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What Is the No Fly List?

The No Fly List has been in the news, due to increased debate about terrorism and gun control. While you may have a basic understanding of the List, most Americans do not fully understand its purpose or the legitimate concerns surrounding it.

What Is the No Fly List?

If you are on the No Fly List, you cannot board a plane traveling in or out of the United States. The Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) maintains the List. The No Fly List does not only target potential terrorists, but also potential drug traffickers, sex offenders and other criminals. Unfortunately, innocent people sometimes get placed on the No Fly List.

The No Fly List is different than the Terrorist Screening Database (the “Terrorist Watch List”), which is much longer. The Terrorist Screening Database lists individuals with known or reasonably suspected links to terrorist organizations. The No Fly List is also different from the transportation Security Screening Selection List, which tags travellers for extra inspection.

Can the Public See the No Fly List?

The No Fly List is not published and is not available to the public. The Terrorist Screening Database and Security Selection List are similarly unpublished. The Terrorist Screening Center and the FBI refuse to publish these lists, due to national security concerns.

Due to the secrecy of the lists, the only way to learn that you are watchlisted is to buy a ticket and attempt to board an airplane.

How Do You Get on a No Fly List?

Police departments and other agencies can request that a person be watchlisted.
Again, the Terrorist Screening Center does not notify people of their watch list status. You can only discover you are watchlisted by attempting to board an airplane. After you have denied boarding, you may be interviewed by U.S. officials. This interview is voluntary. You have the right to an attorney during this interview.

There are many stories of false positives and errors, including:

Unfortunately, it is very difficult to correct a false positive.

How Do You Get Off a No Fly List?

The ACLU and others have challenged the legality of the No Fly List in court. In Latif v. Lynch, the ACLU and others argued that the No Fly List’s redress procedures were unconstitutional and violated due process rights. The federal court agreed—forcing the Terrorist Screening Center to give citizens and legal residents more information. The ACLU still believes that these new procedures are inadequate and unconstitutional.

It is still very difficult to get off the No Fly List. If you have been denied entry to an airplane, you may complete a Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (TRIP) form. Send your TRIP form to the Terrorist Screening Center for review.

If you are a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident, you may request additional information from the Terrorist Screening Center. You should receive a summary that includes some of the reasons for your placement on the No Fly List.

You do not have the right to a hearing in No Fly List appeals. Instead, you may send a second letter to TSC, which the organization will also review. After it has reviewed your second letter, it will decide whether to remove you from the List.

If you are not a citizen or LPR, you will receive a less detailed letter which does not make a determination of eligibility. The only way for a non-citizen to discover the success of his or her appeal is to attempt to board an airplane.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

If you are placed on the No Fly List, you should contact a criminal defense lawyer. Your claim may involve complicated civil rights and constitutional issues.

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Last Modified: 09-28-2016 10:01 PM PDT

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