Proof of innocence means nothing to the FBI’s terrorist watch list

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is permitted to include people on the government’s terrorist watch list even if they have been acquitted of terrorism-related offenses or the charges are dropped, according to newly released documents.

The files, released by the F.B.I. under the Freedom of Information Act, disclose how the police are instructed to react if they encounter a person on the list. They lay out, for the first time in public view, the legal standard that national security officials must meet in order to add a name to the list. And they shed new light on how names are vetted for possible removal from the list.

Inclusion on the watch list can keep terrorism suspects off planes, block noncitizens from entering the country and subject people to delays and greater scrutiny at airports, border crossings and traffic stops.

The database now has about 420,000 names, including about 8,000 Americans, according to the statistics released in connection with the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. About 16,000 people, including about 500 Americans, are barred from flying.

Timothy J. Healy, the director of the F.B.I.’s Terrorist Screening Center, which vets requests to add or remove names from the list, said the documents showed that the government was balancing civil liberties with a careful, multilayered process for vetting who goes on it — and for making sure that names that no longer need to be on it came off…

Mr. Healey, true to the standards of the F.B.I., is a liar.


Congressional oversight of the FBI

The 91 pages of newly disclosed files include a December 2010 guidance memorandum to F.B.I. field offices showing that even a not-guilty verdict may not always be enough to get someone off the list, if agents maintain they still have “reasonable suspicion” that the person might have ties to terrorism…

Ginger McCall, a counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said: “In the United States, you are supposed to be assumed innocent. But on the watch list, you may be assumed guilty, even after the court dismisses your case…”

The guidance memo to F.B.I. field offices says someone may be deemed a “known or suspected terrorist” if officials have “particularized derogatory information” to support their suspicions.

That standard may be met by an allegation that the suspect has terrorism ties if the claim is corroborated by at least one other source, it said, but “mere guesses or ‘hunches’ are not enough…”

The F.B.I.’s Terrorist Screening Center shares the data with other federal agencies for screening aircraft passengers, people who are crossing the border and people who apply for visas. The data is also used by local police officers to check names during traffic stops.

The December memorandum lays out procedures for police officers to follow when they encounter people who are listed. For example, officers are never to tell the suspects that they might be on the watch list, and they must immediately call the federal government for instructions…

The procedures offer no way for people who are on the watch list to be notified of that fact or given an opportunity to see and challenge the specific allegations against them.

All the reasons why ordinary people have waged extraordinary struggles against tyranny are acceptable as rationales by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Insecurity. They are beneath contempt. Lying to protect their corrupt sect from the application of democratic and constitutional standards is no defense to those who confront them – either in court or on the streets.

Those we should be able to rely on to fight on our behalf – whether they be our elected representatives in Congress or the president of the United States – are worse than cowards. They collaborate on the basis of political opportunism.

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