Nick Baumann

Nick Baumann

Senior Editor

Nick is based in our DC bureau, where he covers national politics and civil liberties issues. Nick has also written for The Economist, The Atlantic, the Washington Monthly, and Commonweal. Email tips and insights to nbaumann [at] motherjones [dot] com. You can also follow him on Facebook.

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Bush-Appointed Judge Rules that No-Fly List Makes Some Americans "Second-Class Citizens"

| Wed Jan. 22, 2014 8:06 PM EST

A Virginia man who claims that as a teenager he was detained, interrogated, and abused in Kuwait at the behest of the Obama administration (a story I wrote about here) has won a key victory in his lawsuit against the government. A George W. Bush-appointed judge allowed Gulet Mohamed's case to move forward on Wednesday, ruling that by putting him on the no-fly list (and thus infringing on his right to return home to the US), the government made him "a second class citizen."

Judge Anthony Trenga of the US District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, ruled that the no-fly list's "impact on a citizen who cannot use a commercial aircraft is profound," restricting the right to travel and visit family, the "ability to associate," and even the ability to hold down a job. Inclusion on the list also "also labels an American citizen a disloyal American who is capable of, and disposed toward committing, war crimes, and one can easily imagine the broad range of consequences that might be visited upon such a person if that stigmatizing designation were known by the general public," Trenga added. Here's another key excerpt:

In effect, placement on the No Fly List is life defining and life restricting across a broad range of constitutionally protected activities and aspirations; and a No Fly List designation transforms a person into a second class citizen, or worse. The issue, then, is whether and under what circumstances the government should have the ability to impose such a disability on an American citizen, who should make any such decision, according to what process, and by what standard of proof.

Trenga ruled that the government, which argued that Mohamed should go through the Department of Homeland Security's notoriously Kafkaesque no-fly list redress process before suing, had not made its case. "The current record," he wrote, "is inadequate to explain why judicial involvement before a person is placed on the No Fly List is either unnecessary or impractical, other than perhaps within the context of an emergency." In other words, the government should let the courts review placements before they happen—not wait for citizens to exhaust every avenue for complaint.

"We applaud this decision as a clear rebuke of the government's use of the no-fly list as applied to Americans," Gadeir Abbas, Mohamed's attorney, said in a statement released Wednesday evening.

Wednesday's was the second no-fly list ruling in as many weeks: on January 15, a court in San Francisco ruled that a former Stanford University doctoral student was not a national security threat and should be removed from the list.

You can read the whole Mohamed decision here:


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RIP Michael Hastings. Here's His Advice to Young Journalists.

| Tue Jun. 18, 2013 6:46 PM EDT
Michael Hastings.

Michael Hastings, a respected young journalist for Rolling Stone and BuzzFeed, was killed in a car accident in Los Angeles Tuesday, according to his boss, BuzzFeed Editor in Chief Ben Smith.

Hastings, who was 33, was perhaps most famous for "The Runaway General," his June 2010 Rolling Stone article on General Stanley McChrystal, then the commander of US forces in Afghanistan. President Barack Obama fired McChrystal after the publication of the article. Hastings expanded "The Runaway General" into a book, The Operators, that was published in January 2012 and became a New York Times bestseller.

Hastings first rose to prominence for his coverage of the Iraq war in Newsweek. His then-fiancée Andrea Parhamovich was killed in Iraq in 2007; he later wrote a book, I Lost My Love in Baghdad, about his years in Iraq.

You can find Hastings' Rolling Stone archives here and his BuzzFeed stuff here, but his Newsweek writing is mostly not available online. Rolling Stone's obituary for him is here; Smith's, which is a particularly gutting read, is here.

Hastings aided and mentored many other journalists during his all-too-short career. Last year, he posted his advice for aspiring journalists on Reddit. Here it is:

Okay, here's my advice to you (and young journalists in general):

1.) You basically have to be willing to devote your life to journalism if you want to break in. Treat it like it's medical school or law school.

2.) When interviewing for a job, tell the editor how you love to report. How your passion is gathering information. Do not mention how you want to be a writer, use the word "prose," or that deep down you have a sinking suspicion you are the next Norman Mailer.

3.) Be prepared to do a lot of things for free. This sucks, and it's unfair, and it gives rich kids an edge. But it's also the reality.

4.) When writing for a mass audience, put a fact in every sentence.

5.) Also, keep the stories simple and to the point, at least at first.

6.) You should have a blog and be following journalists you like on Twitter.

7.) If there's a publication you want to work for or write for, cold call the editors and/or email them. This can work.

8.) By the second sentence of a pitch, the entirety of the story should be explained. (In other words, if you can't come up with a rough headline for your story idea, it's going to be a challenge to get it published.)

9.) Mainly you really have to love writing and reporting. Like it's more important to you than anything else in your life--family, friends, social life, whatever.

10.) Learn to embrace rejection as part of the gig. Keep writing/pitching/reading.

Hastings is survived by his wife, Elise Jordan.

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