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What Is the US No Fly List?

Subsequent to the terrorists’ attacks of September 11, the central government endorsed numerous measures designed to fight the danger of terrorism on US soil. One such measure was to create the No Fly List, prepared and maintained by the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC). However, it is difficult to make out how the U.S. No Fly List works.

People whose names appear on the List are not allowed to enter an aircraft for going out or coming into the US. In fact, at times, the list has been made use of for diverting airplane carrying persons contained in the list, even when they were not traveling into or away from the US airspace. US intelligence is entrusted with gathering the names of such people. The number in the list keeps varying, but in 2012 it reportedly had 21,000 names.

There is a difference between the No Fly List and the Terrorist Watch List. The latter is much longer, and contained the names of nearly 875,000 people during 2013. The No Fly List isn’t meant to fight against terrorism alone, but also to prevent listed sex offenders plus others convicted or suspected people of indulging in trading of banned narcotics. Therefore, civil rights groups have condemned it because of its ambiguous criteria that can potentially be used for mistreating economic, religious, ethnic or racial groups. Moreover, it raises issues of privacy and secrecy of government. It’s also referred to as too expensive, and likely to provide false information, thus defeating the very purpose of its making.

The No Fly List in its present form is the cause of many different court cases against the government of the US, mainly for stopping the travel of people who assert they have no knowledge of, or association with terrorist groups, except what they keep hearing in the news. A number of these people are teachers, reporters, businessmen or those who often travel to mainly Muslim countries or are Muslims, practicing Islam. So, many people have declared that this list is biased, and lacks genuine intelligence about terrorists’ ties. Nevertheless, these court cases are generally foiled by the U.S. government’s right to not disclose confidential information which might hurt national security. That does not make it easy for people acting against such claims to scrutinize the motive of having included their names in the List, nor can they challenge the contents of the List on legal grounds.

Thankfully, the probability of really being on the list is very low. Actually, it is lower than getting struck by lightning, considering that in the world, 24,000 people get struck by lightning, whereas the number of people the List contained in 2012 was only 21,000. Nevertheless, it will be terrible for anyone to get his name removed from the List on realizing that his/her name is appearing there. Finally, the list is designed to thwart the attempts of terrorists to attack the US public by not permitting them to fly out or into country. Statistical data to check the effectiveness of this program is kept secret. However, the fact remains that there has been no major attack by terrorists on the US soil after September 11. Does that allow us to conclude that the List has been effective?

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