The No Fly List is a list, created and maintained by the United States government's Terrorist Screening Center (TSC), of people who are not permitted to board a commercial aircraft for travel in or out of the United States. The list has also been used to divert away from U.S. airspace aircraft not flying to or from the U.S. The number of people on the list rises and falls according to threat and intelligence reporting. As of 2011, the list contained about 10,000 names. The list – along with the Secondary Security Screening Selection, which tags would-be passengers for extra inspection – was created after the September 11 attacks in 2001.
The No Fly List is different from the Terrorist Watch List, a much longer list of people said to be suspected of some involvement with terrorism. The Terrorist Watch List contained around 400,000 names as of summer 2011, according to the TSC.
The list has been criticized on civil liberties and due process grounds, due in part to the potential for ethnic, religious, economic, political, or racial profiling and discrimination. It has also raised concerns about privacy and government secrecy. Finally, it has been criticized as costly, prone to false positives, and easily defeated.
The No Fly List, the Selectee List and the Terrorist Watchlist were created by the administration of George W. Bush and retained by the administration of Barack Obama. U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said in May 2010: “The no-fly list itself is one of our best lines of defense.”
- 1 History
- 2 Failures
- 3 Controversy
- 4 False positives
- 5 No fly lists in other countries
- 6 Satirical responses
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
History[edit | edit source]
On September 11, 2001, the FBI had a list of 16 people deemed "no transport" because they "presented a specific known or suspected threat to aviation." The list had grown to more than 400 names by November 2001, when responsibility for keeping it was transferred to the Federal Aviation Administration.
In mid-December 2001, two lists were created: the "No Fly List" of 594 people to be denied air transport, and the "Selectee" list of 365 people who were to be more carefully searched at airports. By December 2002, the No Fly List held more than 1,000 names. 60 Minutes reported on 8 October 2006 that the news program had obtained a March 2006 copy of the list that contained 44,000 names. TSA officials said that, as of November 2005, 30,000 people in 2005 had complained that their names were matched to a name on the list via the name matching software used by airlines. In April 2007, the United States government "terrorist watch list" administered by the Terrorist Screening Center, which is managed principally by the FBI, contained 700,000 records. A year later, the ACLU estimated the list to have grown to over 1,000,000 names and to be continually expanding.
However, according to Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff, in October 2008 the No Fly list contained only 2,500 names, with an additional 16,000 "selectees", who "represent a less specific security threat and receive extra scrutiny, but are allowed to fly."
Failures[edit | edit source]
That approach might apply to some airports worldwide, but as of today on many airports worldwide the aircrew staff at the boarding gate perform a check "ID versus boarding pass" as well (at least most in Europe, Middle East, South America).
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab[edit | edit source]
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who was accused of trying to bomb Northwest Airlines Flight 253, was not on the No Fly List. Thirty-five days earlier, his father had made a report to two Central Intelligence Agency officers at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja regarding his son's "extreme religious views", and told the embassy that Abdulmutallab might be in Yemen. Acting on the report, Abdulmutallab's name was added in November 2009 to the 550,000-name U.S. Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, a database of the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center. It was not added to the 4,000-name U.S. No Fly List. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano stated that the system "failed miserably", because Abdulmutallab had been able to board the flight. President Barack Obama called the U.S.'s failure to prevent the bombing attempt "totally unacceptable", and ordered an investigation.
Faisal Shahzad[edit | edit source]
Faisal Shahzad, who was convicted of planting a car bomb in Times Square, New York City, was arrested after he had boarded Emirates Flight 202 to Dubai. He had been placed on the No Fly List earlier in the day. The airline did not check the No Fly List for added names when Shahzad made his reservation that evening, when he later purchased the ticket, or when he was allowed to board the plane. Only after a routine post-boarding check revealed that he was on the No Fly List did agents board the plane and arrest him.
Controversy[edit | edit source]
Among the complaints about the No Fly List is the use of credit reports in calculating the risk score. In response to the controversy, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials said in 2005 that they would not use credit scores to determine passengers' risk score and that they would comply with all rights guaranteed by the First and Fourth Amendments.
The European Union and other non-U.S. government entities have expressed concern about allowing the CAPPS II proposal to be implemented within their borders. During the early testing of the No Fly List and CAPPS II, the TSA privately asked airlines to disclose massive amounts of personal information about their passengers. This action has been said[who?] to be a violation of the Privacy Act of 1974, which forbids the government to compile secret databases on U.S. citizens. Spokespeople from several major airlines denied providing TSA the information, then admitted that they had done so. TSA and the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) admitted that the government had inappropriately requested and used this information.
