Free Markets, Free People

Is The No-Fly List Unconstitutional?

I have an article up at The Washington Examiner that explores whether or not the rights of Yahya Wehelie are being violated. Mr. Wehelie has essentially been deported from the U.S. without any charges being brought against him, nor any due process whatsoever:

Yahya Wehelie, 26, said Wednesday that after landing at the airport in Cairo in early May, he was told he would not be able to board his connection to New York and would have to go to the U.S. Embassy for an explanation. Embassy officials later told Wehelie and a younger brother with whom he was traveling that they would have to wait for FBI agents to arrive from Washington.


Wehelie, who was born in the United States to Somali immigrants, said U.S. officials took his old passport and issued him a new one that was good only for a one-way trip to the United States. But, he said, he was also informed by an FBI agent that he cannot board any plane scheduled to enter U.S. or Canadian airspace, leaving him in a kind of limbo.

You can read my take at The Washington Examiner.

As an aside, is there any doubt that if this had happened during the Bush administration that the hue and cry from the MSM would have been deafening?

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15 Responses to Is The No-Fly List Unconstitutional?

  • The No-Fly list typically refers to the list used to identify people for extra inspection before being allowed on a plane in the US (ie, it’s completely mis-named, since nobody on it is actually prohibited from flying).
    So I wouldn’t blame IT for this, and I see no particular reason it’s unconstitutional.
    These actions towards Mr. Wehelie are another matter – but they’re not the “No-Fly list”, which doesn’t have anything to do with stripping someone of their passport.

  • Quite frankly, when your outside the US, you are in “Constitutional Twilight Zone

  • What is “unconstitutional” any more?  Is it “unconstitutional” for the government to eavesdrop on electronic communications without a warrant?  Is it “unconstitutional” for the government to wage war without a declaration by the Congress?  Is it “unconstitutional” to hold people captured in such a war indefinitely?  Is it “unconstitutional” to order the death of an American citizen without trial or due process?  Is it “unconstitutional” to order a company to pay money as ex ante facto (?) damages without trial or due process?  Hell, telling a man that he can’t come back into the country is tame stuff; at least he didn’t get a Hellfire shoved up his kazoo.

    The broader point is that the Constitution has become meaningless.  Rights are invented and denied at will based on the argument of “general welfare”.  Our federal government has become AT BEST a sort of giant Robin Hood, dispensing “justice” with the longbow of fiat power.  Depending on who is the target of that arrow, we alternately applaud or are horrified… and hope that we won’t somehow become a target in the future.

    • is it constitutional for the president to eliminate thousands of jobs in the gulf of mexico on a whim?

  • It seems obvious that any US citizen must be allowed to return to the United States, or what does citizenship even mean?
    Once here, if he’s suspected of something he can be on a no-fly list or whatever until everything is worked out.
    But what it sounds like to me is that the one way passport is for exactly that, but that the interaction of other regulations have resulted in a SNAFU.    There is probably not anyone there with the authority to decide which part of conflicting directives to ignore.

    • Well, the US government wanted me to divest myself of a foreign company I own, quit a paying job from said company (which would have paid me a salary in the USA) all to PROVE that I really, really wanted to take my wife and kid back to the USA. (my kid is a US citizen and so am I. Wife is not.) So, apparently, your citizenship comes with strings, at least if you want to keep your family intact.

  • he cannot board any plane scheduled to enter U.S. or Canadian airspace, leaving him in a kind of limbo.
    “I don’t know any other way to get home,” said Wehelie,

    Fly to Mexico City. Take bus to border. Enter the United States on your passport.

    • Does it make sense that (a) someone on the No-Fly list could board an airline to one of our neighbors, or (b) that said person could simply walk across the border?  To look at it another way, would you be OK with the situation if they could?

      The problem here is the way the list is constructed, not that it might cause an inconvenience for some people.  We want it to prevent dangerous characters from having the opportunity to harm innocent people.  But we can do that without violating anyone’s rights.  The way it’s done now does not accomplish that task.

      • I don’t expect sense from the government, but I do know that if Mexico is okay with him flying, he could enter the US that way. I don’t know if there are any ships anymore, but that would be another way. Yes, its nonsensical and absurd, but so is TSA theater and underwear bombers.
        The problem is that if you want to prevent dangerous people from flying, and they happen to be American citizens who went to Yemen/Afghanistan/Pakistan “looking for a wife/studying Arabic/working for a charity” then there is an inherent problem with a no fly list and their civil liberties. I guess the state department could tell them why they can’t fly, for example, that Yemeni undercover agents placed them at a terrorist training camp, but then you are exposing your intel. He could then fight this legally if it was untrue though I don’t see flying as any more of a right than driving – a privilege which can be revoked for any number of reasons.
        Now, assuming he is a potential “bad guy”, I don’t like the guy flying to Mexico, but if Mexico said OK, then what can I say? I don’t like him entering the USA, but attending a terrorist training camp may or may not be a crime, and prosecuting him might make us less safe than just letting him cross on foot and then watching him.
        If he is innocent, at least it gets him back in the USA where he would have more recourse to fixing things. I can guarantee you that the embassy in Egypt will not be helpful.
        My suggestion is that before anyone flies off to one of these destinations, they should be warned about the dangers and sign off. I have no idea how else you could preserve civil liberties and have a realistic no-fly list. You are bound to have these situations or worse happen.

  • The other way to look at it is that they might be doing this on purpose (not that I agree with it) in order to very publicly discourage Islamic Americans from going to places like Yemen in the first place.

    This article provides some background. Looks like the FBI suggested going back via boat. That makes me wonder if this dude is really just stuck in a stupid catch-22 rather than being something more sinister. They also let his brother come back.
    Also, I forgot his document only allows travel to the US, not to Mexico, so that would not be an option. He is stuck eating Pizza Hut until someone figures it out in the USA.