Today in bad news about the government watching you, we learnt that the US government's terrorist watch list has doubled in recent years. What's worse, however, is that the government admits that over 40 per cent of the people on that list have "no recognized terrorist group affiliation". None.
The watch list in question is the government's Terrorist Screening Database, and it's currently 680,000 potential terrorists strong, according to classified documents acquired to The Intercept. The 280,000 people with no recognised terrorist group affiliation dwarfs the 130,000 or so people with various al Qaeda affiliations, and makes the 63,000 or so members of the Taliban seem almost insignificant. While the list of people who have been relegated to no fly lists is smaller, all of those on the list are subject to government surveillance. (Who isn't these days?) It's a startling truth to visualise.
"We're getting into Minority Report territory when being friends with the wrong person can mean the government puts you in a database and adds DMV photos, iris scans, and face recognition technology to track you secretly and without your knowledge," the ACLU's Hina Shamsi told The Intercept "The fact that this information can be shared with agencies from the CIA to the NYPD, which are not known for protecting civil liberties, brings us closer to an invasive and rights-violating government surveillance society at home and abroad."
It gets worse, actually. After the government got word that The Intercept had classified documents about its terrorist watch list, they leaked the information to the Associated Press who rushed up a story that was marked by a much more forgiving tone. The media manipulation continued after both organisations published their stories, and the government declared that there was a new leaker among its ranks. Outlets like CNN were quick to compare this new mystery person to Edward Snowden — which is silly, because people were quietly leaking government documents for years before anybody knew Snowden's name. It looks like the government is just trying to start a new witch hunt.
Too bad the government can't just focus on catching actual terrorists instead of watching so many unsuspecting individuals — who are largely of Arab descent — and then trying to sugar coat the coverage when the secret's out. Too bad, indeed. [The Intercept, Huffington Post]
Picture: The Intercept