Are the Feds Really Going to Change the No-Fly List Policy?

The No-Fly List has been energetically defended by our Executive Branch machinery. They even used the list to try to prevent a witness from flying to the trial to testify against the list!

no fly list

Now, the Associated Press headline claims that they intend to change the list: “Changes planned on how travelers can protest placement on no-fly list.”

The Obama administration is promising to change the way travelers can ask to be removed from its no-fly list of suspected terrorists banned from air travel.

The decision comes after a federal judge’s ruling that there was no meaningful way to challenge the designation, a situation deemed unconstitutional. In response, the Justice Department said the U.S. will change the process during the next six months. As of late last summer, about 48,000 people were on the no-fly list.

The government’s policy is never to confirm or deny that a person actually is on the no-fly list, citing national security concerns. In many of these cases, travelers assume they are on the list because they are instructed to go through additional screening at airports or because they are told they can’t board their flights to, from or within the United States.

The no-fly list is one of the government’s most controversial post-9/11 counterterrorism programs because of its lack of due process, long criticized because people cannot know why they were placed on the list and lack an effective way to fight the decision. Changing how people can challenge their designation could amount to one of the government’s most significant adjustments to how it manages the list.

I’m sorry but this story lost me at the fourth word: “promising.”

What does it mean when the Obama Administration promises to do something?


48,000 people have been restricted from traveling by air without any due process. The Obama Administration pursued and defended the policy as vigorously as the Bush Administration before. Is it really plausible that they are now going to allow victims of this unconstitutional practice to appeal their cases before a judge?

At this point, the White House has many options for obstructing the court ruling. First of all they can simply multiply delays in the time table and probably change nothing for two years. Then they can set up special airway courts where they keep control of the outcome. Or they can simply make challenging one’s place on the no-fly list possible in theory but two complicated in practice to be a real option.

If my skepticism is proven wrong, I’ll be happy. But I see no reason to think this delay is anything more than a stalling tactic, with many more to come.