FBI terror watchlist ruled unconstitutional by federal judge

On Behalf of | Sep 9, 2019 | Criminal Defense |

New Jersey readers may be interested to learn that a federal judge recently ruled that the FBI’s watchlist of “known or suspected terrorists” is unconstitutional. The ruling was handed down on Sept. 4.

The case was brought before the court by a group of American Muslims who claimed they were wrongly added to the Terrorist Screening Database. They also claimed the government used an overbroad approach when deciding who should be added to the list and that the list contained numerous errors. The Council on American-Islamic Relations helped the plaintiffs file the lawsuit. The judge agreed with the plaintiffs, finding that the significant travel burdens experienced by those named on the list were unconstitutional. The judge is seeking additional legal briefs on the matter before deciding what remedies to impose.

According to media sources, the watchlist has greatly increased over the last few years. In 2013, there were around 680,000 people on the list, but that number had ballooned to around 1.16 million people by June 2017. The vast majority of individuals named on the list are foreigners, but the U.S. admits that there are also around 4,600 U.S. citizens or residents on it. The FBI maintains the list, and it is intended to help officials from various agencies check people who are attempting to enter the U.S. over border crossings or through airports.

Individuals charged with crimes they did not commit may turn to a criminal defense attorney for guidance. An attorney may review the case and develop a defense against the accusations. In some cases, this defense might cause a judge to dismiss the case. In other circumstances, the defense may be used as leverage to negotiate a plea deal that reduces the charges. This might help the defendant obtain a lighter sentence.


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