In an editorial published in the Washington Post today, Leonard Boyle, director of the U.S. Terrorist Screening Center reacted to the recent media coverage of the terror watch list and defended the list for its effectiveness.
He said myths abound about the list specifically that there are now one million names on it, as reported by the ACLU. These data were misinterpreted he said. There are over one million entries into the list, but those correspond to a mere 400,000 individuals “that represent a tiny fraction of the more than 6.6 billion people on our planet.”
Point taken, but it still can’t be argued that intelligence services are therefore going by a pinpoint approach. With that many names you could incorporate the entire nation of Iceland or Mongolia.
The American Civil Liberties Union, a Washington-based legal organization, has been monitoring the government’s reports about the list of suspected terrorists and says today that the list reached one million names.
“Members of Congress, nuns, war heroes and other ‘suspicious characters,’ with names like Robert Johnson and Gary Smith, have become trapped in the Kafkaesque clutches of this list, with little hope of escape,” said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Congress needs to fix it, the Terrorist Screening Center needs to fix it, or the next president needs to fix it, but it has to be done soon.”
Fredrickson and Barry Steinhardt, director of the ACLU’s Technology and Liberty Program, spoke today along with two victims of the watch list: Jim Robinson, former assistant attorney general for the Civil Division who flies frequently and is often delayed for hours despite possessing a governmental security clearance and Akif Rahman, an American citizen who has been detained and interrogated extensively at the U.S.-Canada border when traveling for business.
“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,” said Barry Steinhardt, director of the ACLU Technology and Liberty Program. “It must be fixed without delay.”
“Putting a million names on a watch list is a guarantee that the list will do more harm than good by interfering with the travel of innocent people and wasting huge amounts of our limited security resources on bureaucratic wheel-spinning,” said Steinhardt. “I doubt this thing would even be effective at catching a real terrorist.”