Terrorism database doubles in recent years

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WASHINGTON — A U.S. gov­ern­ment da­ta­base of known or sus­pected ter­ror­ists dou­bled in size in re­cent years, ac­cord­ing to newly re­leased gov­ern­ment fig­ures. The growth is the re­sult of in­tel­li­gence agen­cies sub­mit­ting names more of­ten af­ter a near-miss at­tack in 2009.

There were 1.1 mil­lion peo­ple in the da­ta­base at the end of 2013, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Coun­ter­ter­ror­ism Center, which main­tains the in­for­ma­tion. About 550,000 peo­ple were listed in the da­ta­base in March 2010.

The Ter­ror­ist Iden­ti­ties Dat­a­mart En­vi­ron­ment is a huge, clas­si­fied da­ta­base of peo­ple who are known ter­ror­ists, are sus­pected of hav­ing ties to ter­ror­ism or in some cases are re­lated to or as­so­ci­ates of known or sus­pected ter­ror­ists. It feeds to smaller lists that re­strict peo­ple’s abil­i­ties to travel on com­mer­cial air­lin­ers to or within the United States. The gov­ern­ment does not need ev­i­dence link­ing some­one to ter­ror­ism for the per­son to be in­cluded in the da­ta­base. This is among the rea­sons the da­ta­base and sub­se­quent ter­ror watch lists have been crit­i­cized by pri­vacy ad­vo­cates.

An on­line pub­li­ca­tion, The Inter­cept, on Tues­day re­ported that 40 per­cent of peo­ple on the ter­ror­ism watch list — which is a sub­set of names in the TIDE da­ta­base — were not af­fil­i­ated with any rec­og­nized ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion.

The pub­li­ca­tion cited what it said were clas­si­fied gov­ern­ment doc­u­ments from one year ago it ob­tained from a source in the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity, rais­ing the pos­si­bil­ity that some­one other than for­mer NSA an­a­lyst Edward Snow­den was im­prop­erly dis­clos­ing clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion. Mr. Snow­den fled to Rus­sia in June 2013, roughly two months be­fore the date stamp on the newly dis­closed doc­u­ments. The Inter­cept was founded by jour­nal­ists with whom Mr. Snow­den shared clas­si­fied ma­teri­als last year.

U.S. in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials were con­sid­er­ing Tues­day whether to ask the Depart­ment of Justice to open a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the sus­pected leak of the clas­si­fied counter-ter­ror­ism doc­u­ment to the Inter­cept web­site, a U.S. of­fi­cial fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter said. The of­fi­cial said, how­ever, that the gov­ern­ment does not know for sure that a sec­ond leaker ex­ists.

The growth of the Ter­ror­ist Iden­ti­ties Dat­a­mart En­vi­ron­ment is a re­sult of the gov­ern­ment’s re­sponse to a failed at­tempt to blow up a com­mer­cial air­liner over Detroit on Christ­mas Day in 2009. The ter­ror op­er­a­tive’s name was in­cluded in the da­ta­base be­fore the at­tack, but it was not on a list that would have pre­vented him from board­ing a U.S.-bound flight. Since then, the gov­ern­ment low­ered the stan­dards for plac­ing some­one on the no-fly list, and in­tel­li­gence agen­cies have be­come more dil­i­gent about sub­mit­ting names to the TIDE da­ta­base.

Of the 1.1 mil­lion peo­ple in the TIDE da­ta­base, 25,000 are U.S. cit­i­zens or le­gal per­ma­nent res­i­dents, the Na­tional Coun­ter­ter­ror­ism Center said.

Other ter­ror watch lists de­rived from the TIDE da­ta­base have also grown. As of No­vem­ber 2013, the Ter­ror­ist Screen­ing Da­ta­base con­sisted of 700,000 peo­ple, ac­cord­ing to a gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial. The of­fi­cial spoke on con­di­tion of an­o­nym­ity to dis­cuss the sen­si­tive num­bers.

Ques­tions about the watch list sur­faced in a re­cent civil law­suit out of Vir­ginia chal­leng­ing the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of the no-fly list. The gov­ern­ment dis­closed that there were 1.5 mil­lion nom­i­na­tions to the watch list over the last five years. Weeks later, a gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial ex­plained that a “nom­i­na­tion” meant new names as well as changes or up­dates to ex­ist­ing names on the list, and the fig­ure in the court doc­u­ment should not have been in­ter­preted to mean that 1.5 mil­lion peo­ple had been added to the watch list in the last five years, as The As­so­ci­ated Press re­ported July 18.

In Au­gust 2013, there were more than 73,000 peo­ple af­fil­i­ated with al-Qaida in Iraq on the ter­ror watch list, ac­cord­ing to a doc­u­ment marked “se­cret,” ob­tained by The Inter­cept. That al-Qaida af­fil­i­ate rep­re­sented the larg­est group of peo­ple as­so­ci­ated with a known ter­rorist group on the watch list at the time.

United States - North America - Al-Qaida - Edward Snowden

Reu­ters con­trib­uted.


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