Fri, Jul 25, 2014 - Page 7 News List

Online magazine publishes US’ no-fly internal rules

NY Times News Service, WASHINGTON

The set of internal rules used by the US federal government in compiling terrorism-screening watch lists was made public on Wednesday, despite US Attorney General Eric Holder’s assertion that its disclosure would damage national security.

The procedures for adding names of people deemed to be known or suspected terrorists to various screening lists, known as the “Watchlisting Guidance” and dated March last year, were obtained by Intercept, an online magazine best known for publishing top-secret documents leaked by Edward Snowden, a former US National Security Agency contractor.

An accompanying article suggested that the document had been provided by an intelligence-community source other than Snowden.

Inclusion on one of the lists can keep people off planes, block noncitizens from entering the US and subject people to greater scrutiny at airports, border crossings and traffic stops. The basic standards for including someone on the lists had been known from a set of rules the FBI disclosed in 2011 in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, among other sources.

However, the rules were later updated, and the Watchlisting Guidance contains additional details.


The guidelines explain that the sort of “derogatory information” that could indicate that someone is a terrorist includes “reasonable suspicion” based on credible reporting about behavior like attending a terrorist training camp or a school associated with extremism, or having repeated contacts with known extremists.

It says that First Amendment activities — like religious belief or criticizing US policies — cannot, by themselves, justify placing someone on a watch list. However, a footnote adds that the First Amendment does not cover foreigners abroad. Another section discusses incitement, solicitation or endorsement of terrorist attacks as reasons for nominating someone to a list.

The rules also say that spouses and non-adult children of known or suspected noncitizen terrorists should be included on a list for the purpose of rejecting visa applications, but adult children and widows should not be nominated unless there is reasonable suspicion that they have engaged in terrorist behavior themselves.


Civil libertarians have challenged the watch lists because the standards for being added to them are murky and people are generally not notified that they have been included or told why.

Last month, a US District Court judge in Oregon ruled that the procedures for reviewing whether it was appropriate to have put someone’s name on the no-fly list were inadequate and violated US citizens’ Fifth Amendment right to due process.

However, in May, Holder told a court that the Watchlisting Guidance should remain confidential as part of a lawsuit filed by Gulet Mohamed, a naturalized US citizen who was placed on the no-fly list when he was in Kuwait, temporarily preventing him from returning home.

US President Barack Obama’s administration has invoked the “state secrets” privilege in an effort to win dismissal of the lawsuit.

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