Who’d a Thought: Due Process in the US!

US District Judge Anna BrownWould you like some good news for a change of pace? Well I got news for you: I provide you with plenty of good news around here, like how Kagemusha is a great film and the meaning of Jade’s Trick in Shakespeare. But if by “news” you mean “political news” or “news of the day,” well, I have some of that that is good too!

Timothy Phelps and Michael Muskal at The Los Angeles Times reported last night, Federal Judge Declares Government No-Fly List Rules Unconstitutional. The ruling by US District Judge Anna Brown found that it was just a matter of due process. Names are put on the list and people with those names have no way of contesting them. And even when the name on the list really does apply to a particular person, the government has no stated reason for the labeling.

According to the article:

She ordered the government to come up with new procedures that protect citizens’ due-process rights without jeopardizing national security. Passengers must be given notice of their inclusion on the list and a rationale for the designation and be allowed to submit evidence to challenge it, Brown said.

The No Fly List was created, like so much that is bad in America, after 9/11. But it is pretty clear that even if we had had a No Fly List with 21,000 names on it on 9/11, it wouldn’t have stopped the attacks. Has it kept us safe since then as Democratic Senator Most In Need of Retiring Dianne Feinstein has said? Who know?! This is one of the reasons that the government likes to run a tight ship information-wise: when we don’t know anything, we can’t challenge their claims.

This is really all about government laziness and hubris: the idea that it’s too much work to deal with a real threat properly mixed with the idea that only the “little people” get hurt. None of Dianne Feinstein’s or George Bush’s friends ever need worry about boarding a plane. So Judge Brown is doing exactly what the courts should have done years ago: tell the other branches of the government that the No Fly List is a No Go.

I tend to think the ruling will stand, although when it first went to District Court, it was thrown out. It was only when appealed to the 9th Circuit Court that it was reversed and the lower court was told to consider it. At the Supreme Court level, I suspect that Thomas and Alito would overturn this ruling, but I feel that Scalia and Roberts would probably uphold it. The case is so clear and unlike similar cases, the No Fly List isn’t a secret list that allows the court to chicken out and claim defendants can’t prove they’ve been harmed. The harm is clear here. And there is no due process.

So life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness wins one for a change! As Kermit the Frog would say:


Image via Oregon Live.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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