The no fly watch list has been a bone of contention with civil libertarians from the moment it was first proposed. A knee jerk reaction born of the 9-11 terror attacks, it purports to keep seemingly potentially dangerous people from flying.
The problem with the no fly watch list is, as Rand Paul points out, in its implementation. Correctly noting that people like Senator Ted Kennedy and the famous musician Cat Stevens have been put on the list, and that the list in general lacks all sorts of civil rights safeguards.
A recently filed class action lawsuit seeks damages for people who have been arbitrarily placed on Federal watch lists without due process. This is both a valid concern and valid reason to sue. The means by which people are placed on this list are vague and hidden, nobody knows when they are placed on various terror watch lists until they attempt to fly, and challenging it is extremely difficult. One may appear on the list for no appreciable reason like Senator Kennedy, or perhaps for having lunch with somebody who cuts the hair of a guy who rents a room to somebody who once got a wrong number phone call from a radical Islamic cleric. To top it off, some want to use the names on this list to deny access to legal firearms purchases or to further restrict a person’s movements.
Let’s make one thing clear. The no fly list and similar watch lists are not proof of guilt. They are proof of suspicion and sometimes that suspicion is a really broad net. There is no due process, nobody gets to have a day in court to defend themselves, and being put on the list is simply at the whim of a giant and scary Federal system that is accountable to nobody. It is in essence the very thing our Constitution is supposed to protect us from.
Rand Paul told Glenn Beck last year that he wants people to have their day in court before being put on the no fly watch list. This is not Soviet Russia or East Germany, where the capricious whims of a suspicious government condemn a person to monitoring or travel restrictions. We live in a nation of laws with clearly defined rights and due process. Perhaps this class action suit will break open the evil secrets behind federal watch lists, and force the government to engage in this silly notion of due process. What do you think? Should we care about the civil rights of people accused of terrorist connections? Tell us your thoughts one Facebook and Twitter.
Written by Steve Coffman
(Photo courtesy of Paul Keller, Flickr CC BY 2.0)
LISTEN: Rand Paul Talks About Danger Of No-Fly Watch List (12/2015)
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