Following the acts of terror on September 11, 2001, the United States federal government took several steps as a means to prevent and combat terrorism in the United States. Included in these measures, the enactment of the No Fly List, which was created and is maintained by the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC).
The No Fly List bans any individual who is on the list from boarding commercial aircraft for travel within, into, or out of the United States. In fact, aircraft that have been boarded by individuals on the No Fly List have been diverted away from U.S. airspace. Not only does the list aim to combat terrorism, but it also prevents some registered sex offenders as well as some suspected and convicted drug traffickers from flying within, into, or out of the United States.
Unsurprisingly, the No Fly List is not without fault. People who have no ties to terrorism, and also those without a criminal record have found themselves unable to board a flight. A simple clerical error could land an unsuspecting citizen on the No Fly List, however, the chances of being added are slim. For those unlucky enough to find themselves on the list, getting their names removed can be quite difficult and can pose a serious legal challenge.
The No Fly List is not available for public viewing, and many people who are on it, are unaware they cannot fly. In 2014, the Americans for Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit on behalf of several clients with names that were included on the list. The court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, and the government announced that it would tell U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents of their placement on the list, as well as offer possible reasons.
Although the ruling in the above referenced case of Kariye, et al. v. Sessions, et al., challenged the constitutionality of the No Fly List, litigation remains ongoing with the government citing national security risks. It may still be the case that the only way a person can find out whether their name is on the list, is to buy a ticket and attempt to board the flight.
There are a number of reasons why a person is added to the No Fly List. Individuals who travel to and from predominantly Muslim countries, those who have links to terrorists, and those who have made statements or threats (including online) that peak the government’s interest may be included on the list. Other reasons could include having a criminal history, a name similar to a suspected terrorist, false positives, and clerical errors.
Law enforcement agencies can request that an individual be put on a watchlist. Once this occurs, it is very difficult to have the person’s name removed from the database. False positive cases of children, civil rights activists, and politicians who have attempted to board flights but received a denial, followed by being questioned have been reported. After being denied boarding, the individual does have the right to an attorney in any voluntary interviews with U.S. officials.
Frequently, an individual will find out very publicly that they are on the No Fly List when they attempt to board a flight. The recourse for removing a person’s name from the list typically involves submitting a standard form to the Department of Homeland Security Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (“DHS TRIP”). After DHS receives complaints, they are transmitted to the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) for review. The ACLU has provided further information on what to do if you believe you are on the list, on its website.
Unfortunately, an individual’s options are severely limited. After submitting a TRIP form to DHS, it is possible you will only be given limited information as to the reasons you were added to the list. You can then send a second letter to TSC, and the government will review your submission and make a final decision.
You do not have the right to a hearing to appeal a No Fly List decision. If you or a loved one believe you are on the list, then you should contact an attorney for guidance.
If you believe your name is on the No Fly List, you should contact a criminal defense attorney. It can be incredibly difficult to remove your name from the list, especially without representation. Your case may involve civil rights issues and it could also question the constitutionality of the government’s reasons why you are on the list. An experienced lawyer can assist you in beginning the process of challenging the situation.