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Terrorism watchlist violates citizens' constitutional rights, judge rules

A federal judge ruled Wednesday that a U.S. government database of people identified as being "known or suspected terrorists" violates the constitutional rights of American citizens who are added to the watchlist, the New York Times first reported.

Why it matters: Per the Times, the opinion by Judge Anthony Trenga, of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, calls into question the constitutionality of a key tool that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security use for screening potential terrorism suspects.

The big picture: More than a million people, most of whom are not U.S. citizens, are on the list, which is maintained by the F.B.I.’s Terrorism Screening Center, the NYT notes. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) filed a lawsuit on behalf of 19 American citizens who are on the watchlist, claiming that their inclusion violated their due-process rights.

  • Those on the list face intense scrutiny by authorities; it can stop them from getting benefits and prevent people from boarding planes or entering the U.S.
  • CAIR called the opinion a "complete victory," but the NYT notes that it's unclear what will happen next; the judge in the case has asked the Justice Department and the lawyers for the plaintiffs to submit briefings on that topic.