The Unconstitutional No Fly List


The No Fly List is a list maintained by the FBI of at least 21,000 people who are prohibited from flying to, from, or through American airspace because of alleged links to terrorism. This list includes many American citizens, permanent residents and even military veterans. These people are not informed when they are added to the no fly list and often end up stranded in foreign lands, unable to return to the United States. They have no way to challenge their inclusion on the no fly list in court or the right to confront their accusers and see the evidence against them. The no fly list is an egregious unconstitutional assault on the basic rights that our founding fathers thought were essential for a free country.

Constitution torn as you board the aircraft

By Kirsti Motter

The 6th Amendment requires that anyone accused of a crime “be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.” The 14th Amendment prohibits the government from depriving “any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

People are not informed when they are added to the no fly list. They only find out when they try to board a plane after buying a ticket they won’t be allowed to use. They have no opportunity to confront their accusers. They are not allowed to examine the evidence against them, and they have no way to challenge their inclusion on the list in court. In short, they have no constitutional protection or due process whatsoever.  “Because we said so” is all the evidence or explanation required for the government to permanently bar someone from flying in the United States. Apparently the government thinks the Constitution doesn’t apply anymore as soon as you step into an airport.

Obviously the public has an interest in protecting the country from terrorism. Making a list of possible suspects can be useful, but there are ways to allow these people to fly without endangering other passengers. You could single out people on the no fly list for additional security screening, but if you don’t find anything, then these people should be able to board. If the government really thinks someone is an imminent threat but still refuses to actually arrest them or charge them with any crime, then they can have an air marshal assigned to follow this person around until they complete their air travel. They don’t have to exile Americans with no due process or right to appeal that decision.

Our national security is not endangered when you allow people to hear the evidence against them and face their accusers. Our freedom is endangered when you deprive people of their basic constitutional rights without any possible recourse. That is not what America is supposed to be about.

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