The Government Doesn't Need Proof That You're a Terrorist In Order to Label You a Terrorist

Written By Ryan Stancil

Posted July 25, 2014

It seems as though due process is the latest casualty in the government’s war to protect the American people from the terrorists banging at the door.

On Wednesday, The Intercept published an article that dives into the government’s rulebook for labeling people terrorists and putting them on the terrorism watchlist. It should come as no surprise that the guidelines within the 166-page document are so broad and sweeping that the whole thing would border on being comedic if it weren’t so troubling.

It’s almost as if the people working for the 19 government agencies that have the power to put people on these lists simply gather names, throw a dart, and hope for the best. They don’t need any concrete evidence.

Don’t believe me?

“Watchlisting Is Not An Exact Science”

Those are words that appear on page six of the document and they’re followed by an admission that there are limitations and subjective criteria that are applicable to the whole practice. Given all of this, you would think the administration would take steps toward ensuring innocent people don’t end up on terrorism watch lists, right?

That wasn’t the case with Rahinah Ibrahim, a Stanford University student whose name was wrongfully placed on the list in 2004. When she tried to find out why she was placed on the list, she was of course stonewalled in the name of national security.

She kept fighting and, in the resulting lawsuit, a federal judge ruled that her due process had been violated by the government. That happened earlier this year.

And why was her name wrongly placed on the No-Fly list to begin with?

Because an FBI agent checked the wrong box on a form.

But the process for putting people on terrorism watch lists doesn’t need checks and balances. The federal bureaucratic machine has everything under control.

They have things under such control that nearly 1.5 million names have been added to the watch list since 2009. Last year alone, 470,000 names were nominated for the list and only a very small few were rejected.

That effectively means that the number of people the government believes are terrorists is greater than the number of active personnel in the five branches of the United States Military.

Other than buying a plane ticket and trying to board a flight, there’s no real way to know if you’re included on the government’s No-Fly list. But that’s the sort of thing that tends to happen when two different administrations rely on shadow legal systems and loopholes to further their agendas and keep the populace under thumb. Even the spouses, children, and so-called “associates” of someone the government suspects of being involved with terrorist activity are at risk of being placed on the list.

If you needed further proof that this was another example of the surveillance state marching forward, take a look at this excerpt from the guide on things the government monitors when a person is put on the list:

In addition to data like fingerprints, travel itineraries, identification documents and gun licenses, the rules encourage screeners to acquire health insurance information, drug prescriptions, “any cards with an electronic strip on it (hotel cards, grocery cards, gift cards, frequent flyer cards),” purchases of multiple cellphones, email addresses, binocula purchases, peroxide  purchases, bank account numbers, pay stubs, academic transcripts, parking and speeding tickets, and want ads. The digital information singled out for collection includes social media accounts, cell phone lists, speed dial numbers, laptop images, thumb drives, iPods, Kindles, and cameras. All of the information is then uploaded to the TIDE database.

Basically, everything under the sun is fair game in the war on terror and ever-expanding surveillance state that the United States is becoming. The fact that innocent people and their rights will likely get caught in the middle and cast aside isn’t going to stop the machine from moving forward.

Keep your eyes open,
Ryan Stancil