Dems Hit McSally on Her Opposition To Blocking "No-Fly" Terror Suspects From Obtaining Guns

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In this week's print edition, I wrote about the political fight over whether suspected terrorists on the no-fly list should be able to purchase guns.

Democrats say that if someone is on the no-fly list shouldn't be able to get guns; Republicans say the list has errors and doesn't have clear guidelines about how names are added or removed.

Now the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is up with an ad on local radio stations, highlighting Congresswoman Martha McSally's numerous votes against adding the names of terror suspects on the no-fly list to the national background-check database.

Here's the script of the radio ad:

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 told the Weekly earlier that McSally believes the no-fly list is flawed.

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."

"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."
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.

"John McCain may talk tough about fighting terror, but his actions expose a politician afraid of losing his primary election,” Kirkpatrick said in a prepared statement. “The bottom line is, opposing the terror gap allows suspected terrorists to legally buy guns. Given the threat of terror around the world and here at home, it’s pathetic that the NRA stranglehold on Republican politicians is as strong as ever.”

National Journal looks at how Democrats are pushing the issue around the country:

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.

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.”
Slate's Eric Posner looks at why the no-fly list is troublesome:

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.

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