    • Kyzl Orda said...

      1

      Thank you, Peter, for another informative article. And this list will keep growing, with more innocent people added to it

      Is it known if whistleblowers are being put through such measures or additional screening? When I fly, it’s always by way of the extra screening and wanding line

      04/25/15 9:06 AM | Comment Link

    • wemeantwell said...

      2

      Google up how Laura Pointras was constantly harassed by TSA; it is all another tool of control.

      During the worst of my State Dept hassles I was often selected for “random” screening, but after a while it just stopped.

      04/25/15 5:41 PM | Comment Link

    • RICH BAUER said...

      3

      Peter,

      Admit it, you love all the extra attention.

      PS. It’s COLOMBIA.

      04/25/15 9:26 AM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...

      4

      I take the dog even for long trips. As far as I know I’m not on Greyhound’s cannot board list. I’ve traversed (by myself- my wife refuses) this continent many times on the dog -from Philadelphia to San Bernandino. The food’s not bad since there is none.

      04/25/15 9:59 AM | Comment Link

    • RICH BAUER said...

      5

      The No Fly List is as valuable as Stellar Wind and the rest of the CYA programs that your tax dollars are wasted.

      NYT: But little came of the Stellarwind tips. In 2004, the F.B.I. looked at a sampling of all the tips to see how many had made a “significant contribution” to identifying a terrorist, deporting a terrorism suspect, or developing a confidential informant about terrorists.

      Just 1.2 percent of the tips from 2001 to 2004 had made such a contribution. Two years later, the F.B.I. reviewed all the leads from the warrantless wiretapping part of Stellarwind between August 2004 and January 2006. None had proved useful.

      04/25/15 10:08 AM | Comment Link

    • RICH BAUER said...

      6

      “The government argues in return that national security prevents a more open system– we can’t tip off the terrorists– and that limited judicial review covers any due process requirement.”

      That the No Fly List is a waste is the real reason the government wants it all kept secret…from the American people.

      04/25/15 10:27 AM | Comment Link

    • RICH BAUER said...

      7

      In a piece on the GCHQ and NSA failure to identify David Headley’s role in the Mumbai terrorist attack, ProPublica quotes former CIA officer Charles Faddis on the value of bulk surveillance.

      “I’m not saying that the capacity to intercept the communications is not valuable,” said Charles (Sam) Faddis, a former C.I.A. counterterror chief. “Clearly that’s valuable.” Nonetheless, he added, it is a mistake to rely heavily on bulk surveillance programs in isolation.

      “You’re going to waste a lot of money, you’re going to waste a lot of time,” Faddis said. “At the end, you’re going have very little to show for it.”

      The article as a whole demonstrates that in a manner I’m fairly shocked about. The NSA failed to recognize what it had in intelligence collected on Headley’s role in the attack even after the attack because they hadn’t correlated his known birth name with the name he adopted in the US.

      04/25/15 11:02 AM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...

      8

      bartender..how bout a bottle of RANDOMSCREENING and a 150prf shot of LauraPointrasTSA and I’m set for the night.

      04/25/15 7:32 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      9

      Here is an example of our state of “Intelligence” –

      A classified alert was sent out Friday afternoon by TSA’s Transportation Security Operations Center. A source, who reviewed the classified intelligence warning, described the threat as very general, with no specifics about location or type of attack — just the timing.

      The essence of the warning, according to a source, is that “ISIS plans an attack on U.S. soil.”

      Amazing.

      04/26/15 9:14 AM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...

      10

      Rich said:
      “The essence of the warning, according to a source, is that “ISIS plans an attack on U.S. soil.”

      Amazing.”

      You can’t make this shit up. It makes you wonder who comes up with these brilliant ideas. oh wait..I forgot..it’s a division of the Office of Obfuscation, Doublespeak and Gimmicks, called the Bureau of Dumb Ideas, Silly Walks and Presidential Jokes.

      Meanwhile, the Murkan Stazi isn’t laughing. It just gets bigger, meaner and more fucking stupid than ever.

      http://www.blacklistednews.com/New_York_family_left_homeless_after_police_rip_down_walls_to_serve_DWI_warrant/40671/0/38/38/Y/M.html

      04/27/15 6:27 AM | Comment Link

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