US & Canada

Judge rules 'no-fly' appeals process unconstitutional

A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent waits for passengers to use the TSA PreCheck lane being implemented by the Transportation Security Administration at Miami International Airport 4 October 2011 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Some of those named in the lawsuit were told by airline or federal officials they were on the no-fly list only after they had been rejected from boarding a plane

A federal judge has ruled the US no-fly list has deprived 13 people of their constitutional right to travel without giving them a way to clear their names.

In Oregon, US District Judge Anna Brown ordered the justice department to devise a mechanism for people on the list to appeal against their inclusion.

The plaintiffs who sued in 2010 include four veterans and the leader of Portland's largest mosque.

People on the no-fly list are banned from boarding flights over US airspace.

The US justice department said it was reviewing the ruling on Tuesday. For now, the decision is limited in its impact, as the justice department could appeal against it.

In her order, Judge Brown directed the justice department to find a way to disclose unclassified information about why someone is on the no-fly list, which is maintained by the FBI.

Travel 'an odyssey'

She also said the US should disclose to those barred from flying the nature of the classified information against them, including the type of threat they allegedly pose to national security and ways in which they can respond or correct erroneous information.

Many of those in the lawsuit were prevented from reuniting with family or studying overseas. Others took lengthy journeys overland, being interrogated along the way, or attempted to sail but were rebuffed based on the advice of immigration officials.

"With perhaps the exception of travel to a small number of countries in North and Central America, a prohibition on flying turns routine international travel into an odyssey that imposes significant logistical, economic, and physical demands on travellers," she wrote in the ruling.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which was involved in the case, hailed the decision in a statement.

"For years, in the name of national security the government has argued for blanket secrecy and judicial deference to its profoundly unfair No Fly List procedures, and those arguments have now been resoundingly rejected by the court," Hina Shamsi, who argued the case, said.

"We hope this serves as a wake-up call for the government to fix its broken watch list system, which has swept up so many innocent people."

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