Wednesday, June 30, 2010
ACLU challenges government's no-fly list -- 10 years late
News that the American Civil Liberties Union had filed suit to challenge the federal government's "no-fly list" should be regarded as both good news and bad news for U.S. residents concerned about Washington's growing authority over their lives. That it has taken so many years to assemble a credible constitutional challenge to what assuredly was an immense power grab by federal authorities speaks quite loudly about the passivity of most Americans and their lack of involvement in governing their country. To be sure, the circumstances that led the feds to closely monitor airplane travel after the Sept. 11 attacks were unprecedented and outrageous. But the emergency that arguably justified the imposition of such a draconian regulatory regime -- barring U.S. citizens from traveling on airplanes based on possibly incorrect but still secret information -- has surely passed. And that it took a citizens group to mount that challenge, and not any of the array of federal agencies whose taxpayer-funded mission is to defend the U.S. Constitution, is nothing short of disgraceful. Even the lawsuit filed Wednesday tacitly accepts the legality of the restrictions, since it argues on behalf of 10 residents that the rules are unconstitutional because they do not permit people on the list to challenge their inclusion, according to the Reuters international news service. An ACLU lawyer told Reuters that the lawsuit was the first filed on behalf of legal U.S. residents challenging the no-fly list system. A lawsuit by a non-citizen seeking to get removed from the list is still pending, Reuters said. "The Constitution does not permit such a fundamental deprivation of rights to be carried out under a veil of secrecy and in the absence of even rudimentary process," the suit filed Wednesday says. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Portland, Ore., and names Attorney General Eric Holder, FBI Director Robert Mueller and Timothy Healy, director of the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center, Reuters said.