“The FAA has recently observed a proliferation of such conduct, including conduct stemming from the failure to wear masks in response to the COVID-19 pandemic-related health measures in place on board aircraft or conduct following the January 6, 2021 violence at the U.S. Capitol,” the agency said. “This bulletin announces an FAA special emphasis enforcement program to more effectively address and deter such conduct by passengers.”
The order comes one day after Steven D’Antuono, head of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, said the agency was “actively looking at” placing the rioters on the federal no-fly list. It was the first time FBI officials acknowledged publicly they were considering that step.
In recent days, lawmakers have questioned whether enough is being done to prevent a repeat of the violence that shook the Capitol. Among the measures being considered is using the no-fly list to block people from returning to Washington in the days leading to the inauguration.
That issue probably will be raised by law enforcement officials during a Thursday briefing for members of the House Homeland Security Committee.
Committee Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) was among the first lawmakers to demand that rioters be placed on the no-fly list — a call echoed Tuesday by Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.).
“We cannot allow these same insurrectionists to get on a plane and cause more violence and more damage,” Schumer said.
Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, also called for rioters to be banned from flying.
“First strike and you’re out,” she said. “This will help serve as a deterrent to unruly passengers who had been bucking the rules of aviation safety.”
Others, however, disagreed that the list should be expanded to include those involved in last week’s insurrection.
“The No Fly List has been used since its inception to unjustly target Black and Brown people, particularly Muslims, and is a due process nightmare,” Manar Waheed, senior legislative and advocacy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, which has sued the government over the list, said in a statement. “Doubling down on it now will simply further entrench an error-prone and unconstitutional system that will continue to be used unfairly against people of color.”
Rather than expand the list, Waheed called on President-elect Joe Biden to review it and along with lawmakers, “work toward overhauling or ending this watch list once and for all.”
The no-fly list is one of several tools law enforcement officials have at their disposal as they seek to prevent a repeat of last week’s violence.
The Transportation Security Administration uses the list to screen passengers considered a threat to commercial aviation or national security. The list is a subset of the Terrorist Screening Database, designed to “identify individuals who are known or suspected terrorists,” the TSA said in a statement. Those on the no-fly list will not be issued boarding passes.
Airlines also maintain their own no-fly lists, which during the pandemic have grown to include more than 1,600 people who have refused to wear masks when flying.
In a letter this week to TSA Administrator David Pekoske, Thompson and Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), expressed concern that law enforcement officials were not being aggressive enough in light of indications that many of the same groups that participated in last week’s attack on the Capitol were threatening to return to Washington.
“Despite this imminent threat, it appears little is being done to disrupt the travel of terrorists who just attacked the seat of the U.S. Government and wish to do so again,” the lawmakers wrote.
The lawmakers’ concerns came despite assurances by the TSA that the agency remains on “high alert” and that there would be a stepped-up law enforcement presence at all three major Washington-area airports through the inauguration. The agency added that members of the Federal Air Marshal Service also would continue to travel on flights to ensure the security of passengers and crew members.
Airlines, too, say they are adding staffing at airports in the region, with some saying they will arrange for crew members to stay outside the city.
Officials across the Washington area are discouraging people from visiting for the inauguration.
D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) has ordered indoor dining and museums to remain closed until two days after Biden’s inauguration. The goal is both an effort to curb rising coronavirus infections and make Washington less hospitable to visitors considering travel to the city.