Citizens On Terrorist Watchlist - Including A 4-Year-Old Boy - Sue Government For Violating Their Rights

from the a-database-fueled-by-faith-and-fear dept

A class-action lawsuit has been filed in Virginia challenging the government's terrorist watchlist. Eighteen plaintiffs -- including a 4-year-old boy who was placed on the watchlist at the age of 7 months -- claim their placement on the watchlist is discriminatory and has deprived them of their rights.

The government's super-secret watchlist for suspected terrorists is, for the most part, the end result of the collective hunches of hundreds of intelligence and law enforcement employees. Despite the lack of anything approaching evidence, people are shrugged onto the watchlist at an alarming rate. The lawsuit points out that only 16 people were on the government's "No Fly" list in 2001. By 2013, the list had 47,000 names on it.

The larger federal watchlist -- overseen by the Terrorist Screening Center, which approves nearly every nomination forwarded to it (98.96%) -- is even more comprehensive. According to the information the plaintiffs have obtained, this database is growing at the rate of 20,000 names per year.

Not all of the plaintiffs are forbidden from flying or leaving the country. All of them, however, have cut back on airline use as every plaintiff has been given the TSA's "SSSS" designation, which brands them (again, without any evidence) as suspected terrorists. Because of their watchlisting, the plaintiffs are routinely subjected to extra scrutiny when traveling -- including detentions that can last for hours.

For others on the list, it's even worse. Once out of the county, all bets are off.

On December 20, 2010, Mr. Gulet Mohamed arrived at the Kuwait International Airport to renew his visa, just as he had done every three months since he arrived in Kuwait.

After an abnormally long wait of several hours, Mr. Mohamed contacted his brother in Virginia via email to inform him that the visa process was taking longer than usual. This is the last communication anyone received from Mr. Mohamed for more than a week.

While at the airport, two men in civilian clothes approached Mr. Mohamed, handcuffed him, blindfolded him, escorted him to a waiting SUV, and drove him to an undisclosed location approximately fifteen minutes from the airport

During Mr. Mohamed's abduction, he was repeatedly beaten and subjected to severe torture by his interrogators. Mr.Mohamed's interrogators struck him in the face with their hands regularly and in Mr. Mohamed's estimate more than a hundred times. The interrogators whipped his feet and forced by his interrogators to stand for prolonged periods of time. At one point, the interrogators threatened to run currents of electricity through Mr. Mohamed's genitals. In another instance, Mr. Mohamed's arms were tied to a ceiling beam and left in that position until he lost consciousness.
Even while in the US, plaintiffs on the watchlist have been subjected to lengthy detention in holding cells, had their electronic devices seized and taken to nearby CBP or FBI offices to be examined, and pressured to become government informants in exchange for the "privilege" of boarding airplanes.

The lawsuit also notes that despite the recent ruling that the redress program for the government's "no fly" list is unconstitutional, the alterations made are still far from adequate. It also points out that the government has disingenuously been "delisting" people whenever challenged, rather than risk having its hunch-based nomination process subjected to additional judicial scrutiny.

On top of that, the lawsuit points out that the nomination process itself is highly suspect. Nominations appear to be based on race, religion and protected First Amendment activity, rather than any suspicion of involvement in terrorism. In addition, nominations to the watchlist also appear to be based on a presumption of guilt by association -- if one family member is nominated and placed on the list, it's a safe bet that anyone related to that member will be listed shortly thereafter.

The plaintiffs are asking the court to examine a multitude of Constitutional violations stemming from the government's abuse of its terrorist watchlists. If this suit is granted class status, it will make it that much harder for the government to simply delist plaintiffs and hope the legal challenge goes away.

[Public shaming time: this is being reported everywhere thanks to the Associated Press, which can't be bothered to provide any of its millions of readers with an actual copy of the filing. Techdirt may not have as many resources as AP, but it does know how to navigate PACER and make court filings available to its readers.]

Filed Under: class action, virginia, watch list

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  1. identicon
    Lisboeta, 7 Apr 2016 @ 8:03am


    How did things get this bad? You can be put on the 'suspicious' list without any prior notification. The first thing you know about it is being detained for extra screening at the airport or, even worse, being prevented from flying (thus wasting the cost of your ticket -- but that's your problem not theirs). And, once labelled, there is scant chance of redress. The last time I looked, there was only a handful of people who had managed to get themselves off the blacklist, after years of fighting.

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