What Happens When Youre On Watch Lists
Once your name goes on a list, your information can be shared with the CIA, FBI, the U.S. Department of Defense, state-local-tribal police, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, U.S. Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development and foreign partners, according to the documents.
From there, your name can be placed into individual watch lists such as the U.S. Transportation Security Administrations No Fly and Selectee lists. The No Fly List, which began with just 16 names after 9/11 and has since grown to contain at least 47,000 names, contains individuals prohibited from boarding a plane, while the Selectee List triggers enhanced screening at airports.
Neither list prohibits individuals from purchasing guns.
How To Tell If Your Name Is On A Government Watchlist
Reportedly, there used to be a way to query the FBI system but that has long been removed from their website. Today, the only way to find out if your name is on a list is to act on your suspicions.
Here are ways to tell if your name is on a government watchlist:
How Does A Government Watchlist Help Businesses
So what does a government watchlist actually do for your business? There are a lot of benefits your company might experience when you start using a government watchlist. There are a variety of benefits that you could experience with a government watchlist, which means the watchlist will help you do a variety of things more easily.
- Do your due diligence.
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How Does The Fbi Watch List Work And Could It Have Prevented Orlando
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Of all the details investigators have uncovered about Orlando terrorist Omar Mateen, perhaps the most infuriating is the fact that he spent 10 months on a government watch list, yet had no trouble buying an assault rifle and a handgun.
Authorities placed Mateen on a watch list in May 2013 after coworkers at the Florida courthouse where he was a security guard told authorities he boasted of connections to al Qaeda and other terrorists organizations. He remained on the list for 10 months, and FBI Director James Comey told reporters this week that during that time the agency placed Mateen under surveillance and had confidential sources meet with him.
But the feds removed Mateen from the list in March 2014, after concluding that he had no significant links to terrorism beyond attending the same mosque as an American suicide bomber who died in Syria. “We don’t keep people under investigation indefinitely, Comey said, adding that he doesn’t see anything that his agents should have done differently.
Comey didnt identify the list Mateen was on, but an unnamed official told the Daily Beast that he was in two databases, the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment database and the Terrorist Screening Database, more commonly called the terrorist watch list.
Here’s a look at what the lists are and how someone gets their name on one.
How The Us’s Terrorism Watchlists Work And How You Could End Up On One
Long-withheld document provides insight into secretive system in which people can be placed on terrorism databases with astounding ease, and without any way to get off
Placement on a terrorism watchlist is a life-changing event. Your travel is monitored and in many cases restricted. If overseas, you could be stranded, costing your employment or reunion with your family. You could be detained and, certain lawsuits allege, tortured by foreign governments.
Yet the ease with which someone can be placed on US watchlists and terrorism databases contrasts markedly with the impact placement has. A long-withheld document detailing the guidelines for placement shows that the standards for inclusion are far lower than probable cause, and the ability for someone caught in the datasets to challenge their placement do not exist. In 2013, the government made 468,749 nominations for inclusion to the Terrorist Screening Database, up from 227,932 nominations in 2009 few are rejected.
The rise and the low standards the Intercept documented is partially explained by the near-miss airliner bombing in Christmas 2009, by a man connected to a Yemeni branch of al-Qaida. Partially it is explained by the overwhelming secrecy surrounding the process: attorney general Eric Holder has called it a state secret , preventing meaningful outside challenges that would recalibrate a balance between reasonable expectations of security and liberty.
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Why I Felt I Was On A Government List
People often wonder if their names have somehow made it on the The List, the watchlist of US citizens whom the government suspects may be up to something nefarious. I would venture to say, the best way to know if youre on the watchlist would be to recognize how often you find yourself forced into unique situations that fall beyond the norm.
I run several websites, some of which could be considered controversial, dealing with topics such as government conspiracy, security, foreign governments, survival, chemical science, etc. I also work for a critical infrastructure company that requires monthly flights to various home offices around the country. A few years ago, I went through a period of time when *every* time I passed through security, I was pulled aside. After more than a year or so of being singled out, you gotta figure your name is on some sort of list. Was it time to head underground?
Getting On A Government Watch List
Getting put on the watch list isn’t exactly like making prom queen, but it does require a nomination. An agent from the FBI, NSA or other federal agency nominates you. Then, that nomination moves on to the FBI’s Terrorist Review and Examination Unit. If you check out as a known or potential terrorist, it’s on to the Terrorist Screening Center and the watch list.
