US terrorist watchlist needs tighter controls: ACLU

[JURIST] The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] said [press release] Monday that the US terrorist watchlist [FBI FAQ] is too large, contains inaccuracies, and should include more safeguards to prevent the unnecessary targeting of passengers for additional security screenings. The group estimated that the register now includes more than one million names [ACLU backgrounder], which the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said accounts for about 400,000 people [Washington Times report] because of the list's inclusion of aliases. The group said the list was too large to be effective, often resulted in the screening of people with identical or similar names to those on the list, and included the names of deceased people. Director of the ACLU's Technology and Liberty Program, Barry Steinhardt, commented:

America's new million record watch list is a perfect symbol for what's wrong with this administration's approach to security: it's unfair, out-of-control, a waste of resources, treats the rights of the innocent as an afterthought, and is a very real impediment in the lives of millions of travelers in this country. It must be fixed without delay.
The ACLU called for tighter controls on the names placed on the register, the option to challenge placement on it, and access to information on how it is generated. Former Assistant Attorney General James Robinson is among those erroneously included on the roll, and he joined the ACLU in calling for its revision. Reuters has more. AP has additional coverage.

In March, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) [official website] issued a report [PDF text] saying that FBI had submitted inaccurate information to the list [JURIST report], that the information was rarely reviewed before its submission, and even if discrepancies become apparent they were often left unchanged. In response to the audit, FBI Assistant Director John Miller said that the agency was working with the DOJ and other partner agencies [press release] to "ensure the proper balance between national security protection and the need for accurate, efficient, and streamlined watchlist processes." In October, the US Government Accountability Office [official website] said that the US terror watchlist contained more than 755,000 names [JURIST report], growing by about 200,000 names a year since 2004.


 

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