Muslim Group Files Class Action Lawsuits Questioning Constitutionality Of Terror Watch Lists

September 11 Getty Images/Spencer Platt

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The Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations filed a pair of federal lawsuits this week alleging that America’s terror watch list policies violate the constitutional rights of many of the people who appear on the lists.

The individuals who have appeared on watch lists provided by the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center include an infant whose “only crime was that he was born to an American Muslim family,” an attorney for CAIR said at a Tuesday press conference, according to Courthouse News Service.

The baby, “Baby Doe,” was 7 months old “when his boarding pass was first stamped with the ‘SSSS’ designation, indicating that he had been designated as a ‘known or suspected terrorist,'” one of the two complaints states.

The lawsuit names some 14 plaintiffs but “there are thousands upon thousands of potential plaintiffs,” the lawsuit notes.

Lena Masri, a senior staff attorney for CAIR, said that babies, old people and even dead people frequently show up on federal terror watch lists. They have one thing in common: Muslim or Muslim-sounding names.

The no-fly list prevents anyone on it from flying “into, out of, or even through United States airspace,” according to the 73-page lawsuit.

Lower-level federal terror watch lists subject people on them to added layers of security at airports and U.S. border crossings. People on the “selectee list” have the letters “SSSS” printed on their boarding passes, for example, to alert airline employees and airport screeners that they will be traveling.

“The standards for watch list inclusion do not evince even internal logic,” the lawsuit claims, and people who end up as “selectees” “have no means of removing themselves or challenging the basis for their inclusion.”

CAIR representatives said people on terror watch lists have only found out they are there when their banks suddenly close their bank accounts, for example, or when they have tried to use Western Union to send money but have been rejected.

One unidentified plaintiff, called John Doe for the purposes of the lawsuit, said he was tortured in Kuwait because “the United States has placed him on the No Fly List,” according to Courthhouse News.

Terrorist Screening Center officials “have utilized the watch list, not as a tool to enhance aviation and border security, but as a bludgeon to coerce American Muslims into becoming informants or forgoing the exercise of their rights, such as the right to have an attorney present during law enforcement questioning,” the lawsuit claims.

Dawud Walid, the executive director of CAIR’s Michigan chapter, noted that 94 percent of crimes in the United States which are deemed terror attacks are committed by people who are not Muslim, according to statistics collected by the FBI.

“I think the question is, are we going to be selective about this?” Walid asked at the press conference, according to Courthouse News. “Are we following people and placing people on this list who go to KKK meetings, people who go to Donald Trump rallies?”

“The terrorism watch lists are premised on the false notion that the government can somehow accurately predict whether an innocent American citizen will commit a crime in the future based on religious affiliation or First Amendment activities,” Masri, the CAIR attorney, said in a statement sent to The Daily Caller. (RELATED: Council On American-Islamic Relations: Relax, Christians, You Worship Allah)

CAIR, America’s largest Muslim civil rights group, notes that it doesn’t want to eliminate America’s terror watch lists. The group only wants to change them dramatically.

The defendants in the lawsuit include unidentified FBI agents, unidentified terror screening employees, a slew of Terrorist Screening Center officials and the center’s current director, Christopher Piehota.

A second lawsuit, related to the first, seeks injunctive relief for the alleged constitutional and administrative law violations.

CAIR is most notable, of course, because the organizations was listed by the U.S. government as an unindicted co-conspirator in a scheme that provided funding to the terror group Hamas.

In 2014, the United Arab Emirates officially designated 83 groups as terrorist organizations, including CAIR. (RELATED: UAE Designates Two American Muslim Groups As Terrorist Orgs)

Last month, CAIR and other groups announced the formation of a coalition questioning Cleveland police and their plan to use riot response equipment at the upcoming Republican Nation Convention. (RELATED: Muslim Group Objects To Police Efforts To Protect Themselves In The Event Of Riots At RNC Convention)

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