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917,000 Terrorists Poised and Ready to Strike America!

Barry Steinhardt,
Technology & Liberty Program
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February 27, 2008

Jack Bauer's worst nightmare? Not according to the U.S. Government.

Today we launched a new web feature - an "ACLU Watchlist Counter" to dramatize the absurd bloat in our nation's terrorist watchlists. It wasn't long after 9/11 that we began hearing from Americans who were having problems getting on airplanes because, they were told, their names were on terrorist watchlists. In typical Bush Administration style, these systems had been roughly thrown together with little thought for questions of guilt or innocence or fairness to those unfairly targeted.

In the years since, our out-of-control watchlists have received a lot of terrible publicity, such as when famous people like Sen. Ted Kennedy or Yusuf Islam (aka Cat Stevens) got trapped on them, or when 60 Minutes discovered that the list included the president of Bolivia, dead people, and dozens of common American names like Robert Johnson and John Williams. Despite all this publicity, and the problems faced by thousands or millions of frustrated innocent American citizens, the problem has not gotten better. In fact, it has gotten even worse.

Based on numbers contained in a report (PDF) issued by the Inspector General of the Department of Justice, the watchlist is growing by 20,000 records a month - and now exceeds 917,000 people. And it's growing by the minute - a growth that you can view in real time on our new page, which displays a rolling, real-time counter showing how many names are on the list, according to that DOJ report.

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