Newly-released FBI documents reveal that the FBI's "terrorist watchlist" – which now has "420,000 names, including about 8,000 Americans" – includes individuals who are not the subject of any investigation, and some who the courts have cleared of terrorism charges. This is the latest in a series of recent revelations about the FBI's increasing monitoring and investigation of potentially-innocent Americans.
Placing innocent persons on a "terrorist watchlist" raises serious concerns. There are the obvious civil liberties concerns, well articulated in the New York Times by Ginger McCall, a counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center – the organization that obtained the documents:
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.
Not only are we yet again expected to sacrifice our liberty, but the FBI is wasting precious national security resources maintaining a list of "terrorists" that includes individuals cleared by the courts. It does not serve national security for the FBI to track innocent people.
Moreover, being on a watchlist is more that simply having the government label you a "terrorist" – as if that is not enough of an affront to a person's freedom. I know from experience. After I blew the whistle in the Justice Department, the government placed me on the "selectee" portion of the no-fly list.
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