New Jersey Mayor Mohamed Khairullah, a Muslim American who was denied entry to the White House Eid al-Fitr event despite a previous invitation, sued multiple US government agencies Monday, including the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and Secret Service, to end the Federal Terrorist Screening Dataset (FTSD). The Secret Service has not confirmed why Khairullah was barred from attending, but Khairullah has alleged that it may be because he was previously mistakenly listed on the FTSD between 2019 and 2022.
The suit, filed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) on behalf of Khairullah and multiple other plaintiffs, alleges that the FTSD is discriminatory, targeting mainly Muslims. The suit goes on to allege that the FTSD violates the Fifth Amendment right to due process, stating:
The watchlist—including the No Fly List—is radically under- and overinclusive, inclusion on the watchlist and the No Fly List is governed by vaguely-articulated and arbitrarily-applied criteria, and Defendants are focused on targeting Muslims on the basis of their race, ethnicity, and religion. As a result, the watchlist and No Fly List have no meaningful connection to actual threats to aviation.
The suit also alleges the FTSD violates the equal protection clause of the Fifth Amendment:
As a matter of policy and official practice, Defendants consider origin from Muslim-majority countries, travel to Muslim-majority countries, attending mosques and Islamic events, zakat donations to Muslim charities, the wearing of typical Muslim dress, Muslim-sounding names, the frequency of Muslim prayer, adherence to Islamic religious practices, Islamic religious study, the transfer of money to individuals residing in Muslim majority countries, affiliations with Muslim organizations, and associations with Muslims in the United States or abroad to be “derogatory information” supporting a finding of reasonable suspicion.
The suit concludes by requesting an end to the FTSD and the expungement of all plaintiffs’ records that stated they have been on the FTSD.
CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad commented on the filing of the suit, stating, “This system has caused great harm to the lives of thousands of innocent people. As this litigation moves forward, we again call on the federal government to dismantle the watchlist.” A Secret Service spokesperson told VOA News in response to the suit, “As we stated in the past, we were not able to grant entry to the Mayor at the White House and we regret any inconvenience that may have caused.”
The FTSD was implemented shortly after 9/11 and has been a subject of controversy ever since its initial creation. The FTSD includes 1.5 million names of alleged terrorists and is split into several categories including the No Fly List and the Selectee List. Currently, the No Fly List contains 80,000 names of those who are barred from traveling to or within the US. The Selectee List includes those who are able to fly but are subject to further screening at airports. The suit alleges that even after someone is removed from the FTSD, there is still a record showing they were once on the list, leading to further discrimination.