Barack Obama responded to the ISIS terror threat by worrying about global warming and Islamophobia and telling Congress to take guns away from people on the no-fly list. There are terrorists on the list, right? Ummm….
The “No Fly List” is an ultra secret government database compiled after 9/11 to keep suspected terrorists off planes.
A number of lawsuits have brought problems with the list to the attention of the public with subjects on the list claiming they were put on the list unfairly and they can’t get their names removed. If their names are removed, the government doesn’t have to tell them.
A case in federal court brought by 13 people ended with the government being ordered to tell the plaintiffs if they were on the list, why they were on the list and to give them a chance to challenge the government finding. It was unconstitutional for the government to deprive the plaintiffs of their constitutional rights.
The procedure around the list operates in such secrecy, no one knows what is going on, including Congress.
In 2006, 60 Minutes did an exposé and found some of the cracks.
Joe Trento of the National Security News Service said the quality of the list is worse than our intelligence before 9/11.
“This is much worse,” Trento argues. “It’s awful, it’s bad. I mean you’ve got people who are dead on the list. You’ve got people you know are 80 years old on the list. It makes no sense.”
Intended to be a serious intelligence document, FBI agent Jack Cloonan said the No Fly List soon became a “cover your rear end” document designed to protect bureaucrats and make the public feel more secure.”I know in our particular case they basically did a massive data dump and said ‘Ok anybody that’s got a nexus to terrorism, let’s make sure they get on the list,'” Cloonan explains. “And once that train left the station, or once that bullet went down range. There was no calling it back. And that is where we are.”
Dignitaries like Nabih Berri, the head of the Lebanese parliament was on the list as was Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia.
“I mean, do you think that the president of Bolivia’s gonna highjack an airplane?” CBS correspondent Steve Kroft asked.
So how do you get on the list?
1.If you are suspected of direct terrorist activity, you are of course on the list, unless they make a mistake and confuse you for a terrorist.
2. If you travel frequently to known terrorist countries, you will get the attention of the FBI.
3. If you get negative attention of the administration, you might end up on the list. Former Princeton University professor Walter Murphy told The Guardian that in 2007, he was denied a boarding pass in Newark International Airport. He suspects it was because of a high-profile lecture he gave that had been critical of then-President Bush.
4. If you have the same name as a terrorist.
Anyone with the misfortune of sharing a name with someone on the list, even a common name, could end up being treated like a terrorist and having trouble getting on a plane. 60 Minutes found 12 on the list and they included a politician, a soccer coach, businessmen, even a member of the military. They were pulled aside and interrogated, sometimes for hours until someone at the Transportation Security Administration decided they were not the terrorist.
One of the names is Robert Johnson and all the Robert Johnsons CBS brought in were pulled over several times. “I had my military ID and you know, I go on military bases all the time,” one Robert Johnson said. “So I can get on any base in the country, but I can’t fly on a plane, because I am on the No Fly List.”
The Robert Johnson meant to be on the No Fly List is a 62-year-old black man who was convicted of plotting to bomb a Hindu temple and a movie theatre in Toronto. After serving 12 years, he was deported to Trinidad. But the airlines ticket agents don’t have any of that information on their computer screens. They just have the name, not even a date of birth.
“There’s gotta be some common sense in there. Somebody behind that desk has to say, ‘This isn’t the guy they’re looking for.’ Come on”, one of the Robert Johnsons said.
Asked what is the worst part of the experience, one of the Johnsons told Kroft, “The humiliation factor. And, I get calls on my cell phone from my coworkers saying, ‘You gonna make the flight? You gonna make the flight?’ And, I’m sitting here in a panic sweatin’ and, you know, to an extent he’s thinking like ‘Or, am I traveling with a criminal here?'”
One of the Robert Johnsons was even strip-searched. “I had to take off my pants, I had to take off my sneakers, then I had to take off my socks. I was treated like a criminal.”Robert Johnson will never get off the list.
“Now Dawud Sallahuddin, real name David Belfield, lives in Tehran. He carried out the first assassination in Washington on behalf of Ayatollah Khomeini. Dressed up as a mailman and shot somebody. He’s allowed to fly,” Trento says.
5. You can get on the list if you won’t be an informant.
6. The list includes people who were put on by mistake. Wired magazine wrote about a Stanford University doctoral student who was placed on the no-fly list in 2004. After seven years of federal lawsuits, it was determined she was unjustly put on the list because an FBI agent had checked the wrong box on a form.
7. You can get on the list if you are suspected of criminal activity. That obviously brings up constitutional questions.
8. Controversial social media posts have been a problem for some.
The Second Amendment clearly states that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Using a top secret list put together inadequately to take away a constitutional right hardly seems like a good idea.