On April 18, 2014, the New York Times published a scathing editorial on the no-fly list, describing it as “a violation of basic rights” and a list unsuitable for a “democratic society premised on due process.”
Moreover, the NYT addressed the imprecision of the list by explaining that a 2007 audit showed that half the names on the list “were wrongly included.” Adding insult to injury, there were “71,000 names” on the list in 2007, which means 35,500 people were facing a denial of their constitutional rights for being on a list due to oversight or some similar mistake.
The impetus behind the NYT’s editorial was the plight of Rahinah Ibrahim—”a Malaysian architecture professor” who had to spend eight years of her life pursuing various levels of litigation in order to get her name cleared after being wrongly identified as someone on the no-fly list. The NYT lambasted the “vastly overbroad no-fly list” as a horrific by-product of the “shadowy, self-contradictory world of American terror watch lists.”
More recently—on December 7—the Los Angeles Times made many of these same arguments against both the no-fly list and the terror watch list.
The LA Times observed:
Serious flaws in the [lists] have been identified. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, which is suing the government over the no-fly list, the two lists include thousands of names that have been added in error, as well as the names of family members of suspected terrorists. The no-fly list has also been used to deny boarding passes to people who only share a name with a suspected terrorist. Former Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) was famously questioned at airports in 2004 because a terror suspect had used the alias “T. Kennedy.” It took the senator’s office three weeks to get his name cleared.
To summarize, in 2007, half of the 71,000 names on the no-fly should not have been there, and in 2014, the NYT described the list as violating due process by taking away constitutional rights for those accused rather than convicted.
They also criticized the list for proceeding from a secretive hierarchy of persons in the “self-contradictory world of American terror watch lists” that can be so imprecise as to include Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) as a suspected terrorist. The LA Times reaffirmed the existence of this same imprecision in their critique of the no-fly list on December 7, 2015. Yet Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-12) and Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA-5) want this list to be a part of the database the FBI uses when deciding who can or can’t buy a gun?
Follow AWR Hawkins on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.