(CN) – Ten Muslims, including a disabled former U.S. Marine and two other U.S. veterans, say the U.S. government’s unconstitutional “no-fly” list has left them and others stranded overseas, costing them their jobs, ruining their health and separating them from their families.
They claim the incompetently handled list of “suspected terrorists” brands innocent people, bars them from commercial flights because of “error or innuendo,” and prevents them from rebutting, or even seeing, the evidence, if any, against them. “The United States’ system of screening commercial airline passengers against databases of suspected terrorists is broken,” according to the 56-page complaint against U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, FBI Director Robert Mueller, and Terrorist Screening Center Director Timothy Healy.
“Thousands of people have been barred altogether from commercial air travel without any opportunity to confront or rebut the basis for their inclusion, or apparent inclusion, on a government watch list known as the ‘No Fly List.’ The result is a vast and growing list of individuals whom, on the basis of error or innuendo, the government deems too dangerous to fly, but too harmless to arrest,” according to the complaint.
“Many of these individuals, like the plaintiffs in this action, are citizens and lawful permanent residents of the United States; some, including three plaintiffs in this action, are veterans of the United States Armed Forces. Some U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents have been placed on the list while traveling abroad and therefore have found themselves stranded in foreign countries, without explanation or appropriate visas, unable to return home to their families, jobs, and needed medical care in the United States. The Constitution does not permit such a fundamental deprivation of rights to be carried out under a veil of secrecy and in the absence of even rudimentary process.”
ACLU offices in four states filed the complaint in Portland, Ore., Federal Court, on behalf of the 10 plaintiffs.
“It’s really the first broad-based constitutional challenge to the no-fly list and its utter lack of due process,” ACLU attorney Ben Winzer, of Manhattan, said in a statement.
The plaintiffs – Ayman Latif, Mohamed Kariye, Raymond Knaeble, Steven Washburn, Nagib Ali Ghaleb, Samir Mohamed, Abdullatif Muthanna, Saleh Omar, Adama Bah, Halime Sat – say they are just 10 among thousands who have been barred from commercial air travel without any opportunity to confront their accusers or rebut the basis for their inclusion on the no-fly list.
They plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief; they want their names removed from “any government watch list that has prevented them from flying;” and they want a hearing at which they can see the evidence against them, if any.
All of the plaintiffs said they have flown numerous times to, from, and within the United States in recent years, without incident.
Most said an FBI agent or a police officer informed them they were on the no-fly list.
None were told why they made the list or how to get off it.
They sought explanations from the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration, to avail.
Ayman Latif, 32, a former U.S. Marine, says the list has stranded him in Egypt, away from his wife and two children, and prevented him from attending an evaluation for disability U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Another veteran, Raymond Knaeble IV, a 29-year-old Californian, says he went to Colombia for his wedding, only to then learn that he was on the no-fly list and could not return. As a result, he was unable to appear for a pre-employment medical examination, and lost a job that was waiting for him.
Perhaps the most vivid example of a life turned upside down is Steven Washburn, 54, of Las Cruces, N.M. Washburn, a convert to Islam, says he was not allowed to fly home from the United Kingdom. He says he tried to fly from London to Mexico, hoping he’d be able to drive home from there, but the flight was diverted back to London and he was removed.
Washburn says he tried a more circuitous route, taking five separate flights, to Mexico, only to be apprehended and interrogated by authorities, before finally being allowed to go home.
But wait, there’s more. Washburn says his wife, a Spanish citizen, is stranded in Ireland, unable to get a visa to enter the United States, presumably because of her husband’s murky and bizarre status.
The plaintiffs say the United States is violating its own Constitution, and the Administrative Procedures Act, and immigration law. They want “meaningful notice of the grounds for their inclusion on a government watch list, and an opportunity to rebut the government’s charges and to clear their names,” and they want the law fixed, and costs. And six of them want to go home.