Americans on the United States’ no-fly list will now be privy to information about why they have been banned from commercial flights and be given the opportunity to dispute their status, according to court documents filed by the Justice Department this week.
The revised policy comes in response to a June ruling by a federal judge that said the old process was in violation of the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of due process. The decision was part of an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit brought on behalf of 13 Americans on the list.
But the ACLU isn’t satisfied with the government’s new policy, outlined in documents filed Monday in federal courts in Oregon (PDF) and Virginia (PDF).
“After years of fighting in court for complete secrecy and losing, it’s good that the government is finally now going to tell people of their status on the No Fly List,” said Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU National Security Project and the lead attorney on the case, in a statement.
“Unfortunately, we’ve found that the government’s new redress process falls far short of constitutional requirements because it denies our clients meaningful notice, evidence, and a hearing. The government had an opportunity to come up with a fair process but failed, so we’re challenging it in court again.”
People on the no-fly list, managed by the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, are prohibited from boarding a commercial flight for travel into or out of the United States.
The number of people on the list is classified. An official with knowledge of the government’s figurestold CNN in 2012 that the list contained about 21,000 names, including about 500 Americans.
Before the change, American citizens and permanent residents who inquired with the government about being denied aircraft boarding received a letter that neither confirmed nor denied their inclusion on the no-fly list. Now, they’ll be made aware of their status if they apply for redress, with an option to request further information.
“The U.S. government is making enhancements to the Department of Homeland Security Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP) to provide additional transparency and process for U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who have been denied boarding on a commercial aircraft because they are on the No Fly List,” the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement.
In cases in which travelers included on the list request to receive or submit more information about their status, the government will provide a second, more detailed response, identifying “specific criterion under which the individual has been placed on the No Fly List,” according to the court documents.
An unclassified summary of that information will be provided “to the extent feasible, consistent with the national security and law enforcement interests at stake,” court papers said.
Those who appear on the no-fly list will then have further opportunity to dispute their status in writing, with supporting materials or exhibits, and will receive a final written decision from the Transportation Security Administration.
The 2014 ruling that prompted the policy changes had called for passengers on the list to be given the opportunity to dispute their status before a judge.