Since it’s existence was confirmed people have been wondering exactly a person had to meet to be added to one of the government’s terrorist watchlists. The most transparent government in history has remained tight lipped about the criteria claiming it would be a threat to national security. So we’ve been left to guess and ponder. That is until now:
The “March 2013 Watchlisting Guidance,” a 166-page document issued last year by the National Counterterrorism Center, spells out the government’s secret rules for putting individuals on its main terrorist database, as well as the no fly list and the selectee list, which triggers enhanced screening at airports and border crossings. The new guidelines allow individuals to be designated as representatives of terror organizations without any evidence they are actually connected to such organizations, and it gives a single White House official the unilateral authority to place “entire categories” of people the government is tracking onto the no fly and selectee lists. It broadens the authority of government officials to “nominate” people to the watchlists based on what is vaguely described as “fragmentary information.” It also allows for dead people to be watchlisted.
The Intercept managed to get a hold on a complete copy of the guidebook and release it in its entirety to the public [PDF]. It’s a sizable document and I haven’t read through the entire thing. What I have read indicates that it’s a legalese justification for basically putting anybody on the terrorist watchlist without worrying about pesky things like due process or evidence. In fact it’s an easy list to get onto but not an easy list to get off of:
The difficulty of getting off the list is highlighted by a passage in the guidelines stating that an individual can be kept on the watchlist, or even placed onto the watchlist, despite being acquitted of a terrorism-related crime. The rulebook justifies this by noting that conviction in U.S. courts requires evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, whereas watchlisting requires only a reasonable suspicion. Once suspicion is raised, even a jury’s verdict cannot erase it.
The only way you’re leaving this list is in a box. Just kidding, even being dead isn’t a good enough reason to be removed from the list:
Not even death provides a guarantee of getting off the list. The guidelines say the names of dead people will stay on the list if there is reason to believe the deceased’s identity may be used by a suspected terrorist–which the National Counterterrorism Center calls a “demonstrated terrorist tactic.” In fact, for the same reason, the rules permit the deceased spouses of suspected terrorists to be placed onto the list after they have died.
What this leak does is confirm most of the suspicions us crazy libertarians have had for a while now: the United States is without a shadow of a doubt a police state. Secret lists of people of interest that require no due process to get on and are practically impossible to get off of (after all, the government wouldn’t suspect you of wrongdoing if you weren’t doing something wrong) have been a favorite tool of especially tyrannical states since, most likely, the beginning of states.