In the midst of this controversy, the Government Accountability Office of the U.S. Congress produced a report critical of the CAPPS II system. It characterized the proposal as incomplete and seriously behind schedule, and noted that the TSA had failed to address "developmental, operational, and privacy issues identified by Congress". On July 14, 2004, TSA officials announced that CAPPS II was being pulled from consideration without proceeding to full testing. Critics have alleged that the TSA has merely chosen to start with a less controversial entry point that they are calling the "Registered Traveler" program. TSA has also begun testing of another program called "Secure Flight", which is supposed to solve some of the problems of CAPPS I while avoiding the privacy issues of CAPPS II.
In January 2009, Marcus Holmes conservatively estimated the total cost of the program to be $536 million since 9/11, with a reasonable estimation range that approaches $1 billion, and he questioned whether the benefits of the list outweigh the costs.
False positives[edit | edit source]
A "false positive" occurs when a passenger who is not on the No Fly List has a name that matches or is similar to a name on the list. False positive passengers will not be allowed to board a flight unless they can differentiate themselves from the actual person on the list, usually by presenting ID showing their middle name or date of birth. In some cases, false positive passengers have been denied boarding or have missed flights because they could not easily prove that they were not the person on the No Fly List.
When an airline ticket is purchased, the reservation system uses software to compare the passenger's name against the No Fly List. If the name matches, or is similar to a name on the No Fly List, a restriction is placed in their reservation that prevents them from being issued a boarding pass until the airline has determined whether or not they are the actual person whose name is on the No Fly List. Passengers are not told when a restriction has been placed on their reservation, and they normally do not find out that anything is unusual until they attempt to check in. "False positive" passengers cannot use Internet check-in or the automatic check-in kiosks in airports. Any attempt to use them will normally result in a message that the check-in cannot be completed and that the passenger needs to see a live check-in agent.
In order to be issued a boarding pass, a "false positive" passenger must present identification that sufficiently differentiates them from the person on the No Fly List. This can include, but is not limited to, date and place of birth, middle name, citizenship, passport number, etc. Depending on the airline, this clearance can be done either electronically, with the check-in agent keying the information into the system, or a manual procedure where the agent telephones a centralized security office to obtain clearance. Once a "false positive" passenger has been cleared for a flight, the clearance will usually, but not always, apply to the remaining flights on that reservation, including the return. However, the next time this passenger purchases an airline ticket, they will have to be cleared all over again. If a passenger's identification is insufficient to differentiate that passenger from a name on the No-Fly List, the airline will refuse to issue a boarding pass and tell the passenger to contact the TSA.
Policies vary from airline to airline as to whether a check-in agent will tell passengers why they must always have additional steps performed when they check-in, or why they are unable to check-in via Internet, kiosk, or at curbside. In some cases, check-in agents will incorrectly tell passengers that they must be cleared because they are "on the No Fly List", when in fact they are simply a "false positive" (having the same name as someone on the No-Fly List). False positive passengers who are ultimately issued boarding passes are not on the No Fly List. In the majority of instances, passengers are not told anything, and it is only through the repeated experience of needing to be cleared or being unable to use curbside, Internet or automatic check-in that they come to suspect that they are a "false positive".
False positive passengers are at a disadvantage when traveling, due to the fact that their documents must be inspected by airline personnel before they can be issued a boarding pass. Because this permanently excludes them from being able to use Internet, kiosk, or curbside check-in, they are, at best, required to appear at the airport earlier than they might normally have, because they must wait in line to be cleared. Some airlines provide a special counter for this purpose; others require the passenger to wait in the line for passengers with checked baggage, even if they have no baggage to check. At worst, passengers have actually missed flights because the flights were oversold and all of the available boarding passes were already claimed by other passengers who were able to check-in via the Internet, or because airline personnel could not contact the airline's security department to obtain a clearance, or because the passenger's identification didn't sufficiently differentiate them from a name on the No Fly List.
In an effort to reduce the number of false positives, DHS announced on April 28, 2008 that each airline will be permitted to create a system to verify and store a passenger's date of birth, to clear up watch list misidentifications. Passengers can voluntarily provide this information to the airline, which would have to be verified by presenting acceptable ID at the ticket counter. Once this data has been stored, travelers that were previously inconvenienced on every trip would be able to check-in online or at remote kiosks. It will be up to each individual airline to choose whether they wish to implement such a system.
