More than 1 million people, including many Americans, are considered suspected terrorists by the federal government, according to newly revealed court documents.
The documents showed that there are now more than 1 million names in the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Database, or the terrorist watch list, that is the basis for the infamous “no-fly” list.
“There aren’t 1 million people who are known or suspected terrorists,” Gadeir Abbas, an attorney for the Council on American Islamic Relations, told the Associated Press. “This suggests the standard the government is applying is wildly loose.”
Numbers revealed at a July federal court hearing in Alexandria, Virginia, indicate that the number of individuals Uncle Sam suspects to be terrorists is growing dramatically. According to the documents there were 227,932 names nominated for the database in 2009, 250,847 names nominated in 2010, 336,712 names in 2012 and 468,749 names in 2013. About 99 percent of names that are nominated are added to the list.
If those numbers are accurate, more than 1 million names have been added to the database in the last five years. Around 20,000 of the people in the database are also on the federal government’s no-fly list, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). At least 500 of the 20,000 are Americans.
No detailed information about the people in the database or the reasons the FBI thinks they are a threat were provided. Nor was the methodology for putting names on the list revealed.
Government Tries to Use Secrecy as Legal Defense
The numbers were revealed at a hearing where Justice Department attorneys asked US District Judge Anthony Trenga to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the no-fly list. The no-fly list is prepared from names and numbers in the database.
Abbas is representing Gulet Mohamed, an Alexandria, Virginia, man who was denied entry into the US in 2011 because he was on the watch list. Mohamed, who is a naturalized US citizen, does not know why he is on the list. He has never been charged with a crime.
The Justice Department is arguing the case must be dismissed because it could cause classified information to be revealed to the public. Judge Trenga was skeptical of that argument and the list itself, according to AP.
“I didn’t notice any real restraint,” Trenga said of the government’s case. “They were the kinds of things that would not jump out at you as state secrets.”
This is the second time that Justice Department attorneys have asked Trenga to throw out Mohamed’s lawsuit. Trenga rejected a similar argument earlier this year.
Federal Judge Finds No-Fly List Unconstitutional and Illegal
The Justice Department is scrambling to defend the Terrorist Screening Database because a federal judge in Oregon has ruled the no-fly list is unconstitutional and illegal. US District Judge Anna Brown found that the list violates the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of due process.
The no-fly list is unconstitutional because the government doesn’t give people adequate means of challenging their inclusion in it, Brown found. Brown agreed to a challenge to the no-fly list brought by the ACLU on behalf of 13 people who were denied the right to fly. Four of the 13 are veterans.
“A traveler who has not been given any indication of the information that may be in the record does not have any way to correct that information,” Brown noted in her opinion. Brown also alleged that the FBI deliberately ignored Congress’ instructions when it set up the process used to determine who goes on the no-fly list.
She also ruled that DHS-TRIP (Department of Homeland Security Traveler Redress Inquiry Program) — the complaint process for persons on the no-fly list — does not provide due process.
“As discussed herein at length, the DHS TRIP process does not provide a meaningful mechanism for travelers who have been denied boarding to correct erroneous information in the government’s terrorism databases,” Brown wrote.
Do you support the government maintaining a no-fly list and terrorist watch list? Tell us in the comments section below.