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Jacksonville Man Files Federal Lawsuit Challenging National No-Fly List

Ryan Benk
CAIR Florida lawyer Omar Saleh and CAIR National Legal Fund lawyer Lena Marsi speak outside the federal courthouse in Jacksonville Thursday.

A Jacksonville man is suing the federal government for allegedly improperly placing him on the national no-fly list, a counter-terrorism tool.

Zijad Bosnic is a U.S. citizen who makes regular visits to his home country of Bosnia to visit family.

Outside Jacksonville’s federal courthouse Thursday, Bosnic said he should be guaranteed the freedom to travel.

“I’m a U.S. citizen,” he said, “so I feel that I can go back and forth whenever I’d like.”

Bosnic fled civil war in his home country and settled in Northeast Florida 20 years ago. His wife and three kids still live in Bosnia.

In March, he was prevented from boarding a plane back to the U.S. and was informed he’d been placed on the no-fly list. Airline employees told him he should contact the U.S. Embassy. He eventually made it back months later, but he says the episode cost him his shipping clearance that allowed him to transport goods from ports in his job as a truck driver.

Omar Saleh, a lawyer with Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, is representing Bosnic.

“Some as young as 3 or 4 years old are placed on this list based on mere conjecture, hunches or just guesses of these agencies,” he said.

Saleh and CAIR National Legal Fund lawyer Lena Masri allege most people on the list were placed there erroneously after it was created following the 9-11 attacks.  Masri said they are challenging the list on two fronts — that it violates Bosnic’s due process rights because he was neither informed of his placement, nor was he given a reason why, and it also infringes on his constitutionally guaranteed freedom of movement.

“(It’s) an essential right that we have that is enshrined in our Constitution,” she said. “We are challenging (the list) on the basis of his denial of right to movement,” she said.

Masri said although federal agencies seemed to ramp up use of the list during the Obama administration, she’s received more requests for legal help since President Donald Trump took the helm in January.

The Jacksonville lawsuit is not the first to challenge the no-fly list’s constitutionality. The American Civil Liberties Union in 2004 filed a similar class-action lawsuit, which was settled in 2006.

The ACLU and CAIR have since filed more, forcing officials to revise both the process and the criteria for being added to the list and the process to challenge such a placement. The suits also resulted in judgements mandating the government turn over its reasoning for placing certain complainants on the list.

Masri said Thursday the list should be thrown out altogether.

She and other lawyers representing Bosnic said CAIR could add dozens of cases to his suit or file them separately.  The suit filed in Jacksonville follows another CAIR challenge to the no-fly list filed in Utah last month.

Ryan Benk can be reached at, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @RyanMichaelBenk.

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.