More than 20,000 Americans are on Terrorist Watch Lists, including 800 on No-Fly List

Thursday, August 07, 2014

If the numbers from the Obama administration’s counterterrorism operations are accurate, there are more than 20,000 Americans who have links to terrorism. At least 800 of them are being prevented from flying on planes.


The numbers were reported by the investigative online magazine The Intercept, which obtained classified documents pertaining to the government’s Terrorist Screening Database. That database includes names of 680,000 people, mostly foreign residents, who have been placed on watch lists. But more than 40% of those on the list have “no recognized terrorist group affiliation,” according to the documents, making it unclear why the government has to keep an eye on them.


“You might as well have a blue wand and just pretend there’s magic in it, because that’s what we’re doing with this—pretending that it works,” former FBI agent Michael German, now a fellow at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, said of the database. “These agencies see terrorism as a winning card for them. They get more resources. They know that they can wave that card around and the American public will be very afraid and Congress and the courts will allow them to get away with whatever they’re doing under the national security umbrella.”


The documents “reveal that the Obama Administration has presided over an unprecedented expansion of the terrorist screening system. Since taking office, Obama has boosted the number of people on the no fly list more than ten-fold, to an all-time high of 47,000—surpassing the number of people barred from flying under George W. Bush,” The Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux reported.


The databases just keep growing, at a rate of 900 entries per day, with either new people or updates to other files, they found.


The top five cities represented by people on the watchlist are New York; Dearborn, Mich.; Houston; San Diego; and Chicago. Dearborn, with fewer than 100,000 residents, has a large Arab-American and Muslim population. Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told The Intercept that the high number of Dearborn residents in the system “just confirms the type of engagement the government has with our community—as seeing us as perpetual suspects.”


The groups with the most names on the list internationally are al Qaeda in Iraq (73,189), the Taliban (62,794), al Qaeda (50,446), Hamas (21,913) and Hezbollah (21,199).

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Barack Obama’s Secret Terrorist-Tracking System, by the Numbers (by Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux, The Intercept)

Secret Papers Describe Size of Terror Lists Kept by U.S. (by Charlie Savage, New York Times)

Obama Administration Places People on Terrorist Watch List based on “Reasonable Suspicion”(by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Federal Judge Rules Secrecy of No-Fly List is Unconstitutional (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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