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What Does Being On The Government Watch List Mean

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A Former FBI Agent Explains the Terrorist Watch List | Explorer

The FBI and NSA perform their fair share of online surveillance, to be sure. But in many cases they might not be allowed to monitor who they want, when they want due to laws and regulations, particularly those about spying on US citizens. In many cases, however, intelligence and law enforcement agencies dont even have to conduct their own surveillance. Its much easier and more efficient to simply use data that private companies already have.

The FBI might ask for information regarding a particular redditor, like Chris, such as the IP address from which they access the site. The NSA might ask for the account names of everyone who typed in a particular search term in a certain period of time, e.g. Bob searching for information about his pain medication. The ATF could ask Amazon to set up an alert every time a customer purchases a specific book, such as if Alice buys a book about Islam. And the DEA could request your ISP hand over the browsing history of suspected drug dealers.

The information that websites and ISPs collect varies depending on the company and what you do online, but heres a list of possibilities:

  • Browsing history
  • Social media posts

You Can’t Get Off Yet

There is no procedure to challenge and reverse your status on the no-fly list, the terrorism watchlist or TIDE. Inclusion on any is not typically disclosed making legal remedies difficult nor does the government provide any process for removal. Travelers suspicious about why their attempts to fly were unsuccessful can launch a redress request through the Department of Homeland Security, but that process does not challenge inclusion on a watchlist or database, nor will even successful requests guarantee against future travel restrictions. Procedures that will, identified within the guidance, are exclusively internal government processes.

“The only way to get off the federal watchlist is through the beneficence of a federal agent, routinely coupled with some form of cooperation with the FBI,” Abbas said.

But that lack of redress has now imperiled the no-fly list. Last month, in a federal judge in Oregon ruled that the inability of individuals to extricate themselves from the list is a due-process violation, rejecting the government’s contention that there is no constitutional right to travel.

“Such an argument ignores the numerous reasons that an individual may have for wanting or needing to travel overseas quickly, such as the birth of a child, the death of a loved one, a business opportunity or a religious obligation,” judge Anna Brown found.

Mass Surveillance And Metadata

In 2013, Edward Snowden shocked the world when he revealed a series of mass surveillance programs used to intercept communications of both Americans and non-Americans. The NSA and FBI argue that they do not record the contents of phone calls or emails without a court order and merely collected metadata about those calls.

The NSA, where Snowden worked as a contractor, collected data on millions of peoples phone records from AT& T, Sprint, and Verizon. Phone call metadata includes:

  • Phone number of both parties making and receiving the call
  • How long the call lasted
  • When the call was made

Snowden said the NSA secretly gained direct access to servers at Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Yahoo, among other companies that participated in the PRISM program. Those companies denied the allegations outright, saying they only hand over information on a case-by-case basis with a court order, and not in bulk.

However, The Guardian reported in 2013 that the Bush and Obama administrations collected email metadata on any communication between non-US citizens or communications in which at least one party is outside of the US, even if they are an American citizen. The email metadata does not include the contents of emails, which, like phone calls, would require a court order. Email metadata includes:

  • The email addresses of the sender and receiver
  • A timestamp of when the email was sent
  • An IP address used by people sending emails from inside the US
  • Location based on the IP address

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What Does The Us Government Know About You

How much does the US government know about you? Its not a question easily answered. The US government operates the largest and most advanced spying, surveillance, and data collection programs on the planet. Its made up of multiple law enforcement and intelligence agencies, some of which operate in secret. The federal government, of course, consists more than two dozen major agencies that perform regular record keeping for operational purposes, such as the Internal Revenue Service, Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Social Security Administration.

Aside from official government entities, third parties often comply with government requests for information. These include big tech companies like Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook, all of which were shown by Edward Snowden to have cooperated with the NSAs spying efforts. And while were thinking about Edward Snowden, recall that he was a private contractor at the NSA at the time and not a government employee. Contractors and private companies can collect information on behalf of the US government as well.

Attempting to cover all the information that the US government knows about any one person quickly becomes overwhelming and full of caveats. With all of this in mind, its clear we need to narrow down our parameters. To that end, well create three typical archetypesAlice, Bob, and Chriswho fit the following profiles:

Alice is:

  • A tenant in a rented apartment
  • A college graduate

Protecting Privacy And Safeguarding Civil Liberties


The TSC is dedicated to ensuring watchlisting and screening activities are conducted in a manner consistent with protecting privacy and civil liberties. Individuals are included in the watchlist when there is reasonable suspicion to believe that a person is a known or suspected terrorist. Individuals are not watchlisted based solely on race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, or any First Amendment-protected activities such as free speech, the exercise of religion, freedom of press, freedom of peaceful assembly, and petitioning the government for redress of grievances.

