Supreme Court unanimously rules against government in No Fly List dispute

 March 21, 2024

The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that a challenge over the government's No Fly List can proceed. 

The decision is a setback for the surveillance state that has been weaponized against conservatives by Joe Biden's FBI.

The court rejected, 9-0, the government's attempts to dismiss a challenge from a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Eritra, Yonas Fikre.

Fikre alleges that he was arbitrarily put on the No Fly List without notice or explanation.

Supreme Court's 9-0 ruling

Fikre learned of his No Fly status while in Sudan to pursue a business venture in consumer electronics.

He was informed by two FBI agents that he could get off the list if he agreed to spy on worshipers at his local mosque in Portland, Oregon.

Fikre refused, then traveled to the United Arab Emirates where, he says, he was imprisoned and tortured by the authorities at the FBI's behest. He eventually made his way back to the U.S. by private plan from Sweden.

In 2016, after Fikre had sued the government, he was removed from the No Fly List without explanation, and the government sought to have the lawsuit dismissed.

A district court agreed with the government, but the Ninth Circuit reversed, finding the government failed to provide assurances that its conduct would not repeat.

Case is not moot, court rules

The only controversy before the Supreme Court was whether the case was moot after the government removed Fikre from the list.

The Supreme Court wasn't convinced the government had met its burden to declare the case moot, beyond a vague promise not to put Fikre on the list again.

A written declaration from the Terrorism Screening Center said Fikre "will not be placed on the No Fly List in the future based on the currently available information."

Writing for the court, conservative Neil Gorsuch said the government failed to prove it would not "relist him if he does the same or similar things in the future—say, attend a particular mosque or refuse renewed overtures to serve as an informant."

"Put simply, the government’s sparse declaration falls short of demonstrating that it cannot reasonably be expected to do again in the future what it is alleged to have done in the past," Gorsuch said.

Samuel Alito and Brett Kavanaugh said the government does not have to share classified information to make its case for mootness, in a concurring opinion that cited "significant interests in airline safety and the prevention of terrorist attacks."

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