(Washington, DC, 8/8/2018) - The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today filed a broad constitutional challenge to the federal government’s watchlisting system, including the TSA’s recently revealed Quiet Skies program.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland on behalf of 20 individuals targeted by the watchlisting system.
The lawsuit’s plaintiffs are all innocent American Muslims—people who have not been charged, arrested or convicted of a violent crime—from Washington DC, Florida, Michigan, Virginia, Washington State, Indiana, Kansas and New Jersey.
The lawsuit alleges that the watchlisting system imposes "a kind of second-class citizenship."
"Without charges, without arrests, without even an investigation sometimes—the agency defendants act in concert to deprive thousands of innocent Americans, mostly Muslim, of their right to be free from a government that extrajudicially designates them as worthy of permanent suspicion,” the lawsuit explains.
Media reports have revealed a secret watchlisting system program called Quiet Skies that dramatically increases the number of persons targeted.
Quiet Skies punishes those who—through family, community or the workplace—have relationships with individuals the federal government has designated as a “known or suspected terrorist.” The program imposes indiscriminate surveillance upon a designee’s family members, friends, co-workers and travel companions at airports and on airplanes.
Individuals targeting by the watchlisting system can be, through various programs, denied the ability to travel by air, subject to invasive and stigmatizing searches and interrogations, detained for hours at border crossings, have their electronics seized, be deprived of the right to purchase a firearm, and have their bank accounts closed—in addition to other innumerable consequences that flow from the government’s secretive watchlists.
"American Muslims will not settle for second class citizenship and the federal courts should not give the government the authority to use the watchlisting system as a way to target innocent Muslims," said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad.
"The watchlisting system is an unprecedented violation of core constitutional rights," National Litigation Director Lena Masri said. "Any fair-minded assessment of the watchlisting system will conclude that the Constitution makes it illegal to target innocent Muslims for disfavored treatment.” Masri noted that the lead plaintiffs in the case, Rami and Mia, are 11 and 14 years old, respectively. Their father cannot travel to the United States to visit his children, both citizens of the United States.
Another one of the plaintiffs, Mohamad Albadawi, related how being on the watchlist for eight years prevented him from traveling over the years and posed challenges for him to attend his daughter’s wedding. A simple bag check, he stated, could take up to an hour as TSA scanned every clothing item.
CAIR has filed multiple challenges to the government’s watchlisting system along with multiple lawsuits to allow Americans who are subject to the system’s flight ban return to the United States.
If you or your friends or family have experienced significant and invasive travel delays, please file a report with our Civil Rights Department at https://www.cair.com/report.
CAIR launched an app to share critical "know your rights" information and to simplify the process to report hate crimes and bias incidents. CAIR is urging American Muslims and members of other minority groups to download the app and utilize this resource to stay informed and empowered.
For a quick download of CAIR's civil rights app, click here: http://www.cair.com/app
CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, protect civil rights, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.
La misión de CAIR es proteger las libertades civiles, mejorar la comprensión del Islam, promover la justicia, y empoderar a los musulmanes en los Estados Unidos.