False positives and other controversial cases[edit | edit source]
False positives and abuses that have been in the news include:
- Numerous children (including many under the age of five, and some under the age of one) have generated false positives.
- Daniel Brown, a United States Marine returning from Iraq, was prevented from boarding a flight home in April 2006 because his name matched one on the No Fly List.
- David Fathi, an attorney for the ACLU of Iranian descent and a plaintiff in the ACLU lawsuit.
- Asif Iqbal, a management consultant and legal resident of the United States born in Pakistan, plans to sue the U.S. government because he is regularly detained when he tries to fly, because he has the same name as a former Guantanamo detainee. Iqbal's work requires a lot of travel, and, even though the Guantanamo detainee has been released, his name remains on the No Fly List, and Iqbal the software consultant experiences frequent, unpredictable delays and missed flights. He is pushing for a photo ID and birthdate matching system, in addition to the current system of checking names.
- Robert J. Johnson, a surgeon and a former lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, was told in 2006 that he was on the list, although he had had no problem in flying the month before. Johnson was running as a Democrat against U.S. Representative John McHugh, a Republican. Johnson wondered whether he was on the list because of his opposition to the Iraq War. He stated, "This could just be a government screw-up, but I don't know, and they won't tell me." Later, a 60 Minutes report brought together 12 men named Robert Johnson, all of whom had experienced problems in airports with being pulled aside and interrogated. The report suggested that the individual whose name was intended to be on the list was most likely the Robert Johnson who had been convicted of plotting to bomb a movie theater and a Hindu temple in Toronto.
- In August 2004, Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) told a Senate Judiciary Committee discussing the No Fly List that he had appeared on the list and had been repeatedly delayed at airports. He said it had taken him three weeks of appeals directly to Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge to have him removed from the list. Kennedy said he was eventually told that the name "T Kennedy" was added to the list because it was once used as an alias of a suspected terrorist. There are an estimated 7,000 American men whose legal names correspond to "T Kennedy". (Senator Kennedy, whose first name was Edward and for whom "Ted" was only a nickname, would not have been one of them.) Recognizing that as a U.S. Senator he was in a privileged position of being able to contact Ridge, Kennedy said of "ordinary citizens": "How are they going to be able to get to be treated fairly and not have their rights abused?" Former mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani pointed to this incident as an example for the necessity to "rethink aviation security" in an essay on homeland security published while he was seeking the Republican nomination for the 2008 presidential election.
- U.S. Representative John Lewis (D-GA), widely known for his civil rights advocacy, has been stopped many times.
- Canadian journalist Patrick Martin has been frequently interrogated while traveling, because of a suspicious individual with the same name.
- Walter F. Murphy, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton, reported that the following exchange took place at Newark on 1 March 2007, where he was denied a boarding pass "because I [Professor Murphy] was on the Terrorist Watch list." The airline employee asked, "Have you been in any peace marches? We ban a lot of people from flying because of that." "I explained," said professor Murphy, "that I had not so marched but had, in September 2006, given a lecture at Princeton, televised and put on the web, highly critical of George Bush for his many violations of the constitution." To which the airline employee responded, "That'll do it."
- David Nelson, the actor best known for his role on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, is among various persons named David Nelson who have been stopped at airports because their name apparently appears on the list.
- Jesselyn Radack, a former United States Department of Justice ethics adviser who argued that John Walker Lindh was entitled to an attorney, was placed on the No Fly List as part of what she  believes to be a reprisal for her whistle-blowing.
- In September 2004, former pop singer Cat Stevens (who converted to Islam and changed his name to "Yusuf Islam" in 1978) was denied entry into the U.S. after his name was found on the list.
- In February 2006, U.S. Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) stated in a committee hearing that his wife Catherine had been subjected to questioning at an airport as to whether she was Cat Stevens due to the similarity of their names.
- U.S. Representative Don Young (R-AK), the third-most senior Republican in the House, was flagged in 2004 after he was mistaken for a "Donald Lee Young".
- Some members of the Federal Air Marshal Service have been denied boarding on flights that they were assigned to protect because their names matched those of persons on the no-fly list.
- Until July 2008, Nelson Mandela and other members of the African National Congress were on the list, something that U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called "rather embarrassing". On July 5, 2008, the U.S. removed Mandela and the ANC from the list.
- In August 2008, CNN reported that an airline captain and retired brigadier general for the United States Air Force has had numerous encounters with security officials when attempting to pilot his own plane.
