The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today announced that it has defeated a motion filed by the federal government to dismiss a lawsuit the Muslim civil rights organization filed on behalf of 25 American Muslims challenging their placement in the Terror Screening Database — a watch list of “known or suspected terrorists” — without due process.
CAIR’s lawsuit is the broadest ever challenge to the federal watch list, challenging not only placement on the watch list without due process, but also the consequences imposed as a result of being added to the list – which include:
- invasive additional screening and prolonged detentions,
- so-called “white torture” harassment at U.S. ports of entry,
- bank account closures without explanation or notice,
- the inability to conduct wire transfers,
- the inability to test drive and purchase vehicles,
- being treated as armed and dangerous by local law enforcement during routine traffic stops,
- the inability to obtain employment positions at airports,
- the leveraging of watch list status to pressure listees to become government informants.
The lawsuit is also the first to be allowed to move forward to challenge the selectee list component of the federal watch list.
In issuing the court’s opinion, Judge Anthony J. Trenga stated: “The Government’s ‘trust us’ approach is inconsistent with the fundamental procedural protections applicable to the deprivation of a protected liberty interest, including the right to be heard.”
The law firm of Akeel & Valentine, PLC is co-counsel on the lawsuit.
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“The federal watch list has imposed an injustice of historic proportions on American Muslims,” said CAIR National Litigation Director Lena Masri. “Our lawsuit challenges the government’s ability to broadly designate innocent American Muslims who have never been charged with a crime or known as suspected terrorists based on the false notion that the government can accurately predict future terrorist acts using nothing more than mere guesses, hunches and conjecture,” said CAIR National Litigation Director Lena Masri.
“We look forward to obtaining government documents and deposing those who manage the watch list, and expect that the illegal nature of the federal government’s actions will become much clearer than it is now,” said CAIR Senior Litigation Attorney Gadeir Abbas.
“This ruling represents the rule of law that a government agency does not have unfettered discretion to restrict travel of every day Americans. There is some measure of accountability,” said co-counsel Shereef Akeel.
CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.