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U.S. Government's Terrorist Watchlist Violates The Constitution: CAIR Florida Director -Lawyer & Plaintiff- Says

By BY CHANTAL DA SILVA, For Newsweek, On 04 April 2019, Read Original
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A lawyer named as a plaintiff in a case questioning the constitutionality of the government's use of a federal terrorist watchlist says it is time for the U.S. to end its practice of "targeting Americans on the basis of their faith, particularly the American Muslim community.

"Since I was 18 years old, I've personally been stopped over two dozen times, including being placed in handcuffs, asked about my religious practices and subjected to extremely humiliating treatments at the hands of federal officers who have treated me like a second-class citizen on account of my faith," Hassan Shibly, a lawyer who heads the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)'s Florida chapter, told Newsweek.

While Shibly has represented a number of high-profile cases as a lawyer, including that of Hoda Muthana, who left the U.S. to join the Islamic State (ISIS) and has sought to return to America, in this case, which was brought forward by CAIR, he is also a plaintiff. 

While the watchlist is meant to include those who are known or suspected terrorists, according to the Associated Press, it contains hundreds of thousands of names. Shibly said he is just one of many Muslim-Americans whom he believes have been placed on the list for no reason other than their religion.

That is why, on Thursday, when a federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, is expected to weigh in on whether the U.S. government's use of its federal terrorist watchlist violates the Constitution, Shibly hopes the judge will rule in the plaintiffs' favor.

Twenty-three plaintiffs have joined CAIR's lawsuit on the watchlist, which the council says "labels innocent American citizens as 'terrorists' and then wreaks devastating consequences on their lives. 

"For example, Government border agents often remove watchlisted individuals and their families from their cars at gunpoint, and then copy the complete contents of their phones," CAIR said in a statement. 

Thursday's court hearing comes after the government acknowledged in February that it shares its watchlist with more than 1,400 private entities, including hospitals and universities, sparking outrage among rights advocates.

Shibly said the revelation should demonstrate "the level of harm people who are wrongfully placed on the list can be subjected to."

"It can affect their employment, their ability to exercise their rights," he said. "It can have tremendously devastating impacts... It's preposterous that the government can share with over 1,400 entities your name and cast you in a negative light without due process."

"Ultimately," Shibly said, "the watchlist program and the negative impact it's had has made America a less safe and free nation... It undermines our religious liberty and our security." 

The CAIR lawyer said: "I can tell you that every American Muslim has either been on the list or has known somebody on the list." 

Thursday's summary judgment hearing is expected to be heard at 10 a.m. before Judge Anthony Trenga in the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. 


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