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Federal Judges Calls Rules for No-Fly List Unconstitutional

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Airplaneby Timothy M. Phelps and Michael Muskal, Los Angeles Times

An Oregon federal judge ruled recently that international air travel is a “sacred” liberty protected by the US Constitution and ordered the government to amend its rules governing the so-called no-fly list, which seeks to prevent suspected terrorists from boarding airlines.

In the first such ruling of its kind, US District Judge Anna J. Brown in Portland said 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.”

Federal investigators currently may include someone on the no-fly list based on a “reasonable suspicion” that an individual is a known or suspected terrorist. They do not routinely tell would-be passengers they are on the list or give any factual reason for the designation. The list, established after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, includes about 20,000 names, about 500 of them US citizens.

A person who is denied the right to fly can challenge such a designation with the Department of Homeland Security. If the agency determines the inclusion is appropriate, the individual may seek to overturn the decision in federal court. The court reviews the government’s rationale but does not share the information with the individual concerned.

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© 2014 Los Angeles Times

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