A federal district judge has ruled that an FBI watch list of more than 1 million "known or suspected terrorists" violated the constitutional rights of U.S. citizens in the database — and advocacy groups hailed the decision Thursday as "a tremendous victory."
U.S. District Judge Anthony Trenga of the Eastern District of Virginia decided in favor of 23 Muslim Americans who sued over their inclusion in the Terrorist Screening Database, according to news reports.
Trenga found that the list infringed upon their due process rights, noting further that the database restricted their ability to fly and conduct everyday activities.
“There is no evidence, or contention, that any of these plaintiffs satisfy the definition of a ‘known terrorist,’” Trenga wrote, adding that harmless conduct could result in someone being labeled as a “suspected terrorist” on the list.
Trenga's decision grants summary judgment to the 23 plaintiffs in the case, but he is seeking additional legal briefs before deciding on final remedies.
The FBI declined to comment on the ruling Wednesday, according to reports, but argued that the difficulties experienced by the plaintiffs paled in comparison to the government's interests in combatting terrorism.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which represented nearly two dozen Muslim U.S. citizens in the lawsuit, lauded Trenga’s decision.
"This is a tremendous victory, not just for all American-Muslims, but for all Americans who care about civil rights and the Constitution," Hassan Shibly, a lawyer who heads CAIR's Florida chapter and a plaintiff in the case, told Newsweek.
U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., a Muslim American, declared on Twitter: “Congratulations to everyone who worked so hard to make sure Constitutional rights are extended to all regardless of religion, race or ethnicity.”
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