- After frequent harassment at airport terminals, a Canadian businessman changed his name to avoid being delayed every time he took a flight.
- In October 2008, the Washington Post reported that Maryland State Police classified 53 nonviolent political activists as terrorists, and entered their names and personal information into state and federal databases, with labels indicating that they were terror suspects. The protest groups were also entered as terrorist organizations. During a hearing, it was revealed that these individuals and organizations had been placed in the databases because of a surveillance operation that targeted opponents of the death penalty and the Iraq war.
- In April 2009, TSA refused to allow an Air France flight from Paris to Mexico to cross U.S. airspace because it was carrying Colombian journalist Hernando Calvo Ospina. Air France did not send the passenger manifest to the US authorities, they did however send it to Mexico who forwarded it to the US.
- Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan was held for extensive questioning by US Immigration and Customs officials in August 2009, because as he reported, "his name came up on a computer alert list." Customs officials claimed he "was questioned as part of a routine process that took 66 minutes." Khan was visiting the United States to promote his film My Name is Khan, which concerns racial profiling of Muslims in the United States.
- In June 2010, The New York Times reported Yahya Wehelie, a 26 year-old Muslim-American man was being prevented from returning to the United States, and trapped in Cairo. Despite Wehelie's offer to FBI agents to allow them to accompany him in the plane, while shackled, he was not permitted to return. The ACLU has argued that this constitutes banishment.
- A U.S. citizen, stranded in Colombia after being placed on the no-fly list as a result of having studied in Yemen, sought to re-enter the U.S. through Mexico but was returned to Colombia by Mexican authorities.
- Michael Migliore, a 23-year-old Muslim convert and dual citizen of the United States and Italy, was detained in the United Kingdom after traveling there from the U.S. by train and then cruise ship because he was not permitted to fly. He said that he believes he was placed on the no-fly list because he refused to answer questions about a 2010 Portland car bomb plot without his lawyer present. He was released eight or ten hours later, but authorities confiscated his electronic media items including a cell phone and media player.
- Abe Mashal, a 31-year-old Muslim and United States Marine Veteran, found himself on the No Fly List in April 2010 while attempting to board a plane out of Midway Airport. He was questioned by the TSA, FBI and Chicago Police at the airport and was told they had no clue why he was on the No Fly List. Once he arrived at home that day two other FBI agents came to his home and used a Do Not Fly question-and-answer sheet to question him. They informed him they had no idea why he was on the No Fly List. In June 2010 those same two FBI agents summoned Mashal to a local hotel and invited him to a private room. They told him that he was in no trouble and the reason he ended up on the No Fly List was because of possibly sending emails to an American imam they may have been monitoring. They then informed him that if he would go undercover at various local mosques, they could get him off the No Fly List immediately and he would be compensated for such actions. Mashal refused to answer any additional questions without a lawyer present and was told to leave the hotel. Mashal then contacted the ACLU and is now being represented in a class-action lawsuit filed against the TSA, FBI and DHS concerning the legality of the No Fly List and how people end up on it. Mashal feels as if he was blackmailed into becoming an informant by being placed on the No Fly List. Mashal has since appeared on ABC, NBC, PBS and Al Jazeera concerning his inclusion on the No Fly List. He has also written a book about his experience titled "No Spy No Fly." 
DHS Traveler Redress Inquiry Program[edit | edit source]
The DHS Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (TRIP) is a procedure for travelers who are delayed or denied boarding of an aircraft, consistently receive excess scrutiny at security checkpoints, or are denied entry to the U.S. because they are believed to be or are told that they are on a government watch list. The traveler must complete an online application at the Department of Homeland Security website, print and sign the application, and then submit it with copies of several identifying documents. After reviewing their records, DHS notifies the traveler that if any corrections of data about them were warranted, they will be made.
Travelers who apply for redress through TRIP are assigned a record identifier called a "Redress Control Number". Airline reservations systems allow passengers who have a Redress Control Number to enter it when making their reservation.
DHS TRIP may make it easier for an airline to confirm a traveler's identity. False-positive travelers, whose names match or are similar to the name of a person on the No Fly List, will continue to match that name even after using DHS TRIP, so it will not restore a traveler's ability to use Internet or curbside check-in or to use an automated kiosk. It does usually help the airline identify the traveler as not being the actual person on the No Fly List, after an airline agent has reviewed their identity documents at check-in.
