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post #1 of 20 (permalink) Old 07-14-2008, 05:22 PM Thread Starter
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One million on US terrorist watch list: rights group

One million on US terrorist watch list: rights group

A watch list of suspected and known terrorists, compiled by the US authorities, has ballooned and contains more than one million names, the American Civil Liberties Union said Monday.

The ACLU said it derived that figure from a Justice Department report on the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center, which consolidates terrorist watch list information.

The Center "had over 700,000 names in its database as of April 2007 and that the list was growing by an average of over 20,000 records per month," according to a report by the Justice Department Inspector General, the rights group said.

"By those numbers, the list now has over one million names on it," the ACLU said in a statement.

Among those on the watch list are deceased people, such as former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein who was hanged in 2005, decorated war veterans, and US Senator Ted Kennedy, the ACLU said.

Nobel Peace Prize winner, former South African president Nelson Mandela, was also on the list until an act of Congress removed his name -- the only way, according to the ACLU, to get off the list.

"The watchlist is a perfect symbol for what's wrong with the administration's approach to terrorism: it's unfair, out of control, incompetently administered, a waste of resources, and is a very real impediment in the lives of billions of travelers," the director of the ACLU Technology and Liberty Program, Barry Steinhardt, told reporters in Washington.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) flatly denied the allegation that the list contained one million names.

"Assumptions about the list are just plain wrong," the TSA said in a posting on its website, estimating that there were less than 450,000 people on the watch list.

One million on US terrorist watch list: rights group
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post #2 of 20 (permalink) Old 07-14-2008, 09:09 PM
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I misread the headline. When I saw:

One million on US terrorist watch list: rights group

I naturally assumed someone at the Department of Holy Shit had just merged the ACLU membership database into the terrorist watch list.

My bad.

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post #3 of 20 (permalink) Old 07-14-2008, 09:18 PM
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And the problem with the watch list, whatever size, is...?

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post #4 of 20 (permalink) Old 07-14-2008, 09:44 PM
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And the problem with the watch list, whatever size, is...?
Did you ever hear the parable about the boy who cried wolf?

When you have a filter that large to build a list, the list becomes useless. You end up with nobody paying attention to it because every TSA agent as run into at least a dozen other people, aged 6 who are somehow on the list.

And when Kennedy and others end up on the list then the list loses its credibility.

So to simplify, either have a list that has actual terrorists on it so you can WATCH for them or drop the list. The alternative conclusion is that we have 1 Million terrorists wandering around and considering the quality of intel that means we are in much deeper shit than we ever knew.

The list has to be credible. One Million is not credible.

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post #5 of 20 (permalink) Old 07-14-2008, 10:23 PM
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Originally Posted by bottomline1 View Post
And the problem with the watch list, whatever size, is...?
And then there is that whole inability to manage the list at that size. Credibility is important when you expect people to use it to search for bad guys. Things like this make it a joke.


Ex-prosecutor on terror list: Fix it

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Justice Department's former top criminal prosecutor says the government's terror watch list likely has caused thousands of innocent Americans to be questioned, searched or otherwise hassled.

Former Assistant Attorney General Jim Robinson would know: He's one of them.

Robinson joined another mistaken-identity American and the American Civil Liberties Union on Monday to urge fixing the list that's supposed to identify suspected terrorists.

"It's a pain in the neck, and significantly interferes with my travel arrangements," said Robinson, the head of the Justice Department's criminal division during the Clinton administration. He believes his name matches that of someone who was put on the list in early 2005, and is routinely delayed while flying -- despite having his own government top-secret security clearances renewed last year.

"I suppose if I were convinced that America is a safer place because I get hassled at the airport, I might put up with it," Robinson said. "But I doubt it."

He added: "I expect my story is similar to hundreds of thousands of people who are on this list who find themselves inconvenienced."

The government calls its watch list one of the most effective tools in its fight against terrorism. It was created after the September 11, 2001, attacks to consolidate 12 existing lists and make sure no terrorists slipped through the cracks -- whether when entering the country or if otherwise stopped for questioning. Last year, congressional investigators found "general agreement that the watch list has helped to combat terrorism."

Other audits of the watch list over the last several years, however, have concluded that it has mistakenly flagged innocent people whose names are similar to those on it. More than 30,000 airline passengers had asked the Homeland Security Department to clear their names from the list as of October 2006. Additionally, as many as 20 people suspected to be terrorists were left off the list as of last year due to a technology glitch.

Chad Kolton, a spokesman for the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center that maintains the list, said the government is working to fix the gaps.

"We strive to have the watch list contain all appropriately suspected terrorists who represent a threat to the U.S., but only appropriately suspected terrorists," Kolton said.

The ACLU predicted the watch list would include 1 million names as early as Monday. The civil liberties group reached that number by citing the 700,000 records on the watch list as of last September and adding 20,000 names each month, as forecast by the Justice Department's inspector general.

Kolton disputed that number, however, saying that only about 400,000 individuals are on the list -- with the rest being records of aliases or other identifiers for those same people. Kolton said that 95 percent of the people on the list are not Americans or legal U.S. residents -- and most aren't even in the country.

The Government Accountability Office, the investigations arm of Congress, similarly concluded last year that the total number of records on the watch list "does not represent the total number of individuals," saying it contains multiple records for the same person.

For some Americans whose names match those on the list, being delayed or detained for extra screening isn't just a hassle -- it's frightening.

