April 25, 2008

Court: Government Must Reveal Watch-List Status to Constantly Detained Americans

Eight Americans of south Asian and Middle Eastern descent who were repeatedly detained at the border for questioning will be able to learn if they are actually on the government's terrorist watch list, a federal court in Illinois ruled last week, marking the first time that citizens have been able to learn whether they have been added to a sprawling and error-prone list used for screening at borders and traffic stops.

The government invoked the powerful state secrets privilege in the case, arguing that letting the plaintiffs know if they are or aren't on the list would harm national security since that could alert them to the fact they have been under government scrutiny.

But since the government admits it has stopped the six men and two women more than 35 times, federal Magistrate Judge Sidney Schenkier of the United States Northern Illinois District Court dismissed that argument. Instead he found that the government "failed to establish that, under all the circumstances of this case, disclosure of that information would create a reasonable danger of jeopardizing national security."

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