General Civil Liberties

Predictive Guilt in the Interests of National Security


The United States government is using “predictive judgment” to prevent certain people from using commercial air transportation. In other words, the government is trying to predict whether people might commit a terrorist act, whether or not they have a criminal record.

According to Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU National Security Project, the feds “launched its predictive judgment model without any evidence whatsoever about its accuracy…or the extent to which it results in errors.”

Because the government predicts these people—innocent U.S. citizens—might engage in violence at some unknown future time, it has grounded them indefinitely on a federal “no-fly list.”

People on this list need ways of redress to demonstrate their innocence of crimes they haven’t committed. The government refuses to provide these safeguards in its current system. It also declines to tell these people the reasons it has for predicting misconduct or what evidence it has collected, leaving them to guess. Finally, it will not provide a hearing for people to press their case and challenge government witnesses.

The ACLU has asked the courts, on behalf of victims of predictive judgment, to strike down the government’s current redress process and make it responsive to those wronged by predictive judgment.