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TSA officials scan bags at an airport. A lawsuit from the Council on American-Islamic Relations alleges that 'terror watchlists' have had negative consequences for Muslim travelers, both inside airports and outside. Image via Wikimedia Commons/Thank You TSA/Department of Homeland Security. Public domain.

An Islamic advocacy organization is planning to sue the federal government over its terror watchlist.

USA Today reports the suit touches on a recently revealed program—operating under federal instruction, air marshals allegedly kept tabs on air passengers with no known links to terror groups.

Gadeir Abbas, senior litigation attorney with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the group plans to file its suit in a Maryland federal court on Wednesday. The Council will take up the cases of 10 Muslim travelers who claim to have been harassed at airports after being placed on terrorism watchlists.

The plaintiffs, writes USA Today, are from Maryland, Florida, Michigan, Oregon, Kansas, New Jersey and Washington, D.C.

Abbas says the defendants will include the United States Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration, among others.

The suit—which seems to have been a long time coming—accuses the government of violating Muslim passengers’ Fourth Amend rights by denying them due process. The CAIR plans to ask for a court-ordered injunction against the watchlist program, in order to “prevent the federal government from putting innocent people, people who have not been charged, arraigned or convicted of any type of crime, on any type of watch list.”

Abbas says the litigation doesn’t just focus on airports. Individuals who are placed on terror watchlists are subject to other consequences, too. Those who are still able to fly may be selected for additional searches and interrogations at airports. Moreover, they could be denied entry to military bases or be refused licenses to procure or transport hazardous materials.

The United States’ no-fly list exemplifies the problem inherent to cataloguing potential but unproven terror suspects—in 2012, a 7-month old baby was refused permission to board a flight after being tagged as a “known or suspected” extremist.

Similar stories have abounded in the years following 9/11.

September 11th and its aftermath brought heightened security at airports and aboard planes, which carry more air marshals than ever before. CAIR’s litigation is expected to touch on what USA Today describes as a recently-revealed surveillance program. Under the purview of operation ‘Quiet Skies,’ air marshals kept tabs on passengers who exhibited suspicious behavior on flights—red flags included using the restroom too often or simply ‘appearing nervous.’

A TSA spokeswoman says the agency doesn’t comment on pending litigation but urged travelers with discrimination complaints to work through the administration’s internal system.

“Any traveler who believes he or she has been unfairly or incorrectly delayed or denied boarding can work through the DHS Traveler Redress Inquiry Program to resolve the issue,” said spokeswoman Michelle Negron.

Sources

A 7-month-old baby on the no-fly list? Yup. But that’s not the most absurd thing about it.

Muslim organization plans to challenge U.S. over terror watch list system

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