A secret federal “no-fly” list of terrorist suspects has been used to stigmatize innocent citizens, the American Civil Liberties Union charged yesterday in a class-action lawsuit on behalf of seven individuals, reports the Washington Post. Each was stopped several times by airline and security personnel and extensively questioned, searched, and publicly singled out as posing a threat after being told their names were on the no-fly list, the suit said. They were allowed to board their flights after extensive efforts to prove they were not the same person as the suspect on the list. The passengers, all U.S. citizens, include a 74-year-old minister from Washington state, a 36-year-old U.S. Air Force master sergeant from Alaska, a 22-year-old student at Middlebury College in Vermont, a 34-year-old attorney in Illinois, a 51-year-old activist in Philadelphia and two ACLU employees.
The passengers said the government has not told them why their names are on the list nor provided a way to get their names removed. “I am not seeking any monetary damages, but a fair and transparent process to remove my name from the no-fly list,” said Michelle Green, an Air Force sergeant who said she was humiliated in front of her supervisors when airline agents told her she could not get a boarding pass because she was on the list. “No innocent American should have to go through such a humiliating experience.”
The Transportation Security Administration plans to use the list, along with other databases, as part of a new passenger-screening program called Computer-Assisted Passenger Pre-Screening System II, which is expected to begin later this year. The CAPPS II program aims to rate the risk posed by every airline passenger traveling through the United States. TSA spokesman Mark Hatfield said the passengers’ frustrating experience demonstrated a need for the new system.