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Federal Judge In Portland Orders Changes To No-Fly List

Rick Bowmer
AP Photo
FILE - This May 11, 2012 file photo shows Portland Imam Mohamed Sheikh Abdirahman Kariye.

A federal judge in Portland on Tuesday ordered the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI to come up with new rules for the government's no-fly list. The court found travelers labeled as potential terrorists had been deprived of their constitutional rights to due process.

Thirteen U.S. citizens challenged the no-fly list rules four years ago after being denied boarding at various airports. They include the imam of Portland's largest mosque and an Arabic language student from Seattle.

The challengers were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union. ACLU attorney Hina Shamsi says her clients could not even get confirmation that they were or were not on the terrorist watch list.

"The judge has ordered the government to create a new process that will provide our clients with notice of being on the no-fly list and the government's basis for placing them on the list so that they can meaningfully challenge it,” Shamsi said.

The Justice Department declined to comment until it has had more time to review U.S. District Judge Anna Brown's ruling. The FBI maintains the confidential no-fly list, which gives the TSA access to pre-screen airline passengers.

The plaintiff from Portland, Sheikh Mohamed Kariye, said he is pleased to finally be able to challenge the information the government has used to keep him from flying.

“I have been prevented by the government from traveling to visit my family members and fulfill religious obligations for years, and it has had a devastating impact on all of us," Imam Kariye said in statement distributed by the ACLU. "After all this time, I look forward to a fair process that allows me to clear my name in court.”

Court records state that Kariye was surrounded by government officials when he tried to board flight to Amsterdam from Portland in 2010. An airline employee told him then that he was on the no-fly list. 

The other Northwest plaintiff in this case is Seattle student Elias Mustafa Mohamed, who is effectively trapped in Saudi Arabia, according to court records. In 2010, Mohamed traveled to Saudi Arabia to attend an Arabic language certification program. He learned that his name is on the no-fly list from an airline employee after he was denied boarding for a trip back home to Seattle. 

After joining this lawsuit, the U.S. government offered Mohamed a "one-time waiver" to return to the U.S., which he has so far declined because he is uncertain he will be able to return to Saudi Arabia to complete his studies.

Correspondent Tom Banse is an Olympia-based reporter with more than three decades of experience covering Washington and Oregon state government, public policy, business and breaking news stories. Most of his career was spent with public radio's Northwest News Network, but now in semi-retirement his work is appearing on other outlets.