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US Admits Do Not Fly Lists are a Guess

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The US's no-fly list isn't based on collected data. It's more of a hunch.

The FBI and US Justice Department admitted in a court filing in May that the no-fly list, a list of people who are not allowed to board airplanes, is not based on collected data, but instead on "predictive assessments".  In other words, they guess who shouldn't be allowed to fly with no scientific reasoning behind it.

The Obama administration has been pretty tight-lipped about about how the predictions are made, but reports indicate a number of things that can get a person put on the list, including:

  • Being Muslim
  • Refusing to become an FBI informant
  • Things posted to social media

To some degree, it's understandable that the Obama administration would not want to divulge the criteria for getting put on the no-fly list.  After all, if someone knew for sure what's going to get you on the list, they'd make sure not to do the things that would get them put on it and sneak onto a plane and carry out whatever nefarious deed they were planning to undertake.

That said, since there doesn't seem to be any clear guideline or unbiased data that determines who is on the list and who is not, the process deserves some scrutiny.  The ACLU has been fighting it since 2010.  That case in ongoing.