(Originally published at http://politicalmoll.com/terrorist-list/)
Recently, highly acclaimed journalist Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Deveraux from the media group, The Intercept, wrote a report about the “Watchlisting Guidance.” The 166-page document gives readers a peek into the way the government detects, labels, and tracks supposed terrorists. The main thesis that Scahill and Deveraux come to is that anyone can be put on the list, and it can be impossible to get off.
The “watchlisting guidance” came into effect after the failure to prevent the 2009 underwear bomber from boarding the plane he’d planned to blow up. Although he was prevented from blowing up the plane , the event persuaded Obama to extend the power and responsibilities to agencies “that nominate individuals to the lists, placing pressure on them to add names” of suspected terrorists. Shortly after this expansion, the US Government Accountability Office published a report that there is no organization in place to regulate and see if the program is achieving its intended goals of catching
the real terrorist. So no one in government knows if this type of program is necessarily effective, and if its not, there is no one to raise the alarm.
Throughout Scahill and Deveraux’s report, they express concern over the lack of oversight and checks and balances these
organizations have. The people with the power to profile or categorically watchlist are assistants to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism; a position that doesn’t need Senate confirmation. At the same time, the data being collected on suspected terrorists, with help by anti-poverty group USAID, is overwhelming the watchlisting community where they are drowning in data, making it more difficult to find real threats.
What’s really at the heart of the conflict, according to the report, is the ease in which anyone can be put on the list. The
watchlist document uses contradictory and vague language about the methods used. For example, you could “walk-in,” where you browse a web page of a suspect terrorist group or affiliate, which in some cases is not even publicly known to
be a terrorist group. In other cases, you could be a “write-in” or posting on social media sites about or related to terrorist organizations. It could simply be that you’re related to someone who is already a suspected member on the list that can get someone’s spouse, child, or friend on the list as well. Even after death, the widow or widower could be put on the list if their spouse was listed before their death, or even after they died.
This information should further imply that as the “war on terrorism” continues to widen its range, it becomes more difficult to see who’s a real terrorist and who isn’t. In his book and documentary by the same name, Dirty
Wars, Jeremy Scahill reported on the expansion of the war on terror into regions like Yemen and Somalia, as well as the huge increase of using drones. He exposed that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have already seen blowback, such as the growth of ISIS .
With our military expansion into other regions, it’s only led to an increase in recruitment for terrorist groups. Not only are we increasing the number of terrorists with our military actions abroad, our government is tracking such a large mass of suspects that it obstructs the ability to track and stop the real threats.
Here we are now in the domestic front of terrorism with the constant leaks on the Orwellian overreach of the NSA on its own citizens, as well as our allies and their leaders. The release of this report should not only worry everyone, but also frighten you with the near limitless power it’s giving our government. We seem to be reaching a breaking point where if we don’t demand change or at least oversight of such programs soon, it might be too late, as the simple act of speaking out against such programs might get you on the list. Our government seems to be running the risk of overextending it’s reach so much that instead of focusing on the “known terrorist” they have this vast collection of data that labels innocent people as terrorists.