And the TSC regularly conducts comprehensive and case-specific quality assurance reviews of data in the Terrorist Screening Database to ensure the U.S. Governments substantive criteria for watchlisting is met and to ensure the records maintained in the watchlist are current, accurate, and thorough.

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What Is A Watchlist

A watchlist is a set of securities that an investor monitors for potential trading or investing opportunities.

Many brokerage and financial platforms allow for easy construction and viewing of watchlists. A well-organized watchlist can help identify trading opportunities, track portfolio performance, or monitor hot or popular stocks.

The Terrorist Screening Center And Redress

The Department of Homeland Securitys Traveler Redress Inquiry Program provides the public with a single point of contact for individuals who have inquiries or seek resolution regarding difficulties they experience during travel screening at transportation hubs, such as being incorrectly delayed, denied boarding, identified for additional screening, or any other difficulties while traveling or seeking entry into the country. Since there are many reasons why a traveler may seek redress, DHS TRIP works with the TSC, as appropriate, when an inquiry appears to be related to the watchlist.

The TSC does not accept redress inquiries directly from the public. Instead, members of the public should contact the relevant screening agency with their questions or concerns about screening. The screening agency is in the best position to identify and resolve issues related to that agencys screening process. Information on how to contact screening agencies is listed below:

  • For more information, or to file a redress request related to travel, please see the DHS TRIP website.
  • The State Departments Bureau of Consular Affairs website provides information on how to seek redress for the denial of a visa. Individuals who are overseas should contact the U.S. embassy or consular office abroad regarding visa issues.

You can learn more about the Terrorist Screening Center by reviewing answers to our frequently asked questions.

Related Websites

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Just Because A Jury Finds You Innocent Doesn’t Mean Watchlists Agree

The guidelines explicitly state that someone “acquitted or against whom charges are dismissed for a crime related to terrorism” can still be watchlisted. A federal official nominating such a person for inclusion on the list just needs “reasonable suspicion” of a danger something defined as more than “mere guesses or hunches”, based on articulable information or “rational inferences” from it, but far less than probable cause. A judge or jury’s decision is not controlling.

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In 2010, an American security contractor attempting to board a plane to Texas from Bogotá, Colombia, was denied a boarding pass. That was when Raymond Earl Knaeble first learned that he had been placed on a U.S. government terrorist watch list.

Knaeble, who was heading home before starting a new job in Qatar, was delayed for weeks. He lost the job. He later sued the Justice Department with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, claiming his due process rights were violated.

Omar Mateen was also on a government terrorist watch list on two occasions but had been taken off by the time he bought the guns he used to massacre 49 people at an Orlando nightclub.

Critics have long blasted the effectiveness and reliability of the terrorist watch list system, asserting that too many people, like Knaeble, are swept up by law enforcement agencies without proper vetting or due process and that too many other, certifiable threats, like Mateen, are left out.

Those concerns received heightened attention in the past few weeks, as the U.S. Senate considered, and ultimately rejected, proposals aimed at expanding a ban on gun sales to people on government terrorist watch lists. A sit-in by Democrats in the House of Representatives seeking to force a votes on the watch list and other gun restriction bills ended with lawmakers vowing to continue their campaign after the Independence Day holiday.

Here is a guide to understanding the debate as it moves forward.

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Which Countries Could Be Added To The Amber

It was initially feared that Spain and Greece could have been added to the list due to fears of the Beta variant, although experts have said this is looking unlikely.

The amber-plus list could be scrapped altogether this week – and a new “amber watchlist” could be introduced, meaning countries are at risk of being added to the red list at short notice.

Spain could be one of the countries added to the list after experts previously cited that cases are looking worrying and bleak.

Furthermore, fears are also mounting that Italy and Greece could be included as well as they begin enforcing their own measures to curb the spread of the virus.

Why Has London Been Added To The Watch List

The capital has been added to the watch list due to a recent surge in the number of coronavirus cases recorded in the city.

The most recent daily figures showed 620 coronavirus cases were reported across London, the third highest number of any region of England.

In the week leading up to September 21, Redbridge had the highest infection rate per 100,000 residents compared to other boroughs, at 55.4.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said the city was at “a worrying tipping point”, with hospital admissions increasing.

Thirty-five more patients with Covid-19 were admitted to hospitals in the capital in the 24-hour period preceding Friday’s announcement, taking the total number of coronavirus patients on hospital wards in the city to 212, of which 40 are on ventilators.

“London is at a very worrying tipping point right now,” Mr Khan said.

