ACLU calls out US over 'absurd bloating' of terror watch list
Nick Juliano
Published: Wednesday February 27, 2008

Print This  Email This

More that 900,000 people are currently listed as suspected terrorists on the US government's "do not fly" list, and that number will grow to beyond 1 million by summer, says the American Civil Liberties Union.

"If there were a million terrorists in this country, our cities would be in ruins," Barry Steinhardt, director of the ACLU's Technology and Liberty Program, stated in a press release from the group. "The absurd bloating of the terrorist watch lists is yet another example of how incompetence by our security apparatus threatens our rights without offering any real security."

The ACLU has launched a new Web site to track the growth of the watch list, which it says includes thousands of innocent Americans, including prominent politicians and authors as well as people with common names.

The group says its count is "extrapolated from a September 2007 report by the Inspector General of the Department of Justice, which reported that the Terrorist Screening 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." As of Wednesday afternoon, the ACLU said there were about 917,500 names on the list.

Having such an unwieldy list does little to protect against terrorism, the ACLU argues, and it violates the constitutional rights of innocent people on the list who are hassled by airport security.

"Homeland Security's handling of the watch lists is typical of this administration's blundering approach to the war on terror," said ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel Tim Sparapani. "Create sprawling new systems for sifting through the population, throw an indiscriminately broad range of names into the mix, fairly or not, and treat the rights of innocent people as an afterthought."