Judge Rejects Bush Administration's 'State Secrets' Claim; Says FBI and Department of Homeland Security Must Reveal 'Watchlist'

CHICAGO , April 23 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In a case challenging repeated, lengthy and abusive border stops of American citizens upon their return to the United States after traveling abroad, a federal magistrate judge in Chicago has ordered...

The federal court has allowed Mr. Rahman and the nine other named plaintiffs to represent a class of thousands of U. S. citizens who are wrongly detained according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois . These citizens and their family members are stopped, questioned, abused and harassed at points of entry to the country each year -- action that results from flaws in the TSC. According to reports of the Inspector General of the Justice Department, the TSC administers a database with more than 200,000 names, persons who are claimed by the government to have "any degree of terrorism nexus." The reports identify the two major flaws in the system which is the focus of the lawsuit. First, the process for classifying these individuals is flawed, resulting in many individuals being "over-classified," considered dangerous when they pose no real threat to our nation. Second, mistakes in the database operated by the TSC cause many individuals to be "misidentified," and subject to terrorist screening for no reason whatsoever. As a result of these two problems, the plaintiffs in today's lawsuit collectively have been stopped and questioned on more than thirty (30) occasions, despite the fact that they are law abiding citizens, always cleared for re-entry to the U.S. after these recurring and punitive detentions.

Three recent public reports by the DOJ's Inspector General found other serious deficiencies in the operation of the TSDB, in addition to systematic misidentification and over-classification. The reports found, for example, that after the FBI closes an investigation that leads to someone being placed on the watch list, the FBI often fails to remove the investigated persons from the watchlist; that the watchlist indicates that many people are "armed and dangerous," even though there is no factual predicate for the claim; and, that the watchlist's quality assurance system is weak, suffering from inadequate operating procedures and insufficient training, resulting in the failure to detect and correct errors.

Judge Schenkier's ruling also requires the FBI to produce for his review any investigative files it has related to the named plaintiffs. The Judge found that information in the files can be withheld as a state secret if it related to "sources and methods" of intelligence collection, but said that court would review the materials in chambers and determine whether any of the information can be shared with the plaintiffs.

"We look forward to moving forward and vindicating the rights of our clients," added Grossman.

A copy of the Judge's decision can be found on-line at


SOURCE ACLU of Illinois