Society

Federal Judges OKs Legal Challenge to No Fly List

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The case of Gulet Mohamed is perhaps endemic of the one modern dilemma of how to balance liberty in a world where with a few simple boxcutters and an airliner can be turned into a weapon of mass-murder.

A federal judge ruled January 22, 2014, to allow a U.S. citizen stranded in Kuwait the chance to challenge his placement on the “No Fly List.”

According to the Associated Press, the U.S. “has refused to say why it would have placed Mohamed on the no-fly list; in fact, the government won’t even confirm that Mohamed, or anyone else, is on the list at all.” In his opinion, U.S. District Judge Anthony Trenga wrote, “the No Fly List implicates some of our basic freedoms and liberties as well as the question of whether we will embrace those basic freedoms when it is most difficult.”

Such is the problem with the culture of secrecy, NSA data collection, and CIA black sites. Perhaps Mohamed had been communicating with anti-American figures or perhaps he hasn’t and the phonetic translation of his name is similar to someone who has. In denying due process and shining the light of transparency on something like the No Fly List, the Benjamin Franklin quote about trading security for liberty and ending up with neither seems especially relevant.

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This is not to suggest that the No Fly List should be made public record, easily accessible by both friends and enemies of the U.S. Instead, this ruling is important because it will allow the person on that list a chance to defend themselves against the charge of being a threat to the homeland. In the years since that terrible day in September of 2001, the American people have slowly regained their composure, which may be the most important victory of all.