“Were seeing a sharp rise in 111 calls, hospital admissions, and patients in ICU.”

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What Is A Government Watchlist

A government watchlist is just a watchlist thats put together by the government rather than by a private entity. There are actually many government watchliststhe U.S. Departments of State, Commerce, and Treasury all have watchlists that may include different threats. Depending on what your business is about, you may need to use certain watchlists or all of them.One of the most comprehensive government watchlists is the FBIs Terrorist Screening Center watchlist, which allows you to look through individuals who may pose a domestic threat. This list is public and the U.S. Treasury updates it on a regular basis to include the most important individuals you might need to avoid.

Dhs Traveler Redress Inquiry Program

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The DHS Traveler Redress Inquiry Program can provide resolution to travelers with difficulties getting through security and inspection at airport checkpoints, train stations and when crossing U.S. borders.

  • You are unable to print a boarding pass.
  • You are denied or delayed boarding a plane.
  • You are denied or delayed entry into and exit from the U.S. at a port of entry or border checkpoint.
  • You are continuously referred for additional screening at the airport.

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Dozens Of People On Fbi Terrorist Watch List Came To Dc The Day Of Capitol Riot

Dozens of people on a terrorist watch list were in Washington for pro-Trump events Jan. 6, a day that ended in a chaotic crime rampage when a violent mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, according to people familiar with evidence gathered in the FBIs investigation.

The majority of the watch-listed individuals in Washington that day are suspected white supremacists whose past conduct so alarmed investigators that their names had been previously entered into the national Terrorist Screening Database, or TSDB, a massive set of names flagged as potential security risks, these people said. The watch list is larger and separate from the no-fly list the government maintains to prevent terrorism suspects from boarding airplanes, and those listed are not automatically barred from any public or commercial spaces, current and former officials said.

The presence of so many watch-listed individuals in one place without more robust security measures to protect the public is another example of the intelligence failures preceding last weeks fatal assault that sent lawmakers running for their lives, some current and former law enforcement officials argued. The revelation follows a Washington Post report earlier this week detailing the FBIs failure to act aggressively on an internal intelligence report of Internet discussions about plans to attack Congress, smash windows, break down doors and get violent … go there ready for war.

The FBI declined to comment.

Library Records And Ebooks

48 states in the US have laws that protect library records from snoopers, and two have legal directives that serve a similar purpose. To access a persons library records, a court order is usually necessary.

Thats more protection than youll find on Amazon when buying an ebook. Amazon and other ebook sellers usually have privacy policies stating they also only hand over readers private information with a court order, but theres technically no law barring them from doing so. Furthermore, Amazon can keep much better track of what youre reading and how you read on its Kindle devices and companion apps. Amazon can not only see what you read, but what page youre on, when you read, highlighted passages, and any notes youve scribbled into the ereader.

Only four states have laws about protecting e-reader data in libraries, so youre best checking out a physical book from your local library for maximum privacy.

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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”.

What Are The Amber

Are you on a federal watch list?

Brits who have had two doses of the vaccine, with the second one at least 14 days prior to travelling, can skip the 10-day quarantine if returning from amber countries.

However, countries on the amber-plus list are not included in this.

This means even fully vaccinated Brits must still quarantine for 10 days at home when returning from the countries on the list.

They must also have a pre-arrival Covid test and a filled in Passenger Locator Form, as well as two tests on day two and day eight pre-booked.

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Are You On A Federal Watch List

After learning of what happened in Orlando, Florida over the weekend, members of Congress held a 15 hour filibuster, pushing for a Senate vote on greater gun control.

Were hearing the terms watch list tossed around in the wake of the Orlando terror attack. The shooter, Omar Mateen, pledged allegiance to ISIS before opening fire and was investigated by federal authorities, put on a terror watch list and then removed. How do you get placed on one of these watch lists, and whats the purpose?

The American Civil Liberties Union reports there could be more than a dozen government watch lists out there, including the No-Fly List, Most Wanted List and Terrorist Exclusion List.

“Are you on a government watch list?” asked Reporter Bradford Arick.

“No? Not that I know of, replied Cade Hamilton.

“Does it concern you that you might be on one but you don’t’ know?” Arick asked.

“Well I fly a lot so I guess I would know by now if I was but I mean how am I supposed to know if I am?” countered Hamilton.

The government does not have to tell you youre listed. If youre on the No-Fly List for example, you simply cant board your flight and thats it, no explanation required.

For me I don’t really need to know. I’m not the person going out and chasing terrorists. I’m not scared in my everyday life that they’re going to come out and attack me, said Lindsay Breuler.

“I wouldn’t even know. How do you find out if you’re on one?” asked Patricia Lawson.

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