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Watch Lists Spiraling Out of Control

Matthew Allee,
Washington Legislative Office
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August 22, 2008

Alas, innocent Americans now have been granted a far more viable option to go about removing their names from the dreaded Terrorist Screening Center’s aviation watch lists. Prior to Monday’s 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision to allow individuals to sue the government, the only redress was an endless paper trail of forms to fill out that were almost exclusively void of results.

Yet, the ACLU remains skeptical that the federal government will actually respond to the 9th Circuit’s decision in the appropriate manner by actually crafting a process to help innocent people get off and stay off the watch lists.

Back in July, the ACLU marked the millionth record added to the terrorist watch lists, a number extrapolated from internal inspector general reports on the growth of the lists. It’s hard to imagine that there are now over a million terrorists walking the streets of America waiting for their opportunity to strike. Instead, the terrorist watch lists have spiraled madly out of control, wreaking havoc to the travel plans of the innocent who now find themselves swept up in DHS’s bloated and ineffective attempts at security.

Just today, the Wall Street Journal ran an article describing a preliminary Congressional investigation into the effectiveness of the current terrorist watch list system and its scheduled replacement. Both are found to have major systemic flaws, including the inability to easily search for names within the databases.

This finding led Representative Brad Miller (D-N.C.), chairman of the House Science and Technology subcommittee to claim the current system, “has been crippled by technical flaws” and its replacement system “if actually deployed, will leave our country more vulnerable than the existing yet flawed system today.”

The ACLU reiterates its call for the abandonment of the terrorist watch lists, instead adopting national security measures that focus our limited resources on actual terrorist threats – those for whom there is credible evidence of terrorist ties or activities, and not reporters at CNN or former Democratically-appointed Justice Department officials.

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