Accused terrorists remain on 'No-Fly' list once clearedPosted: Updated:
PHOENIX -- They're considered among the most dangerous people in the world, but should accused terrorists also have civil rights?
According to the FBI's Special Agent in Charge in Phoenix, "It's about protecting the public, it's about protecting national security."
James Trugal believes in the No-Fly List because it's become an effective tool against terrorism created the day after 9/11.
"It's a list of everybody who is a known or suspected terrorist who could have a threat to civil aviation," he said.
In fact, the No Fly List has been creditied with catching other would-be terrorists like Faisal Shahzad, who attemped to detonate a bomb in Times Square last year.
"Because he was put on the no-fly list that's how we got him at the airport prior to him leaving the country," Trugal said.
Yet, the American Civil Liberties Union says the No Fly List is unconstitutional.
"The government is deeming these people too dangerous to fly but they're too harmless to be arrested," said Alessandra Soler Meetze, executive director of the ACLU.
The ACLU is now suing the U.S. Department of Justice, the FBI and the Terrorist Screening Center on behalf of 10 people, including Ayman Latif. Latif is a father and disabled U.S. Marine veteran living in Egypt.
"The objective of the lawsuit is to clarify the procedures, we want the government to tell us what the criteria is for placing people on the list, we want to establish some sort of safeguard to prevent the wrong people from being placed on the list," Soler Meetze said. "They should be notified, they should be notified of what information the government has against them that led to having their names placed on the list. They should have the opportunity to challenge that."
"If we notified them, well, then they could change their names, they could try to, you know, evade the situation and it will make it harder for us to investigate," Trugal said.
As for accused terrorists who have been cleared of any wrong doing, he said, "You can be cleared of a crime but still be a threat to civil aviation."
Soler Meetze contends, "We're not opposed to the creation of the list if the list is based on people who are suspected of terrorism where the government has information to believe they are actually involved in some sort of criminal wrongdoing."
For Trugal, it comes down to national security.
"We're responsible for protecting this country against the next terrorist attack. We're also the last line of defense in that we're the ones charged with protecting civil rights and civil liberties and we do that through this whole process, but that's a delicate balance," he said.
For people who believe they've been wrongly placed on the No Fly list, the FBI has a process to apply for removal. Check out www.dhs.gov.