ACLU: The No-Fly List Needs Major Reform Before Stripping Americans of Freedoms

Katie Pavlich
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Posted: Dec 09, 2015 9:03 AM
ACLU: The No-Fly List Needs Major Reform Before Stripping Americans of Freedoms

As the White House continues its crusade for gun control in response to the San Bernardino terror attacks, many on both sides of the political aisle are coming out against the "no fly, no buy" plan proposed by President Obama over the weekend. As a reminder

Last night in a rare primetime address to the nation from the Oval Office, President Obama called on Congress to pass legislation stripping anyone, including American citizens, on the terrorism no-fly list of the ability to purchase a firearm in the United States. Sounds pretty reasonable right? Nobody wants terrorists to have easy access to guns and it certainly sounds bad when the argument is made that those currently on the terror watch list have the ability to do so. But here's the problem: The terror no-fly list is a mangled, bureaucratic mess of over 700,000 names. Yes, there are names on the list that are connected to terrorism, but nearly half of those names belong to people who have zero links to terrorist groups at all.

The NRA has come out strongly against Obama's proposal and is pushing back against the idea that if an individual has been placed on the U.S. government's no fly terror watch list, they should be stripped, without due process, of their constitutional right to purchase a firearm.

"The NRA does not want terrorists or dangerous people to have firearms, any suggestion otherwise is offensive and wrong. Under the current system, law enforcement is notified every time a person on the list attempts to purchase a firearm. Law Enforcement then makes a case by case decision on the appropriate follow-up for each circumstance," NRA Director of Public Affairs Jennifer Baker recently released in a statement. "The NRA's only objective is to ensure that Americans who are wrongly on the list are afforded their constitutional right to due process.  It is appalling that anti-gun politicians are exploiting the Paris terrorist attacks to push their gun-control agenda and distract from President Obama’s failed foreign policy."

Now, the notoriously liberal ACLU is calling for detailed reform of the no-fly list before taking away rights from Americans.

We filed the suit in June 2010 on behalf of 10 U.S. citizens and permanent residents who the government banned from flying to or from the U.S. or over American airspace. (Three more people later joined the suit.) Our clients, among them four U.S. military veterans, were never told why they were on the list or given a reasonable opportunity to get off it. Some were stranded abroad, unable to come home. As one response to our lawsuit, the government began to allow Americans to fly home on a “one-time waiver,” with stringent security precautions.

There’s another important aspect to the government’s case at this stage. The government has emphasized that it is making predictive judgments that people like our clients — who have never been charged let alone convicted of a crime — might nevertheless pose a threat. That’s a perilous thing for it to do. As we’ve told the court based on evidence from experts, these kinds of predictions guarantee a high risk of error. If the government is going to predict that Americans pose a threat and blacklist them, that’s even more reason for the fundamental safeguards we seek.

People in this country have due process rights. We want to see them respected.

The NRA, House Republicans and the ACLU agree: The current no-fly list is a broadly sweeping, bureaucratic, mangled mess that strips citizens with zero ties to terror groups of their freedoms and rights to due process. The "no fly, no buy" concept cannot be implemented without serious reforms.

Be sure to check out Matt's piece for more on the sordid history of the no-fly list.