A case challenging the use of the federal government's "no-fly" list, set to be heard in Oregon Friday, will raise the larger issue of whether Muslims are singled out for harassment by authorities.
A lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union alleges that members of the US Muslim community were put on the no-fly list of potential security risks without a means to correct their status, depriving them of freedom to travel.
The 15 plaintiffs also allege that current federal rules deprive them of means to get off the list.
One of the plaintiffs is the imam of Portland's largest and oldest mosque, the Masjed As-Saber Islamic Center.
"The system is so opaque, they give no information to people denied boarding," said Nusrat Jahan Choudhury, the ACLU attorney arguing for the plaintiffs. Choudhury said two plaintiffs were asked by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to serve as informants in exchange for removal from the no-fly list.
Charles Miller, a Justice Department spokesman in Washington, said the agency wouldn't comment on pending litigation. The case will be heard by the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals. A district court dismissed the suit last year on the ground that it challenged Transportation Security Administration actions, which should have been brought in the court of appeals.
The Portland case alleges similar instances where American Muslims learn they have been put on the no-fly list, which has seen its numbers roughly double since the so-called underwear bomber was apprehended in 2009. It also is the latest skirmish in two years of litigation that the ACLU has launched arguing that no-fly measures have been abused.
According to a spokesman for the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center, about 20,000 US residents are on the no-fly list, only 500 of whom are American citizens.
In the case being argued in Portland on Friday, all 15 plaintiffs said that, beginning in 2010, they learned they had been barred from air travel as "too dangerous to fly, but too harmless to arrest," according to the ACLU's complaint.
Read more: online.wsj.com/