Four veterans are suing the government over being placed on the No-Fly List, claiming they have been harassed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation since being placed on the list. The suit joins veterans and civilians who claim the list has severely limited their life, preventing them from being able to travel, and in one case, even preventing one of the veterans from being able to fly home. The group wants to government to divulge how they determine to put somebody on the list.
The military happily gave Raymond Earl Knaeble IV plane rides when he was serving in the Army, but now that he’s a civilian — who converted to Islam — he finds himself on the U.S. government’s no-fly list.
Knaeble is one of 13 people, including four veterans, who are suing the government, claiming their inclusion on the list deprives them of due process rights. A federal judge has rejected Justice Department claims that not being able to fly is no bar to travel by other means, but government attorneys are now balking at divulging how they form the list and how those on it can challenge the evidence behind their no-fly status. Knaeble’s father said his son’s life has been turned upside-down.
“It’s affected him immensely,” the elder Knaeble told FoxNews.com during a phone interview from Texas. “He can’t travel unless it’s by car or by foot. And he has the FBI following his every move, 24/7. They’ve pulled him over on the interstate, just harassing him. It’s affected him immensely.”
In early 2010, Knaeble learned he was on the list when he tried to fly home after getting married in Colombia. He was barred from boarding, and left to make his way home largely by bus. Such ordeals are common, say the plaintiffs, who also include veterans from the Marines, Army and Air Force. They claim being grounded by the federal government has left them unable to travel with their families, attend school and conduct business trips. The American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing them, says the process by the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center — which creates and controls the list — is unconstitutional because citizens on the list have no ready means of learning what evidence landed them there, much less confronting it.
The Associated Press reported in 2012 that the federal no-fly list had “more than doubled in the past year” and had grown to about 21,000 people, including some 500 Americans. All 13 Americans in the pending lawsuit were barred from boarding domestic flights or planes leaving or bound for the U.S. between June 2009 and November 2012.
Knaeble could not be reached for comment, but his father, a devout Christian who admits their relationship is strained, said his son has been continually harassed by federal authorities following his conversion in 2009. The younger Knaeble, who served in the Army from 1999 to 2003 before getting an honorable discharge, began working in 2008 for a private contractor in Kuwait, where he later converted to Islam. Although he’s a member of an anti-war group, Knaeble’s father insists his son is a loyal American.
In a 2010 blogpost, Knaeble said he fully cooperated with authorities, providing his cellphone’s SIM card and details of all contacts he knew in the Middle East. He claims he was “interrogated day in and day out by the FBI” despite not being informed why he could not fly home.