DHS TRIP is often accused of being defunct and existing only to appease civil rights organizations without having any actual effect.
ACLU lawsuit[edit | edit source]
On August 5, 2010 the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of 14 plaintiffs challenging their placement on the No Fly List. 
On April 6, 2004 the American Civil Liberties Union "filed a nationwide class-action challenge to the government's No Fly List", in which they charge that "many innocent travelers who pose no security risk whatsoever are discovering that their government considers them terrorists – and find that they have no way to find out why they are on the list, and no way to clear their names." The case was settled in 2006, when "the federal government agreed to pay $200,000 in attorneys' fees to the ACLU of Northern California" and to "[make] public, for the first time, hundreds of records about the government's secret 'no fly' list used to screen airline passengers after September 11, 2001."
Other lawsuits[edit | edit source]
On August 18, 2008, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco issued a ruling on behalf of Rahinah Ibrahim, overturning a lower court decision and allowing her case against inclusion in the No Fly List to proceed through the court system.
No fly lists in other countries[edit | edit source]
The government of Canada has created its own no fly list as part of a program called Passenger Protect. The Canadian list incorporates data from domestic and foreign intelligence sources, including the U.S. No Fly List. It contains between 500 and 2,000 names.
Satirical responses[edit | edit source]
- In the Simpsons episode "We're on the Road to D'ohwhere", it is revealed Bart is on the No Fly List. It is implied that this is because on a recent flight Bart removed his seat belt, in defiance of the captain's instruction, forcing the plane to return to its original takeoff point.
- In an episode of Boston Legal entitled "Nuts", lawyer Denny Crane is prohibited from flying to Hawaii because his name is on the no-fly list. Attorney Alan Shore wins the lawsuit by filling the courtroom audience with people named "Denny Crane" and arguing that America is capable of amazing technical innovation such as the iPod and should be able to develop a solution that does not result in so many false positives.
- In the movie Due Date, the two primary characters Ethan Tremblay/Chase and Peter Highman were allegedly put in the No fly list by the airlines authorities due to their repeated talk about terrorism in the aircraft.
- In a Modern Family episode called "Airport 2010", twelve-year-old Manny Delgado was banned from flying with his family to Hawaii when his name matched one on the No-Fly List.
- In an episode of The Jeff Dunham Show, Achmed says he "made" the No Fly List, claiming it's a "beauty pageant for terrorists".
See also[edit | edit source]
- Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System
- Hollywood blacklist
- Interpol Terrorism Watch List
- Office of Foreign Assets Control
- Secondary Security Screening Selection
- Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment
- FBI Index
References[edit | edit source]
- "FBI — TSC Vision & Mission". Terrorist Screening Center. Federal Bureau of Investigation. August 10, 2010. http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/nsb/tsc/tsc_mission. Retrieved November 17, 2011.
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- Jamie Tarabay (January 26, 2011). "The No-Fly List: FBI Says It's Smaller Than You Think". NPR. https://www.npr.org/2011/01/26/133187841/the-no-fly-list-fbi-says-its-smaller-than-you-think. Retrieved November 17, 2011.
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- Walter Pincus (November 1, 2009). "1,600 are suggested daily for FBI's list". washingtonpost.com. The Washington Post Company. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/31/AR2009103102141.html. Retrieved November 17, 2011.
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- "Terrorist Screening Center" http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/nsb/tsc/tsc
- "Terrorist Watchlist Checks and Air Passenger Prescreening," Congressional Research Service, December 30, 2009. 
- "Homeland Insecurity: Why 'No-Fly' Just Doesn't Fly" by Randall Amster, Truthout, February 3, 2010.
- "Meet Mikey, 8: U.S. Has Him on Watch List" New York Times, January 14, 2010.
- "Unlikely Terrorists On No Fly List" 60 Minutes, October 8, 2006.
- ACLU Challenges Government No-Fly List
- Reginald T. Shuford (2004-04-06). "Michelle D. Green; John F. Shaw; David C. Fathi; Sarosh Syed; Mohamed Ibrahim; David Nelson; Alexandra Hay, on behalv of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs, v. Transportation Security Administration" (PDF). American Civil Liberties Union. http://news.findlaw.com/usatoday/docs/aclu/greenvtsa40604cmp.pdf.
- 1,600 are Suggested Daily for FBI's List by Walter Pincus, Washington Post, November 1, 2009
- Plaintiff in ACLU Suit Challenging Government No-Fly List Describes Struggle - video report by Democracy Now!