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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Growing Terrorist Watch List Ensnares More People in Error

In today's New York Times, this article detailed how more people are being stopped from flying because their name ended up on the "Terrorist Watch List." And, according to the Times, the number of people that end up on the list and are stopped even though they have no connection to terror or terrorist are likely to rise as the Obama administration recalibrates the standards for identifying potential terrorists, in response to intelligence failures that let the "underwear bomber" fly to Detroit from Amsterdam last Christmas.

On Friday, the administration altered rules for identifying which passengers flying to the United States should face extra scrutiny at the gate. And it is reviewing ways to make it easier to place suspects on the watch list.

“The entire federal government is leaning very far forward on putting people on lists,” Russell E. Travers, a deputy director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said at a recent Senate hearing. Before the attempted attack on Christmas, Mr. Travers said, “I never had anybody tell me that the list was too small.”
No one knows how they get on the list, and all sorts of people from Gulf War veterans to Congressmen and U.S. Senators end up on the list. And the government will not tell you how to get off of the list.

The watch list is actually a succession of lists, beginning with the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, or TIDE, a centralized database of potential suspects. Mr. Travers said that about 10,000 names come in daily through intelligence reports, but that a large percentage are dismissed because they are based on “some combination of circular reporting, poison pens, mistaken identities, lies and so forth.”

Analysts at the counterterrorism center then work with the Terrorist Screening Center of the F.B.I. to add names to what is called the consolidated watch list, which may have any number of consequences for those on it, like questioning by the police during a traffic stop or additional screening crossing the border. That list, in turn, has various subsets, including the no-fly list and the selectee list, which requires passengers to undergo extra screening.

The consolidated list has the names of more than 400,000 people, about 97 percent of them foreigners, while the no-fly and selectee lists have about 6,000 and 20,000, respectively.
And this is the same list that people like President Obama's Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and N.J. U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg want to use to prevent Americans from purchasing a handgun. Cam Edwards did a good job of dissecting this issue last year on

Gun owners should continue to be wary of those who ask us to give up a little freedom for security. Law abiding gun owners have no problem with denying known criminals and terrorists from having access to firearms. What we do have a problem with is keeping U.S. Citizens who have never committed a crime from being able to exercise their constitutionally protected rights.

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