The federal government has violated the rights of more than 1 million people by placing them on a watchlist of “known or suspected terrorists,” a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
The plaintiffs, 23 U.S. citizens, argued, with the backing of the Council on American Islamic Relations, that they were wrongly placed on the list, causing “a range of adverse consequences without a constitutionally adequate remedy.”
The plaintiffs, ruled U.S. District Judge Anthony Trenga, “have constitutionally protected liberty interests that are implicated by their inclusion” on the list, and the Department of Homeland Security process by which people listed on the watchlist can challenge their inclusion “is not constitutionally adequate to protect those liberty interests.”
Trenga, a George W. Bush appointee, added “there is no evidence, or contention, that any of these plaintiffs satisfy the definition of a ’known terrorist.’ ” While Trenga’s ruling grants summary judgment to the plaintiffs, it directs both sides to file supplemental briefings on appropriate remedies before he rules further.
Gadeir Abbas, who represented the plaintiffs in court, argued that in addition to the constitutional issues with the list, its effectiveness is dubious, according to The Associated Press.
He noted that Omar Mateen, the gunman in the 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting, had been on the list at one point but had been removed from it by the time he killed 49 people at the Orlando gay bar.
“Innocent people should be beyond the reach of the watchlist system,” Abbas said, according to the AP. “We think that’s what the Constitution requires.”
“CAIR has a half-dozen other watchlist cases pending in federal courts across the country, and this opinion will pave the wave for our continued victories,” sad CAIR National Litigation Director Lena Masri. “Today’s opinion is a victory for the more than one hundred American Muslims we represent and for the thousands of American Muslims who are currently stigmatized by the watchlist.”
The FBI declined to comment.