Last week The Intercept reported that the government's bloated "terrorist" watchlists would be more aptly named "innocents" watchlists:
Nearly half of the people on the U.S. government’s widely shared database of terrorist suspects are not connected to any known terrorist group . . .
Obama Administration has presided over an unprecedented expansion of the terrorist screening system. 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.
Innocent people on the watchlists - primarily from the American Muslim community - may have suspected what we now know as fact when they were barred from boarding flights. Thanks to aggressive investigative reporting from The Intercept
and - equally if not more significant - the whistleblower who provided The Intercept
with the evidence of government abuse, the fact that more non-terrorists than suspected terrorists is confirmed public knowledge.
As an alumnus of the selectee portion of the U.S. no-fly list, I am particularly interested in how the government puts names on the list, what criteria the government uses, how innocent names put on mistakenly or vengefully get off the list and what processes are in place to prevent abuses.
Thanks to the press and whistleblowers, the courts will finally have an opportunity to provide much needed oversight on the watchlists because the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) was finally able to challenge the watchlists:
Under the current administration we have witnessed an unprecedented expansion of the terrorist watch list, which dis-proportionally targets the American Muslim community and unfairly targets the American Muslim community. This morning (Thursday) CAIR Michigan filed a lawsuit – which for the first time challenges the governments broad and unchecked powers to secretly designate American Muslims to be added to the terrorist watch list without due process,” [CAIR Attorney Lena Masri] said.
The public only knows of the Obama administration's disturbing - and evidently discriminatory - expansion of terrorist watchlists because of whistleblowers and aggressive investigative journalism. The Intercept also reported:
The Obama administration has quietly approved a substantial expansion of the terrorist watchlist system, authorizing a secret process that requires neither “concrete facts” nor “irrefutable evidence” to designate an American or foreigner as a terrorist, according to a key government document obtained by The Intercept.
Just as Snowden's whistleblowing unchained two branches of government (Congress and the Courts) that were not functioning as the Constitution intended to properly oversee the National Security Agency's out-of-control surveillance, another whistleblower was necessary for the courts to provide much-needed oversight of the bloated terrorist watchlists.
Despite the undeniable public interest in protecting whistleblowers and preserving investigative reporting, the Obama administration has waged an unprecedented war on national security whistleblowers, bringing more prosecutions under the Espionage Act for alleged mishandling of classified information than all past presidential administration's combined. The war on whistleblowers is really a war on the press, and as CAIR filed a lawsuit made possible by the press and whistleblowers, 20 Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists and free speech groups spoke out in support of New York Times reporter Jim Risen who, thanks to legal action by the Obama administration, which incorrectly maintains there is no privilege between a reporter and a source, is facing jail or hefty fines because he has the journalistic integrity to protect the identity of his source.
Watch the press conference here: