The “terrorist” watch list now has more than one million names. Do you feel safer now?
Since February we’ve been tracking the size of our government’s list of ostensible terrorist suspects, which according to the government’s own report (pdf) has been rising at a rate of 20,000 per month.
Today I appeared in a press conference at the National Press Club here in Washington to mark this latest threshold in the history of our government’s so-called “War on Terror.” With me were Caroline Fredrickson, head of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office, and two watch list victims: Jim Robinson, a former assistant attorney general for the Civil Division at the Justice Department, who flies frequently and is often delayed for hours despite possessing a governmental security clearance; and Akif Rahman, an American citizen who has been repeatedly detained, shackled, separated from his family, and interrogated at the U.S.-Canada border when traveling for his business.
The first thing we have to do is reduce the size of this list. There cannot possibly be one million terrorists poised to attack us. If there were our cities would be ablaze. The president – if not this president, then the next one — needs to order the Terrorist Screening Center (the entity that maintains the list) to take everyone off this list except those for whom there is credible evidence of terrorist activities or ties. And they should be ordered to do it quickly — within three months.
There’s just no excuse for a terrorist watch list with one million names on it. And the million names dramatically understates the number of Americans actually affected by this hopelessly bloated folly. With common names like Robert Johnson on the list, exponentially more Americans are caught up in a Kafkaesque web of suspicion.