PORTLAND, Oregon — Seven people who challenged their placement on the government's no-fly list are now free to fly, the first time the U.S. has ever informed someone whether they are or are not excluded.
The six men and one woman were part of a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of 13 people denied the right to fly. The plaintiffs wanted to be removed from the list or told why their names appear.
The government, citing national security, long maintained it could not tell anyone whether they were on the list or provide a reason for their inclusion. But U.S. District Judge Anna Brown of Portland ruled that people placed on the list have a constitutionally protected interest in traveling by air, and the right to due process when it's denied.
Brown ordered the government to notify the plaintiffs of their no-fly status by Friday. In the coming months, those who remain on the list will be told why and be given a chance to challenge those reasons.
"This is huge in terms of the secrecy regime, and a regime of unconstitutional unfairness crumbling," said Hina Shamsi, an ACLU lawyer.
Shamsi said the plaintiffs cleared to fly have expressed a "huge relief about certainty," and bewilderment about why they were included on the list in the first place.
"I have to tell you, just talking to all of them tonight, it was wonderful to hear their reactions," she said. "They are so very, very relieved."
One of the plaintiffs, Illinois resident Abe Mashal, said in a statement released by the ACLU he can now attend weddings, graduations and funerals that are out of reach by car.
"Today, I learned I have my freedoms back," he said.
The no-fly list decides who is barred from flying at U.S. airports. It contains thousands of names and has been one of the government's most well-known counterterrorism tools since 9/11. It also has been one of the most criticized, with opponents saying some innocent travelers have been mistaken for terrorism suspects.
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