National Security

Until the No Fly List Is Fixed, It Shouldn’t Be Used to Restrict People’s Freedoms

By Hina Shamsi, Director, ACLU National Security Project

The No Fly List is in the news this week, just in time for the ACLU’s argument in federal court on Wednesday in its five-year-long challenge to the list’s redress process.

Last night, in response to last week’s tragic attack in San Bernardino, California, President Obama urged Congress to ensure that people on the No Fly List be prohibited from purchasing guns. Last week, Republicans in Congress defeated a proposal that would have done just that. "I think it’s very important to remember people have due process rights in this country, and we can’t have some government official just arbitrarily put them on a list," House Speaker Paul Ryan said.

There is no constitutional bar to reasonable regulation of guns, and the No Fly List could serve as one tool for it, but only with major reform. As we will argue to a federal district court in Oregon this Wednesday, the standards for inclusion on the No Fly List are unconstitutionally vague, and innocent people are blacklisted without a fair process to correct government error. Our lawsuit seeks a meaningful opportunity for our clients to challenge their placement on the No Fly List because it is so error-prone and the consequences for their lives have been devastating.

Over the years since we filed our suit — and in response to it — the government has made some reforms, but they are not enough.


A Great Day for Seven Americans Formerly on the No-Fly List

By Noa Yachot, Communications Strategist, ACLU

An extraordinarily secret government blacklist just got a little bit less secret.

Seven American citizens who were banned by the government from air travel received word yesterday evening that they are cleared to fly. For them, the notice ends a years-long struggle to find out why they were blacklisted and clear their names. As of last night, the seven can finally make plans to visit family, travel for work, and take vacations abroad.

The seven – six men and one women – had been on the government No Fly List, which prevented them from flying to, from, and over U.S. airspace. Even after they were surrounded by TSA agents at the airport and questioned by the FBI, the government refused to officially confirm that they were included on the list. They were also never provided reasons for being banned from air travel, or given a meaningful opportunity to contest the ban. In short, our clients have been locked in a fight to regain their freedoms with virtually no information.


Because of You, History Is in the Making

David Fidanque - US Supreme Court

By David Fidanque, Executive Director

Today I am at the U.S. Supreme Court to watch our volunteer attorney, Steven Wilker of the Tonkon Torp firm, argue against the federal government’s position that Secret Service agents cannot be sued for intentionally violating the First Amendment rights of protesters.

The Moss case started almost ten years ago after police were directed to move only those protesting the policies of the Bush administration but not the people who showed up to support the President. Do you know your rights to protest?


Glenn Greenwald, Edward Snowden and Government Surveillance

By David Fidanque, Executive Director

The ACLU has been working non-stop for the past twelve years to uncover and then reverse the unprecedented expansion of suspicionless surveillance of millions of innocent Americans by the NSA, the FBI, the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies since 9/11. From the beginning of this period, the ACLU has consistently warned that these practices would not only jeopardize the freedoms that Americans hold dear, but that they would also make us less safe.

Virtually all of our efforts to gain greater transparency and to build the pressure for reform have been strenuously resisted by the Bush and Obama Administrations both in the courts and in Congress.

This spring, when The Guardian’s columnist Glenn Greenwald spoke at our Liberty Dinner in Portland, he praised the ACLU for its steadfast and principled commitment to freedom. Little did we know that within three months of that speech Greenwald himself would be instrumental in reporting dozens of stories outlining the widespread invasions of privacy carried out by the NSA, thanks to documents provided to him by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.


The Constitution Applies When the Government Bans Americans From the Skies

By Nusrat Choudury, Staff Attorney, ACLU National Security Project & Hina Shamsi, Director, ACLU National Security Project

The government does not have the unchecked authority to place individuals on a secret blacklist without providing them any meaningful opportunity to object, the ACLU argued in a brief filed last Friday with the federal district court in Oregon.

We made the filing in Latif v. Holder, our lawsuit asserting that the government violated the Fifth Amendment due process rights of 13 Americans, including four military veterans, by placing them on the No Fly List and refusing to give them any after-the-fact explanation or a hearing at which they can clear their names.

Our brief highlighted the utter irrationality of the government's No Fly List procedures. The plaintiffs in Latif all flew for years without any problems. But more than two years ago, they were suddenly branded as suspected terrorists based on secret evidence, publicly denied boarding on flights, and told by U.S. and airline officials that they were banned from flying, perhaps forever. Each of them asked the government to remove them from the No Fly List through the only "redress" mechanism available—the Department of Homeland Security Traveler Redress Inquiry Program. But the government has refused to provide any explanation or basis for their inclusion in the list. Our clients have been stuck in limbo ever since.


Oregonians Stranded in Libya Return, But No-Fly List Continues Rapid Growth

By Ben Bronner, Volunteer

The ever-growing no-fly list continues to take its toll on American citizens. Its latest victims are Oregon residents Jamal Tarhuni and Mustafa Elogbi. While Tarhuni and Elogbi were traveling separately, their stories share many similarities. Both men traveled to Libya in the fall. Both attempted to return to the United States in January but were not allowed to do so. And both report being interrogated about their religious beliefs and Libyan contacts at the behest of the US government. It’s cases like these that illustrate the importance of the ACLU’s ongoing efforts to increase the transparency of the no-fly list and the policies surrounding it.


An Open Letter - A Request for Details and Early Release of Joint Terrorism Task Force Report

January 24, 2012

To Mayor/Police Commissioner Sam Adams,Chief Mike Reese and members of Portland City Council:

In late April 2011, the Council adopted a Resolution outlining its understanding of how the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) will, in limited circumstances, cooperate with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF). Part of that resolution declared that the Chief will present an annual report to Council every year in January. We understand that the Mayor has proposed a resolution giving the Chief until the end of February to present the report. We, the undersigned, request that the report be released in draft form at least two weeks prior to any formal presentation to City Council to allow public input. We continue to urge the City to fulfill the promise of that part of the resolution, to ensure transparency and to assure the people of Portland that our officers are in compliance with state and federal laws regarding gathering information for legitimate criminal investigations. In addition to the five points outlined by the ACLU of Oregon in their testimony to Council (and repeated in a June 24 letter to Council), we request an update on the security clearance status of the Mayor, Chief, and any officers or supervisors in the Bureau who are working with the JTTF.


Ten Years of Guantánamo

By Claire Syrett, Field Director

OSU Guantanamo ProtestJanuary 11, 2012, marked a somber anniversary – the arrival of the first prisoners to Guantánamo Bay prison 10 years ago. It is shocking to realize that there are men who have endured 10 long years incarcerated in our very own American gulag. It is especially shocking when you consider that only four of 779 men held there have received even the semblance of a trial. Now we wait to see how long the remaining 171 men still held there will remain in legal limbo. Will it be another 10 years? 20?

For those Americans who stood up to protest Guantánamo on this anniversary of its opening the answer is clear; Guantánamo must be shut down now. I raised that rally cry at a demonstration in Corvallis organized by the local Veterans for Peace group among others. The sight of a line of orange jump-suited “prisoners” wearing black hoods parading through downtown and onto the Oregon State University campus drew plenty of attention. More importantly this and the many other protests held around the country served to remind Americans that it is past time to close this terrible chapter of American history and recognize the constitutional and human rights of those still held there.