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Supreme Court to Hear ‘No Fly List’ Dispute Case

January 5, 2024

(Gray TV)—On Monday, the Supreme Court will hear arguments for FBI v. Fikre, a case about one man who alleges his due process rights were violated when he was placed on the No Fly List without notice.

Back in 2010, Portland, Oregon resident Yonas Fikre alleges he was wrongly placed on the list and was unable to return to the United States for years. He sued the government and was removed from the list but now is still fighting to have his day in court.

The U.S. government created the No Fly List in the wake of 9/11. It is made up of people who have been deemed too much of a risk to national security to fly on commercial flights.

Fikre found out he was on that list while on a business trip in Sudan, with no notice or explanation.

“The thing about the program is it remains a black box,” said Hina Shamsi, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union National (ACLU) Security Project. “Not only are Americans left in the dark about why they’ve been placed on the list, just like Mr. Fikre is in the dark about why he was put on the list in the first place but Americans aren’t given any meaningful explanation when they’re removed.”

The ACLU has filed an amicus brief in support of Fikre in the case.

Fikre says FBI agents questioned him about his ties to a mosque in Portland and told him he would not be able to return home. They offered to take Fikre off the No Fly List if he became an informant but he refused. He then went to the United Arab Emirates where he was put in prison and tortured. Fikre was eventually released and sought asylum in Sweden with a relative but was denied. Shortly before Sweden put him on a private flight back to the U.S., Fikre filed suit against the FBI.

“And so, he filed suit asking, ‘Why was I put on this list?’ because the FBI had never actually told him why he was put on the list. They’ve never explained to him what he did or didn’t do,” said Reilly Stephens, Counsel at Liberty Justice Center, a nonprofit firm focused on constitutional law which filed an amicus brief in the case.

Fikre argued that the FBI violated his right to due process under the fifth amendment by calling him a flight risk and not providing him with a way to challenge his status. While that lawsuit was pending, the FBI took him off the list and said that that the case was now moot. A federal district court agreed with the FBI, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled that it was not moot because the government has not made it clear that he would not be placed on the list again.

Now the FBI is asking the nation’s highest court to reverse the 9th Circuit’s ruling.

At the hear of the case is a constitutional question about whether or not Fikre’s due process rights were violated.

“It’s not about whether it’s a good process or a bad process or what changes the government should or shouldn’t make. It’s asking, ‘Can citizens assert their rights in court?’ This case is ultimately about due process and the rule of law,” said Stephens.