DEARBORN — U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn) has sent a letter to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Christopher Wray and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, calling for a complete and thorough audit of the No-Fly and Selectee Lists to ensure innocent American citizens have not been wrongly included.
As of June 17, 2016, there were approximately 81,000 known No-Fly List records and around 1,000 were U.S. citizens, according to answers from the FBI and the National Counterterrorism Center in a Congressional inquiry. The Arab American and Muslim communities have been particularly affected by the list, which restricts travel without giving those on the list a good way to appeal the government’s decision to put them on the list.
“The 12th Congressional District in Michigan is proudly home to one of the largest Arab American population in the United States,” Dingell wrote. “These are the same communities who are consistently, disproportionally impacted by watchlists and counterterrorism practices—and specifically the No-Fly List and Selectee List. This is simply wrong and not in line with our American values.”
The FBI and DHS operate the Terrorist Screening Center and administer the Terrorist Screening Database, or “terrorist watchlist.” The two agencies are also responsible for managing the No-Fly and Selectee Lists, which are “subsets” of that database. The letter says the database and watchlists cause due process problems and significant hardship for those wrongfully added to them.
“These errors have a profound impact on affected individuals that continue to this day, subjecting innocent, law-abiding Americans to unnecessary scrutiny and distress,” Dingell wrote.
The letter requests additional information on the current records for the No-Fly and Selectee lists, how often these lists are vetted for errors, guidance provided to affected individuals and who this information is shared with outside the U.S. government. It also asks the agencies provide updated numbers to Congress of total known No-Fly List records and those who are U.S. citizens, as the current numbers are from 2016.
Over the years, these reports and stories of innocent doctors, professors, lawyers and others who have been added to the No-Fly List or Selectee List – including many individuals from my district – have become far too common. — U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn)
The federal government operates the No-Fly List under near-total secrecy. Though an administrative system to appeal the placement was put in place under the last administration, historically that process has taken a long time, and has almost never yielded a positive result. Those affected have had to instead sue the government to see relief.
Last year, U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Muslim Americans who were placed or kept on the No-Fly List in retaliation for refusing to spy on their communities may sue individual FBI agents.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, numerous innocent individuals have been mistakenly added to the No-Fly or Selectee Lists, including prominent individuals like Congressman John Lewis and Senator Ted Kennedy, causing significant hardship for too many Americans. Dingell says these lists should be used to track the correct individuals who pose threats, not unnecessarily barring innocent people from easily traveling.
“Over the years, these reports and stories of innocent doctors, professors, lawyers and others who have been added to the No-Fly List or Selectee List – including many individuals from my district — have become far too common,” Dingell wrote. “Inaccuracies in the No-Fly List and Selectee List are deeply concerning, leaving labeled Americans with lasting ramifications and no means of addressing or challenging the validity of their status.”
Dingell previously led her colleagues in calling for enhanced due process protections for the No-Fly list.
Full text of the letter is available here.