A Fight for Justice Against Unjust TSA Practices and Alleged FBI Retaliation

MLFA Appeals to Supreme Court: A Fight for Justice Against Unjust TSA Practices and Alleged FBI Retaliation

Before the U.S. Supreme Court concluded its previous term in June, our legal division at MLFA’s Legal division of CLCMA filed a Petition on behalf of Dr. Lassana Magassa.

Dr. Magassa, who works at an airport, was required to obtain a Security Identification Display Area (SIDA) badge, which needed approval from the TSA. During the badge application process, Dr. Magassa met FBI Agent Truong. Agent Truong asked Dr. Magassa to become an informant when he expressed interest in working for the FBI. However, Dr. Magassa declined, explaining that spying on his community would contradict his principles. He assured the FBI and other law enforcement agencies that he would still report any illegal activities. Shortly after his refusal, while Dr. Magassa was traveling from Europe, the TSA unexpectedly revoked his SIDA badge, making his return and job prospects challenging.

In the subsequent administrative proceedings against the TSA’s revocation, the agency refused to disclose any specific reasons for their decision, claiming that even unclassified information was too sensitive to share. Unbeknownst to Dr. Magassa and his attorneys, the TSA held a separate hearing where they presented witnesses and testimony to justify their actions. The administrative judge ruled in favor of the TSA, but the reasoning behind the decision was only communicated through a memo that Dr. Magassa and his attorneys have not yet seen. Only three weeks later, when Dr. Magassa initiated a lawsuit in federal court, the TSA suddenly reinstated his SIDA badge without providing any explanation for their actions. Three years after the initial revocation, Dr. Magassa obtained another SIDA badge and resumed his work at the airport, but he still lives with the uncertainty of another potential revocation without an explanation in the future. Furthermore, he continues to face the negative perception of being labeled a threat by TSA agents and airport security personnel, even after returning to work.

Dr. Magassa took legal action against Agent Truong and several federal agencies, including the TSA, FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security, citing violations of his Fifth Amendment due process rights during the SIDA badge revocation process and interference by Agent Truong in his contractual relationship with the airport. The district court dismissed Dr. Magassa’s claims due to a lack of standing, and he appealed this decision. The Ninth Circuit also rejected his claims, but for different reasons. Firstly, the Ninth Circuit determined that the district court lacked jurisdiction to hear Dr. Magassa’s case due to a TSA statute requiring challenges to TSA decisions to be made in federal court of appeals. Additionally, the Ninth Circuit concluded that Dr. Magassa did not possess a protected interest in his SIDA badge, therefore lacking standing to pursue claims based on reputational harm resulting from its loss. Lastly, the Ninth Circuit dismissed Dr. Magassa’s claims against Agent Truong, stating that Section 1981 does not apply to federal actors.

Our legal division’s attorneys brought this case to the Supreme Court because the Ninth Circuit disregarded established case law that grants federal district courts jurisdiction over challenges to agency procedures like the TSA’s administrative redress process. Furthermore, the appellate court incorrectly determined that Dr. Magassa has no interest in his SIDA badge, despite courts treating SIDA badges differently from security clearances. Additionally, Dr. Magassa’s direct claims against the FBI agent for alleged retaliation should be allowed to proceed, as Congress has consistently expressed its intention to hold federal actors, including federal agents, accountable for wrongfully interfering with individuals’ livelihoods and contracts.

We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will grant our Petition, rectify the lower courts’ errors, and provide Dr. Magassa with the opportunity to have his day in court, as he rightfully deserves.

Subscribe to our newsletter to stay up to date on the latest information from MLFA.