The latest leaked classified documents to come via Edward Snowden (or someone else?) show that the no-fly terrorist watch list has grown in size by ten times since Barack Obama took office in 2009.
The documents, published by The Intercept, reveal that just last year there were over Forty-seven thousand names on the list, which is supposed to be used to flag up potential terrorist subjects.
In 2009, the no-fly list had been dramatically reduced in size to just 4000 names, following intense scrutiny from media and some elected representatives in Congress.
Just three years earlier, before it was culled in size, the list had ballooned to contain 44,000 names, even including recognised political figures such as Bolivian President Evo Morales.
Now the new documents reveal that the list has once again grown, to contain even more names than ever before.
The exponential growth in names added to the list is said to have been sparked by the failed underpants bombing incident on Christmas Eve 2009.
Sources have claimed that following the 2009 incident, a new standard was set meaning someone no longer has to be considered a threat only to aviation to be placed on the no-fly list. People who are considered a broader threat to domestic or international security can also be added.
The government has refused to reveal details of who is on the list and the reason they have been flagged.
The latest documents also show that in addition to the no-fly list, a separate so called “selectee list” used to identify travelers for heightened scrutiny at airports and border crossings has over 16,000 people on it, including 1,200 Americans.
These lists pale in comparison to the the separate government master “Terrorist Screening Database” that reportedly now has 680,000 names on it.
The newly leaked classified documents show that 40 percent of those listed have “no recognized terrorist affiliation,” and 5,000 are Americans.
Documents published last month, also by The Intercept, revealed that agencies such as the NSA, CIA, and FBI do not require or seek “concrete facts” or “irrefutable evidence” that someone is a terrorist before adding them to official watch lists.
Indeed, the National Counterterrorism Center document reveals that the rules for adding Americans to databases such as the “no-fly list” are so broad in scope, that only a “reasonable suspicion” is needed to add someone who might commit “violent acts”or engage in “intimidation or coercion” at some point in the future. Government agents now need only what is vaguely referred to as “fragmentary information” in order to put names on the lists.
As we noted in our report on the revelations, the rules for adding people to the lists, which all law enforcement agencies in the country have access to, contain many loopholes. Associates and immediate family of terror suspects are routinely added to the database, and it even contains the names of known deceased people, who are not removed for fear that their identities may be usurped by evildoers.
As we have previously reported, many innocent American citizens have been added to terrorism watchlists over entirely innocent activities.
Reports have confirmed that the watch list contains the names of thousands of innocent Americans, including babies, children, lawyers and even a retired Air National Guard brigadier, now a commercial pilot for a major airline.
In some cases credit reports have been used in calculating the risk score, while the list has also been used to target political activists opposing the death penalty and the Iraq war. Some, including former White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel have suggested restricting the constitutional rights of those placed on the list. There have also been calls to apply the watch list to Amtrak trains as well as checkpoints at subways, malls and sports stadiums.
Once a person is added to a list, they can remain in federal databases for up to 30 years, lawsuits have noted. The process for getting off of the watchlists has been declared unconstitutional in court. Further lawsuits have indicated that the government terrorism watchlists are extremely prone to abuse and error.
Privacy advocates have warned that such watch lists represent a subversion of the First and Fourth Amendments, are inherently flawed and are MORE harmful to the security of the nation.
Commenting on the leaked information, the head of the American Civil Liberties Union’s national security project, Hina Shamsi, has said that it proves the government is “secretly blacklisting people as suspected terrorists” with little or no evidence.
Steve Watson is a London based writer and editor for Alex Jones’ Infowars.com, and Prisonplanet.com. He has a Masters Degree in International Relations from the School of Politics at The University of Nottingham, and a Bachelor Of Arts Degree in Literature and Creative Writing from Nottingham Trent University.