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.]

Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: class action, virginia, watch list

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. icon
    Ninja (profile), 6 Apr 2016 @ 11:12am

    Notice an innocent guy that had been living his life peacefully got tortured because reasons. And a flawed, bigoted, unconstitutional, Humans Right violating list.

    Also, if law enforcement/intel is afraid of a 7-month-old it's about time we started making fun and heavily mocking them as spineless cowards. But hey, at least they haven't thrown flash grenades at babies. Oh wait...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    Blackfiredragon13 (profile), 6 Apr 2016 @ 11:26am


    I suppose we should be happy it wasn't a standard grenade, given their proclivity to shoot to kill first and ask questions later.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Apr 2016 @ 11:34am

    terrorist has become the new communist buzzword.

    Say something/do something/ protest something someone in power doesn't like, boom you're a terrorist.

    While the real terrorists are the ones in charge

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Apr 2016 @ 12:42pm

    Re: Re:

    You might want to watch the invective, criticizing the police for being thin-skinned, violent, and not always interested in justice is a hate crime now.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Apr 2016 @ 1:00pm


    Traded a Red Scare for a Brown Scare

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Apr 2016 @ 1:41pm


    Mocking The Government will get you on a list.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Apr 2016 @ 3:03pm

    Re: Re:

    That's it! Let's see... Anonymous Coward. There. You're on the list, smarty pants! See how you like them apples!

    We're the Government. We don't have to care.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 6 Apr 2016 @ 3:14pm


    "it's about time we started making fun and heavily mocking them as spineless cowards."

    Started? I started years ago.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Apr 2016 @ 8:54pm


    Seems that is the best way to make terrorists. FBI has been trying to keep their funding.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 6 Apr 2016 @ 11:35pm

    Eh, I frequent TD, a site that has no problem being critical of the government, I'm sure I'm already on several lists at this point, what's a few more?

    (Only mostly kidding, given they put a 7-month old on the list)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 6 Apr 2016 @ 11:40pm

    "Be afraid, be very afraid. No really, be afraid, our budget requires it."

    Watchlists: People 'scary' enough to be labeled as threats and treated like crap, but not scary enough to actually be investigated to see if they're actual threats.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. 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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Apr 2016 @ 11:16am


    It's not torture.
    The US government OFFICIALLY stated on the record that the following items are NOT torture, unfair, degrading or harmful:

    Burning peoples toes with naked flames, waterboarding, removal of fingernails & toenails with pliers, applying electricity to the genitals until flesh begins to smoke, application of dilute sulphuric acid to the inner ear and mouth, removal of teeth using pliers, using sharp blades to strip the outer layer of skin from the arms and legs as long as such cutting does not penetrate into the lower dermis.

    And the list goes on and on....

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)


Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Essential Reading
Techdirt Insider Chat
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.