Friday, July 2, 2010

The No-Fly List is Unconstitutional and Un-American

I was aware of the "no-fly list" before, but I never really pondered the constitutionality of it.

However, this article points out very well that people--including many U.S. citizens--are being denied the ability to travel on private aircraft by an un-appealable decree of some security personnel.  No due process involved.  As a result, there are people stranded in foreign countries unable to get home.

The case of Ayman Latif, a disabled Marine veteran who needs to fly to the US from Egypt for medical treatment, strikes me as particularly aggravating.  Repeat after me: Disabled.  Marine.  Veteran.  In other words, I fail to see how he's going to hijack an aircraft, and being a freaking U.S. Marine, is a lot less likely to have sold out to the enemy than John Q. Public.

I am aware there are dangerous people who would do us harm out there, but there are legal mechanisms already in existence for dealing with this kind of thing.  To be arbitrarily denied the use of airplanes by some bureaucratic decree is un-American (the whole purpose of the Bill of Rights is to protect Americans from the kind of arbitrary abuses of power common in almost every other country in the world at the time) and in all likelihood, unconstitutional.

The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Although this is not a deprival of liberty in the same way that being imprisoned is, it is still a denial of liberty in other ways.  Freedom of travel, for example.  Although there is not an explicitly-enumerated right to freedom of travel, I present to you the Ninth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Therefore, if the feds are going to put someone, especially an American citizen, on the no-fly list, they should have to go through the same legal process the government needs to go through to search or arrest someone.  This way, evidence can be weighed, appeals made, that kind of thing.  If we're dealing with people who are abroad, perhaps they could participate via tele-conferencing or some kind of Internet chat-like mechanism.

Methinks if this was not done in the name of defending against terrorism, a lot more conservatives would be opposed to it.

I mean, think about it.  Imagine you're just going around on your daily business and suddenly you're barred from flying.  No reason given, no appeal, and no clear-cut way to get off this list.  This would be a gross abuse of government power, but many people will reflexively defend it in the name of national security.

Let us remember the quote from Ben Franklin:

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.


  1. Well, here's right-wing conservative who agrees with you.

  2. And a left-wing "progressive" who agrees as well... this sort of thing is the one of the most insidious types of violations on liberties, since it's so easy to justify.

  3. Two whole comments on my article?

    Wow. Thanks guys.

    I wrote to the President, my senators, and my U.S. Rep. on the matter soon after I posted this. If you two did that as well, that might help.