What exactly does it mean to be “appropriately suspected ” as a potential terrorist? The FBI and the federal government remain tightlipped about specific qualifications, continually referring back to the generic guidelines established in the Presidential Directive.
Besides having a criminal record for terrorist-related activities or known associations with terrorists or terrorist organizations, there are other ways people get pegged for the list. Active membership in some extremist groups could get you a spot. For instance, the eco-extreme group Earth Liberation Front has been the focus of FBI investigations for the property damage members have caused. The FBI calls this group’s activity “special interest terrorism” . But if you’re concerned that reading HowStuffWorks article How easy is it to steal a nuclear bomb will set off the fed’s alarm systems, don’t worry. Unless you actually attempt to steal a nuclear bomb yourself, you’re probably fine.
So what about all those average Joes who have been stopped and searched by government officials? Are they terrorists in sheep’s clothing?
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Us Government Watchlisting: Unfair Process And Devastating Consequences
The U.S. government today maintains a massive watchlisting system that risks stigmatizing hundreds of thousands of people, including American citizens, as known or suspected terrorists based on secret standards and secret evidence, without a meaningful process to challenge error and clear their names. The watchlists in this system are shared widely within the federal government, with state and local law enforcement agencies, and even with foreign governments, heightening the negative consequences for listed individuals. Being placed on a U.S. government watchlist can mean an inability to travel by air or sea invasive screening at airports denial of a U.S. visa or permission to enter to the United States and detention and questioning by U.S. or foreign authoritiesto say nothing of shame, fear, uncertainty, and denigration as a terrorism suspect. Watchlisting can prevent disabled military veterans from obtaining needed benefits, separate family members for months or years, ruin employment prospects, and isolate an individual from friends and associates.
How To Get Off A Government Watchlist
Of course, if youre on the watchlist for a valid reason, get used to it. Otherwise, there is one action you can take to potentially have your name removed from the list.
However, be aware that removal of your name from the list can only be done by the agency that put you on the list in the first place. That means you have to find the agency that nominated you for the list and appeal to them directly. Yeah, good luck with that.
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Concrete Facts Are Not Necessary
The five chapters and 11 appendices of the Watchlisting Guidance are filled with acronyms, legal citations, and numbered paragraphs it reads like an arcane textbook with a vocabulary all its own. Different types of data on suspected terrorists are referred to as derogatory information,substantive derogatory information,extreme derogatory information and particularized derogatory information. The names of suspected terrorists are passed along a bureaucratic ecosystem of originators,nominators,aggregators,screeners, and encountering agencies. And upgrade, usually a happy word for travellers, is repurposed to mean that an individual has been placed on a more restrictive list.
The heart of the document revolves around the rules for placing individuals on a watchlist. All executive departments and agencies, the document says, are responsible for collecting and sharing information on terrorist suspects with the National Counterterrorism Center. It sets a low standardreasonable suspicionfor placing names on the watchlists, and offers a multitude of vague, confusing, or contradictory instructions for gauging it. In the chapter on Minimum Substantive Derogatory Criteriaeven the title is hard to digestthe key sentence on reasonable suspicion offers little clarity:
There are a number of loopholes for putting people onto the watchlists even if reasonable suspicion cannot be met.
They’re Reading Your Tweets
The watchlisting guidance says that “first amendment protected activity alone shall not be the basis” for nominating someone to the lists. The key word: alone. What you say, write and publish can and will be used against you. Particularly if you tweet it, pin it or share it.
The guidelines recognize that looking at “postings on social media sites” is constitutionally problematic. But those posts “should not automatically be discounted”, the guidelines state. Instead, the agency seeking to watchlist someone should evaluate the “credibility of the source, as well as the nature and specificity of the information”. If they’re concerned about a tweet, in other words, they’re likely to go through a user’s timeline. That joke about that band blowing up could come back to haunt you at the airport.
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How Can You Get Off The Lists
Individuals who believe they have been wrongfully added to a watch list can file a complaint through a redress program, which launches an internal review not subject to oversight by any court or entity outside the counterterrorism community, according to the documents.
