U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Trenga ruled against the FBI, and in favor of 23 Muslim U.S. citizens who were unfairly placed on the FBI's terror watch list. The decision renders the watch list unconstitutional. Judge Trenga determined that they'd been placed on the list without any evidence they were "known terrorists," and that their due process was violated. According to The Washington Post,
Trenga noted that the list restricts their ability to fly and engage in everyday activities and backed the plaintiffs’ concerns that they were flagged secretly and without a clear methodology.
“There is no evidence, or contention, that any of these plaintiffs satisfy the definition of a ‘known terrorist,’ ” wrote Trenga, adding that even harmless conduct could result in someone being labeled as a “suspected terrorist” on the watch list.
“An individual’s placement into the [watch list] does not require any evidence that the person engaged in criminal activity, committed a crime, or will commit a crime in the future,” the judge wrote, “and individuals who have been acquitted of a terrorism-related crime may still be listed.”
The database includes over one million people, 4,600 of them U.S. citizens. In this case, defendants' abilities to travel were severely hampered, and they were subjected to discrimination and abuse. One of the plaintiffs, Anas Elhady, was detained for over 10 hours when returning to the U.S. from Canada, and in that time, he needed emergency medical attention.
Plaintiffs also argued that not only were innocent people placed on the list with no evidence, but people who have committed terrorist acts have never been included on the list, or were once included but mistakenly taken off the list because they were determined to no longer be a threat.
The ruling could reshape the government’s process for a watch list that has long been criticized for inaccuracy and described by opponents as “a Muslim registry created in the wake of the widespread Islamophobia of the early 2000s.”
“Innocent people should be beyond the reach of the watchlist system,” Gadeir Abbas, a CAIR attorney for the plaintiffs, said in a statement. “We think that’s what the Constitution requires.”
Another day in which we can point to the only branch of government that has a shred of operating integrity left. For the moment.