A young American boy is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging his and others' placement on a government terrorist watchlist.
According to the civil complaint filed in federal court in Virginia on Tuesday, the boy had been given an “SSSS designation indicating that he had been designated as a ‘known or suspected terrorist'" while going through airport security.
Since he was a seven-month-old, Baby Doe, as he is referred to, was subject to “extensive searches,” including rifling through all of his diapers.
Doe, who is now four years old, and is part of an American Muslim family, is one of several American Muslims who are all part of a proposed class-action claim that their constitutional rights have been violated by being placed on the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB). They seek unspecified damages. (The others range in age from 22 to 53.)
The lawsuit, known as Baby Doe v. Piehota, was brought by the Council on American-Islamic Relations Michigan Chapter (CAIR-MI).
"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," Lena F. Masri, a CAIR-MI lawyer, said in a statement. "Our lawsuits challenge the wrongful designation of thousands upon thousands of American Muslims as known or suspected terrorists without due process."Historically, cases that challenge placement on the TSDB, and related lists like the , haven’t advanced very far.
However, in 2015, the government removed seven Americans from the no-fly list to comport with a federal judge's ruling that the methods to challenge placement on the watch list were "wholly ineffective."
"The crazyness of the case is proportional to the crazyness of the government's conduct here," Gadeir Abbas, who has worked on other related cases and is also one of the lawyer's representing these plaintiffs, told Ars.
"The cases have dragged on for years and years and years, but that has to do with the profound nature of the government authority. It's hard for the judicial branch to push back against the executive branch, and here the executive branch has put forward a diabolical view of its own authority that allows it to put innocent Americans on a secret blacklist that affects all aspects of their lives."
Dave Joly, the Terrorist Screening Center spokesperson, said that the agency would not comment on ongoing litigation.
"The Terrorist Screening Center does not publicly confirm nor deny whether any individual maybe included in the U.S. Government's Terrorist Screening Database or a subset list," he said in an e-mailed statement. "Disclosure of an individual's inclusion or non-inclusion in the TSDB or on the No Fly List would significantly impair the government's ability to investigate and counteract terrorism, and protect transportation security."