New lawsuit challenges no-fly orders

In a lawsuit filed today by the ACLU in Federal court in Oregon, Latif, et al. v. Holder, et al., ten U.S. citizens who have been refused permission to board flights to, from, or within the US, or have boarded flights to the U.S. only to have them turn back en route, are suing the Attorney General, the Director of the FBI, and the Director of the Terrorist Screening Center for denying their rights by ordering airlines not to transport them.

At least one of the plaintiffs even flew to Mexico, to avoid overflying the US, with the hope of returning to the US by land.  Instead, he was arrested by Mexican police (presumably at the behest of the U.S. government, and deported not to the country of his citizenship, the USA, but to Colombia, where he has only a temporary visa and can’t remain.  That should have prompted diplomatic protest by the US to Mexico for the improper deportation of a US citizen to a third country.  But presumably Mexico acted at the behest of the US, and there has been no sign of US objection.

So far as we know, this is only the second lawsuit to directly challenge the legality of no-fly orders, and the first on behalf of US citizens.  The previous case was brought by Rahinah Ibrahim, a Malaysian graduate student at Stanford University, after she was detained by San Francisco Airport police and prevented from flying home to her country in 2005. While her complaint remains pending against the individual police in U.S. District court for the Northern District of California, the cases against all of the Federal agencies and officials have been dismissed.

The latest case will test whether the Obama Administration still agrees with former Secretary of Homeland Security Chertoff that no-fly decisions should not be subject to judicial review.  [Update: From the latest statement by the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, it appears that they may.] And it will be closely watched in Europe as well, where the Obama Administration has assured the European Union that adequate means of redress do exist in U.S. courts for individuals — including some of the plaintiffs in the latest case — denied permission to travel from the EU to the U.S. on the basis of passenger data transmitted to the DHS.

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