by Jim Nintzel
Congresswoman Martha McSally voted to keep allowing suspected terrorists to buy assault rifles. Call her at (520) 459-3115 and demand she keep us safe. Paid for by the DCCC, dccc.org. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee. The DCCC is responsible for the content of this advertising.“Congresswoman McSally’s refusal to act and ensure suspected terrorists can’t legally buy guns and explosives is really beyond reason,” said DCCC spokesman Tyler Law. “Arizonans deserve a representative with some backbone – not someone who is more beholden to special interests than her constituent’s safety.”
McSally spokesman Patrick Ptak said that McSally opposed the legislation because "this list has a lot of problems that make it a bad tool for restricting Americans' rights."Meanwhile, Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick, who is seeking the U.S. Senate seat now held by John McCain in 2016, noted yesterday that McCain had opposed adding people on the no-fly list to the background-check database as far back as 2008.
"The exact criteria that will get your name on this list or removed is vague and secretive," Ptak said. "You don't need a warrant against you. You don't have to be convicted or even charged with a crime to be added to the list. Organizations across the political spectrum have raised significant civil rights concerns with using it to take away rights. It has problems with accuracy, and people who have been falsely added include toddlers, those with similar names to suspected criminals, and even former Senator Ted Kennedy. Because of these flaws and the lack of due process—a core pillar of our justice system—for anyone placed on this list, Rep. McSally has serious concerns right now about using it as a blanket tool to take away Americans' rights."
Democrats’ bet is that voters are focused on national security and attentive enough to draw a distinction between the terror watch list and gun issues more generally. Almost all of the Democrats interviewed for this story cited polling on the issue that they said shows close to 80 percent support among gun owners. “We are focusing intently and exclusively on one issue, and that is the terrorist watch list and the ability of people on that watch list to go buy guns and use those guns to murder Americans,” Israel said. “You’ve got about 50, 60-percent support for an assault-weapons ban. On the terrorist watch list, it’s about 80 percent. This is an issue where Republicans are exposed and they have no defense.Slate's Eric Posner looks at why the no-fly list is troublesome:
Rep. Dan Kildee, who heads the DCCC’s Frontline efforts to protect vulnerable incumbents, also sees it as a political winner. “Whenever they fail to take up legislation that is universally considered common sense, it helps everybody carrying the Democratic banner because it continues to paint the Republicans as extreme and unwilling to do the things most Americans would like them to do,” he said. “Voters are pretty capable of discerning this question from some of the other questions that there’s a diversity of views within our caucus on. The focus is so much on national security and on dealing with the threat of terrorism that it’s really being framed in that context.”
The no-fly list has drawn the complaints of civil libertarians since it was established after the Sept. 11 attacks. The list contains the names of people who the government thinks are a threat to civil aviation—terrorists. The government constantly updates the list and sends the names on it to airlines. These people are denied passage, often left stranded in some foreign country until they undertake the arduous process of seeking help from the local U.S. embassy. For all practical purposes, they cannot travel by air. Yet the government does not have proof that these people have committed crimes nor, since it can’t see into the future, that they will commit crimes. Thus, the no-fly list seems to violate the presumption that people are innocent until proven guilty.
The ACLU sued the government for just this reason. It represented several American citizens and resident aliens who had been denied passage, including four military veterans. In 2014, a federal court ruled that the no-fly list violated the due process rights of the plaintiffs. Applying the rule in a Supreme Court case called Mathews v. Eldridge, the court argued that the no-fly program impinged a significant constitutional right—the right to travel. (No, it isn’t in the text of the Constitution, but it has been recognized for decades.) The interference with the right by itself was not fatal because the government’s interest—in preventing another Sept. 11–style hijacking—could hardly be stronger. But the court felt that the government supplied inadequate procedures for contesting one’s inclusion on the list. While the government allowed a person to complain, it did not give him the reasons for why he was on the list. The government might determine that a person’s name was incorrectly on the list—as happened to Sen. Ted Kennedy, whose name was the same as an alias used by a suspected terrorist—and remove it. But if it does not, it provides no way for the listed person to challenge the evidence used to declare him a threat.
While the court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, it did not end the program. It ruled that the government must supply adequate notice about its reasons for placing people on the no-fly list, so they could contest the decision. The government now provides people on the list with more information than before, but the ACLU is still unsatisfied: “[T]he government still keeps its full reasons secret. It also withholds evidence and exculpatory information from our clients and refuses to give them a live hearing to establish their credibility or cross-examine witnesses.” No one knows the number of names on the list because the list is classified.