The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

A Challenge To the No Fly List

Is ongoing. An American citizen who cannot fly has taken the US government to court.  The most amusing part, to me, is this, from the Judge:

I want to categorically reject one thing: If information is publicly available in some other way, the government does not have the right to retroactively clamp it down and remove it from the public record. Even if it could have been protected as SSI within the government, if the plaintiff obtains this information independently, the government can’t clamp that down.

But this is a rearguard cry, a last plaintive defense.  The principles of justice are simpler:

  1. You have the right to see the evidence against you, and to face your accusers;
  2. You can’t be punished without a trial.

The no-fly violates both these principles: you are punished without a trial, and you have no right to see the evidence against you.  Even if we assume that in extremis the government might have to forbid someone to fly because they pose a danger to the flight, one can’t make a case for a multiple-year ban, at best it should be a few days while the government puts together the case and takes you to court.

Administrative judgments which take away out liberty or punish us without a trial (including binding arbitration agreements) are an affront to justice and freedom both.  They are “trust us, we’re the government”.  No; the government must prove its case before damaging private citizens.

Any country that does not allow people to see the evidence against them, face their accusers and have a trial before punishment is de-facto an unjust, unfree country.


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  1. Celsius 233

    But in fact, one only has the rights the state says one has.
    Rule of law?
    Ha! Not any more. I dare you, get them back!

  2. BlizzardOfOz

    Next thing, you’ll be telling us that public officials’ job is to “uphold the constitution”, not Keep Us Safe. Besides, the current President, a “constitutional scholar”, knows that such plain-English phrases in the constitution actually mean their exact opposite.

  3. Dwight Van Winkle

    The judge is a federal district judge. Why doesn’t he shut this shit down? Very sad. If it was me, I would say “show me the beef.” If you want to pretend your bullshit is too precious for the hoi polloi to see, I would so okay, show it to me, in camera. You say no, I say okay, goodbye. The court is closed to you. I am a citizen and I say goodbye, you have lost the trust of the people that gave you legitimacy. I think there are good people waiting on the other side of your leaching.

  4. God bless Edward Hasbrouck. He’s done yeoman’s work for years keeping tabs on the erosion of privacy and the Bill of Rights. And I’ve been following this case.

    But I wish he’d change the look of his blog. I can never read much of anything there because of the goddamn white typeface on black background. It’s eye-straining. Quit with the white-on-black shit, people! There’s a reason centuries of civilization have come up with the model of dark print on a light background. My eyes are still spinning as I’m typing this, and I only read the first few paragraphs over there.

  5. The no-fly list is an authoritarian relic of the presidency of George W. Bush. Everyone hates it, except when someone tries to pass a law banning the sale of firearms to someone who is on it. Then gun control kooks love it.

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