By JONATHAN J. COOPER, Associated Press
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A federal appeals court ruled Thursday that a lawsuit over the government's no-fly list can go forward in a lower court in Oregon.
In a unanimous ruling, the three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that a lower court improperly threw out the lawsuit. U.S. District Court Judge Anna Brown rejected the case last year, saying her court didn't have authority over the policies and procedures of the Transportation Security Administration.
The lawsuit was filed in 2010 by American Civil Liberties Union lawyers on behalf of 15 men who were barred from returning to the United States. It seeks to remove the plaintiffs from the no-fly list or tell them why they're on it.
The no-fly list is maintained by the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center. It includes names and classified evidence against suspected terrorists who are not allowed to fly in U.S. airspace. The names are provided to the TSA, which works with airlines and law enforcement to ensure people on the list don't board domestic or international flights.
The TSA maintains a grievance process for people affected by the list, but decisions about who is on it are made by the Terrorist Screening Center.
The appeals court ruled that only the Terrorist Screening Center, not the TSA, can provide the relief that the plaintiffs are seeking, and the district court has jurisdiction over the center. The appellate judges did not rule on the merits of the lawsuit.
"More than two years ago, our clients were placed on a secret government blacklist that denied their right to travel without an explanation or chance to confront the evidence against them," Nusrat Choudhury, an ACLU lawyer who argued the case, said in a statement. "The Constitution requires the government to provide our clients a fair chance to clear their names and a court will finally hear their claims."
A Department of Justice spokesman said agency officials are reviewing the decision and declined to comment.