Chicago-area computer consultant Akif Rahman, who was born in Springfield, Illinois, said he has been detained at least seven times after traveling abroad. During one such incident in May, he said, he was held for five hours, shackled to a chair and kicked by a Customs Service agent after being stopped at a U.S. checkpoint on the Canadian border.

"I was fearful for my own safety and that of my family," said Rahman, who is suing the government to have his identity cleared from the watch list. "I simply could not believe that I, a born U.S. citizen, was going though this experience simply re-entering my own country."

Ex-prosecutor on terror list: Fix it - CNN.com

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post #6 of 20 (permalink) Old 07-15-2008, 10:36 AM
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Originally Posted by bottomline1 View Post
And the problem with the watch list, whatever size, is...?
I have a feeling that you will make an excellent concentration camp guard
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post #7 of 20 (permalink) Old 07-15-2008, 02:46 PM
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I have a feeling that you will make an excellent concentration camp guard
I'd much rather be an attendant in your psych ward.

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post #8 of 20 (permalink) Old 07-15-2008, 02:48 PM
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I'd much rather be an attendant in your psych ward.
Oh, so you prefer to torture
Hey, maybe I am on that watch list, what do you say?
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post #9 of 20 (permalink) Old 07-15-2008, 03:02 PM
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And then there is that whole inability to manage the list at that size. Credibility is important when you expect people to use it to search for bad guys. Things like this make it a joke.


Ex-prosecutor on terror list: Fix it

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Justice Department's former top criminal prosecutor says the government's terror watch list likely has caused thousands of innocent Americans to be questioned, searched or otherwise hassled.

Former Assistant Attorney General Jim Robinson would know: He's one of them.

Robinson joined another mistaken-identity American and the American Civil Liberties Union on Monday to urge fixing the list that's supposed to identify suspected terrorists.

"It's a pain in the neck, and significantly interferes with my travel arrangements," said Robinson, the head of the Justice Department's criminal division during the Clinton administration. He believes his name matches that of someone who was put on the list in early 2005, and is routinely delayed while flying -- despite having his own government top-secret security clearances renewed last year.
"I suppose if I were convinced that America is a safer place because I get hassled at the airport, I might put up with it," Robinson said. "But I doubt it."

He added: "I expect my story is similar to hundreds of thousands of people who are on this list who find themselves inconvenienced."

The government calls its watch list one of the most effective tools in its fight against terrorism. It was created after the September 11, 2001, attacks to consolidate 12 existing lists and make sure no terrorists slipped through the cracks -- whether when entering the country or if otherwise stopped for questioning. Last year, congressional investigators found "general agreement that the watch list has helped to combat terrorism."Other audits of the watch list over the last several years, however, have concluded that it has mistakenly flagged innocent people whose names are similar to those on it. More than 30,000 airline passengers had asked the Homeland Security Department to clear their names from the list as of October 2006. Additionally, as many as 20 people suspected to be terrorists were left off the list as of last year due to a technology glitch.

Chad Kolton, a spokesman for the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center that maintains the list, said the government is working to fix the gaps.

"We strive to have the watch list contain all appropriately suspected terrorists who represent a threat to the U.S., but only appropriately suspected terrorists," Kolton said.

The ACLU predicted the watch list would include 1 million names as early as Monday. The civil liberties group reached that number by citing the 700,000 records on the watch list as of last September and adding 20,000 names each month, as forecast by the Justice Department's inspector general.

Kolton disputed that number, however, saying that only about 400,000 individuals are on the list -- with the rest being records of aliases or other identifiers for those same people. Kolton said that 95 percent of the people on the list are not Americans or legal U.S. residents -- and most aren't even in the country.
The Government Accountability Office, the investigations arm of Congress, similarly concluded last year that the total number of records on the watch list "does not represent the total number of individuals," saying it contains multiple records for the same person.

For some Americans whose names match those on the list, being delayed or detained for extra screening isn't just a hassle -- it's frightening.

Chicago-area computer consultant Akif Rahman, who was born in Springfield, Illinois, said he has been detained at least seven times after traveling abroad. During one such incident in May, he said, he was held for five hours, shackled to a chair and kicked by a Customs Service agent after being stopped at a U.S. checkpoint on the Canadian border.

"I was fearful for my own safety and that of my family," said Rahman, who is suing the government to have his identity cleared from the watch list. "I simply could not believe that I, a born U.S. citizen, was going though this experience simply re-entering my own country."

Ex-prosecutor on terror list: Fix it - CNN.com
The gov't reports that the list is about 400,000 actual people, mostly foreigners. Managing a list of this size is no big deal these days when you consider that we all entrust our financial history to only three credit reporting agencies. Frankly, for the safety involved, I'd prefer to have many false positives than ANY false negatives. Maybe we could use the FISA for petitioners who want their names removed.

The stories of Jim Robinson and Akif Rahman remind me of Michael J. Fox shaking with Parkinson's while promoting stem cell research before the House. Increasingly, the Dems like to strut out so-called victims for drama.

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post #10 of 20 (permalink) Old 07-15-2008, 05:51 PM
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Managing a list of this size is no big deal these days when you consider that we all entrust our financial history to only three credit reporting agencies. Frankly, for the safety involved, I'd prefer to have many false positives than ANY false negatives. Maybe we could use the FISA for petitioners who want their names removed.
Except that we DON"T trust the reporting three. We are forced to constantly monitor the accuracy and dispute the validity of the accumulated information. Were it only possible to do the same with the government's data mined bounty.

In as much as inclusion is tantamount to a presumption of guilt, removal of a demonstrably incorrect inclusion should be made as simple and as expeditious as possible. Our government owes us at least that much.
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