“If everything is terrorism, then nothing is terrorism.”
- David Gomez, former senior FBI special agent
The fundamental problem with the War on Some Terror is that terrorism is whatever someone says it is. Therefore it can never be won and there is no limit to how far it can be expanded.
Of the 680,000 people caught up in the government’s Terrorist Screening Database—a watchlist of “known or suspected terrorists” that is shared with local law enforcement agencies, private contractors, and foreign governments—more than 40 percent are described by the government as having “no recognized terrorist group affiliation.” That category—280,000 people—dwarfs the number of watchlisted people suspected of ties to al Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah combined.
This latest leak did not come from Snowden. It was leaked in August of 2013, after Snowden fled to China.
The biggest database, called the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, now has 1 million names, a U.S. official confirmed to CNN.At a growth rate like this the NSA is going to need all that storage space. The no-fly list also hit a new all-time high.
In 2012, the National Counterterrorism Center reported that the TIDE database contained 875,000 names. There were about 500,000 in 2009 before the underwear bomb plot.
Since taking office, Obama has boosted the number of people on the no fly list more than ten-fold, to an all-time high of 47,000—surpassing the number of people barred from flying under George W. Bush.
In 2006, CBS News obtained a copy of the no fly list and reported that it included 44,000 names, including Bolivian President Evo Morales and the head of Lebanon’s parliament. Faced with a widespread public backlash, the government cut the list down to just 4,000 names by late 2009.Now we're back to where we were - with a hopelessly broken system that thinks fear is the way to go.
Since 2010, the classified documents note, the National Counterterrorism Center has “created more than 430,000 terrorism-related person records” while deleting only 50,000 people “whose nexus to terrorism was refuted or did not meet current watchlisting criteria.” The documents reveal that more than 240 TIDE “nominations” are now processed each day.
“You might as well have a blue wand and just pretend there’s magic in it, because that’s what we’re doing with this—pretending that it works,” says former FBI agent Michael German, now a fellow at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice.