ACLU lawyers speak with reporters following last January arguments
  • Sarah Mirk
  • ACLU lawyers speak with reporters following last January's arguments

Taking the FBI to court is no piece of cake. Since June 2010, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has been fighting behind a major lawsuit filed against the FBI, claiming that the federal government's "No Fly List" is unconstitutional. What does this have to do with Portland? One of the 15 plaintiffs who have been placed on the list, Mohamed Sheikh Abdirahman Kariye, is a Portland resident and Portland's federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (which represents the entire West Coast) is expected to be more open to the case itself.

Today, ACLU lawyers and representatives brought their arguments against the federal process to Pioneer Courthouse in front of Judge Alex Kozinski (for the second time). The main problem the ACLU has is that the list violates the right of due process, because the government does not tell people whether they've been placed on the list, why they're suspect, or provide an adequate way to get someone's name off.

"It's a sham," says ACLU spokesman David Fidanque. "The FBI tries to hide their information behind the TSA [Transportation Security Administration], but really they're the ones who can change the process."

If a person on the no fly list wants to investigate their placement, the FBI directs them to file a TSA grievance. However, says Fidanque, the TSA ultimately has no power. Thus, it creates a vicious and frustrating cycle to potentially innocent people.

"If we can't get these people off the list, the least we could ask for is an explanation as to why they're on the list," Fidangue says.

Today's hearing, while it highlighted the ACLU's arguments, was mainly meant to see if the case could even go forward in the federal court. Staying true to the glacial pace of this lawsuit, Fidanque says that it could take up to three months to get an answer. We'll follow up with the ACLU later on to see if this case has wings at the federal level.