The review can result in a removal of an individuals name, but the individual wont necessarily be notified because the government maintains a general policy to neither confirm nor deny an individuals watch list status, according to the documents.
Individuals can even be kept on the list after being acquitted of a terrorism charge if authorities still have reasonable suspicion.
Not even death can prevent an individual from being added to the watch list because the names of people who have already died can remain or even be placed on the list if authorities believe terrorists may use the deceaseds identity.
The National Counter Terrorism Center did not immediately respond to a request for comment but has said the watch list program is a critical layer in our counter terrorism defenses.
Getting Off A Government Watch List
Getting off a Government Watch List
If you are on the terror watch list, somewhere in Northern Virginia, someone in the Terrorist Screening Center is looking at you on a screen . Not a realtime image of you, but rather a colored dot showing your location.
But how can you know whether youre on the watch list if the government doesnt disclose that information? Will you know when men in trench coats and shades follow your every move?
The easiest way to find out is to take an airplane trip. It doesnt matter the destination, just try booking a flight and see what happens. The Transportation Security Administration that oversees air travel in the United States will automatically flag anyone with a name on the TSCs master list. As a result, when you arrive at the airport, someone will likely pull you aside for an extensive security check and possibly questioning before permitting you to board.
Being repeatedly stopped at an airport could also signal that you share the same name as someone on the watch list. This screening feature has botched many travel plans for regular citizens. Consider the example in 2004 when someone named John Lewis made the government watch list. After that, every John Lewis, including the wellknown civil rights activist and Georgia representative of the same name, had trouble boarding a flight .
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Profiling Categories Of People
While the nomination process appears methodical on paper, in practice there is a shortcut around the entire system. Known as a threat-based expedited upgrade, it gives a single White House official the unilateral authority to elevate entire categories of people whose names appear in the larger databases onto the no fly or selectee lists. This can occur, the guidelines state, when there is a particular threat stream indicating that a certain type of individual may commit a terrorist act.
This extraordinary power for categorical watchlistingotherwise known as profilingis vested in the assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, a position formerly held by CIA Director John Brennan that does not require Senate confirmation.
The rulebook does not indicate what categories of people have been subjected to threat-based upgrades. It is not clear, for example, whether a category might be as broad as military-age males from Yemen. The guidelines do make clear that American citizens and green card holders are subject to such upgrades, though government officials are required to review their status in an expedited procedure. Upgrades can remain in effect for 72 hours before being reviewed by a small committee of senior officials. If approved, they can remain in place for 30 days before a renewal is required, and can continue until the threat no longer exists.
Believe In Conspiracy Theories
After reading this list, its easy to believe in some insane government conspiracy to land every American citizen on a government watch list. Beware: Believing in conspiracy theories well, thats reason enough to land your name on a government watch list.
About the Author
Alice Jones Webb is a writer, autodidact, and homeschooling mother to four children. She spends her days folding laundry, raising free-thinkers, and questioning everything. She can easily be found on , , and her website, Different Than Average, where she writes social commentary and chronicles a life that challenges the status quo.
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There’s Room For The Family
A precursor data set that feeds the Terrorist Screening Database is the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, or TIDE, maintained by the National Counterterrorism Center. TIDE contains records of known or suspected international terrorists. It also contains information on their families and perhaps their friends.
“Alien spouses and children” of people NCTC labels terrorists get put into TIDE. They “may be inadmissible to the United States”, presumed to be dangerous. TIDE also contains “non-terrorist” records of people who have a “close relationship with KNOWN or SUSPECTED terrorists”, the guidance reads. Examples listed are fathers or brothers, although the guidance does not specify a blood or marital relationship as necessary for inclusion. Those people can be American citizens or noncitizens inside the United States. While those “close relation” are not supposed to be passed on for watchlisting absent other “derogatory information”, their data may be retained within TIDE for unspecified “analytic purposes”.
Check Whether Your Name Appears On The Ofac Specially Designated Nationals List
The Office of Foreign Assets Control maintains a specific list of “specially designated nationals,” including suspected terrorists, with whom US firms are prohibited from doing business. Credit bureaus, landlords and potential employers have been using them to screen applicants, so make sure you’re not on this list. Check whether your name appears on the OFAC list:
1. Go to the OFAC website. 2. Select the link for “Specially Designated Nationals” list. 3. Use the Search and Find feature to look for your full name.