A federal Appeals Court upheld a ruling by a lower federal court enabling Muslims to sue individual FBI agents who had placed them on the “No Fly List” as punishment for refusing to become informants.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan refused to re-open a 2018 decision allowing Muhammad Tanvir, Jameel Algibhah and Naveed Shinwari to demand compensation for being placed on the “No Fly List.”
More than one million people are defined as “known or suspected terrorists” and then placed on the No Fly List, which is run by the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center.
The three, all of whom are U.S. citizens, had sought monetary damages under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The lawsuit alleged that placement on the watch list is caused by religious profiling rather than being a tangible security threat.
The defendants also accused the FBI of putting them on the No Fly List in retaliation after they refused to become informants, despite the fact that they posed no security risk.
The ruling sets a legal precedent allowing FBI agents employed in the service of their country to face litigation. Judge Dennis Jacobs, one of the dissenters, wrote that allowing law enforcement officials to be exposed to legal action would render them afraid to carry out their duties and keep America safe.
Jacobs said that the legal decision would bring with it “substantial social costs.”
“The safest course for a government employee in doubt would be to avoid doing one’s job, which is not a choice in need of encouragement,” Jacobs wrote. “The panel opinion is quite wrong and actually dangerous.”
The defendants were represented by Prof. Ramzi Kassem, a CUNY professor who has made a name for himself by defending Muslims claiming to suffer discrimination at the hands of the U.S. law enforcement establishment.
“A majority of the court of appeals today correctly declined to rehear a case that was rightly decided in the first place,” Kassem said following the verdict. “It is only fair for our courageous clients to seek to hold accountable the government agents who forced them to choose between the tenets of their religion and being able to fly to see their families.”