No-fly zone


Geraldine Sealey
April 7, 2004 12:05AM (UTC)

The U.S. government determined that these people posed threats to aviation security. It's a terrifying group, really:

Michelle D. Green, 36, a Master Sergeant in the U.S. Air Force.
David Nelson, 34, an attorney from Belleville, Illinois.
John Shaw, 74, a retired Presbyterian minister, from Sammamish, Washington.
David C. Fathi, 41, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU National Prison Project in Washington, D.C.
Mohamed Ibrahim, 51, a Coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee in Philadelphia.
Alexandra Hay, 22, a student at Middlebury College in Vermont who is studying abroad in Paris.
Sarosh Syed, 26, a Special Projects Coordinator at the ACLU of Washington in Seattle.

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These individuals, as benign as they seem, were on the government's so-called No-Fly list, a roster of people considered so dangerous they should be stopped and searched at airports more than the rest of us. They have joined the first nationwide, class-action challenge to the No-Fly list, filed today by the American Civil Liberties Union. "This case is about innocent people who found out that their government considers them potential terrorists," said Reginald T. Shuford, an ACLU senior staff attorney and lead counsel in the case. "For our clients and thousands like them, getting on a plane means repeated delays and the stigma of being singled out as a security threat in front of their family, their fellow passengers and the flight crew What's worse, these passengers have no idea why they have been placed on the No-Fly list and no way to clear their names."

The Transportation Security Administration compiles the "No-Fly" list and sends it out to all airlines with instructions to stop or conduct extra searches of those listed. The ACLU says many innocents who pose zero safety risk are often stopped and searched.

The ACLU also reminds us of how forthcoming the government was about even acknowledging such a list existed. "The TSA denied its existence until November 2002, shortly before the ACLU of Northern California filed a Freedom of Information Act request on behalf of two local anti-war activists who were told they were on such a list. When the government failed to respond, the ACLU filed a lawsuit in April 2003 and obtained documents that reveal a shoddy process in which government agents expressed uncertainty about how the lists should be shared. The documents also failed to answer basic questions about the No-Fly list, including how names are selected for the list," the ACLU says.


Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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