New Guidelines: One Tip Could Put You on the Terrorist Watch List (And Good Luck Getting Off it)
We all remember the so-called "underwear bomber" -- the man who allegedly tried to blow up a Detroit-bound airplane last Christmas -- but few people know how the fallout from that event has affected (or could affect) their lives. It turns out that since last year, the U.S. government has altered the criteria used to maintain the terror watch list in such a way that one, single-source tip could land a person on the list, with few chances of getting off it.
What prompted the change was the failure of counter-terrorism officials to put the "underwear bomber," Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, on the list after being tipped off by Abdulmutallab's father. Some security measures are a good thing, of course, but many citizens are worried the government has gone too far with its new rules.
Per the Washington Post:
[C]ivil liberties groups argue that the government's new criteria, which went into effect over the summer, have made it even more likely that individuals who pose no threat will be swept up in the nation's security apparatus, leading to potential violations of their privacy and making it difficult for them to travel.
Today's terrorist watch list has reportedly grown about 5% since last year, now containing the names of some 440,000 individuals. Government officials swear up and down that they do their best to keep innocent people off the list. But the database has been plagued by difficulties in the past, and a new iteration called TIDE 2 (Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment) has seen extra glitches.
As Chris Calabrese, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, points out, the way the process has been implemented represents a huge civil liberties mess. "They are secret lists with no way for people to petition to get off or even to know if they're on," he said.