How Does the FBI Watch List Work? And Could It Have Prevented Orlando?
Aug 28, · How to get on the FBI watch list. Watch later. Share. Copy link. Info. Shopping. Tap to unmute. If playback doesn't begin shortly, try restarting your device. You're signed out. But the FBI was simply following procedure when it dropped Mateen from the watch list, after being criticized in the past for not promptly removing people when cases get closed.
Awtch Account active since. Despite the best intentions of the list, however, the system has proven to be confusing and flawed. On numerous occassions, the watch list has failed to prevent attacks — Omar Mateen, who carried out a mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub, was previously on the list in but was removed after 10 months — or have what are natural remedies for enlarged prostate at tracking potential terrorists, such as the failed underwear bomber.
On the other hand, it is incredibly easy for innocent suspects to be placed on the watch list with no warning. Whereas some obvious indicators will land someone on the list, such as carrying out a violent attack at an airport, other innocuous actions such as being an acquaintance of a suspect on the watch list can also lead to being watch-listed.
And being removed from the list can be as opaque as being placed on it. Most suspects on the list never know they're technically under investigation. As inclusion the list is not typically disclosedpursuing legal challenges to be removed from the list is notoriously difficult — even though the FBI is meant to remove people from the list in a ti manner if its investigations are concluded without finding guilt.
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Earlier this week, The Intercept published a page document outlining the government's guidelines for placing people on an expansive network of terror watch lists, including the no-fly list.
In their report, Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux highlighted the extremely vague and loosely defined criteria developed by 19 federal agencies, supposedly to fight terrorism.
Using these criteria, government officials have secretly characterized an unknown number of individuals as threats or potential threats to national security. In alone, , watch-list nominations were submitted to the National Counterterrorism Center. It rejected only 1 percent of the recommendations. Critics say the system is bloated and imprecise, needlessly sweeping up thousands of people while simultaneously failing to catch legitimate threats, like Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
While some individuals are surely placed on these watch lists for valid reasons, the murky language of the guidelines suggests that innocent people can get caught up in this web, too, and be subjected to the same possible restrictions on travel and other forms of monitoring. Here are several ways you could find yourself on a terror watch list, even if you aren't a terrorist:. You could raise "reasonable suspicion" that you're involved in terrorism.
This guidance addresses how to place people in the broader Terrorist Screening Database TSDB , of which the no-fly list and the selectee lists -- which cover those selected for enhanced screenings before boarding flights -- are both subsections.
In determining whether a suspicion about you is "reasonable," a "nominator" must "rely upon articulable intelligence or information which, taken together with rational inferences from those facts," can link you to possible terrorism. As Scahill and Devereaux noted , words like "reasonable," "articulable" and "rational" are not expressly defined. While the document outlines the need for an "objective factual basis," the next section clarifies that "irrefutable evidence or concrete facts are not necessary" to make a final determination as to whether a suspicion is "reasonable.
You could post something on Facebook or Twitter that raises "reasonable suspicion. According to the document, "postings on social media sites The guidelines also consider the use of "walk-in" or "write-in" information about potential candidates for the watch list.
Nominators are encouraged not to dismiss such tips and, after evaluating "the credibility of the source," could opt to nominate you to the watch list. The document explains that you could be put on a suspected-terrorist watch list if you are determined to be a "representative" of a terrorist group, even if you have "neither membership in nor association with the organization.
Scahill and Devereaux reported that the immediate family of a suspected terrorist -- including spouse, children, parents and siblings -- may be added to the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment TIDE , a broad terror database that feeds into the TSDB, "without any suspicion that they themselves are engaged in terrorist activity. The document states that "individuals who merely 'may be' members, associates or affiliates of a terrorist organization" may not be put into the latter database, unless that suspicion can be backed by "derogatory information.
But there's also a more nebulous connection that could prompt your placement in the TIDE database. The document specifically provides for nominating "individuals with a possible nexus to terrorism And if you're in a "category" of people determined to be a threat, your threat status could be "upgraded" at the snap of a finger. The watch-list guidelines explain a process by which the assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism can move an entire "category of individuals" to an elevated threat status.
It's unclear exactly how these categories are defined, but according to the document, there must be "current and credible intelligence information" suggesting that the group is a particular threat to conduct a terrorist act.
Such determinations can be implemented and remain in place for up to 72 hours before a committee convenes to decide whether the watch-list upgrade should be extended. The process of adding people to the terror watch lists is as imperfect as the intelligence officials tasked with doing so.
There have been reports of "false positives," or instances in which an innocent passenger has been subject to treatment under a no-fly or selectee list because his or her name was similar to that of another individual.
In one highly publicized incident in , a 4-year-old boy was nearly barred from boarding a plane to visit his grandmother. The watch-list guidance was supposedly revised in part to prevent incidents like these, but with more than 1. Just ask Rahinah Ibrahim, a Stanford University student who ended up on a no-fly list in after an FBI agent accidentally checked the wrong box on a form. But then if you were to be mistakenly added to a list, you probably wouldn't know -- unless it stopped you from flying.
The government has been extremely secretive about the names on the various watch lists. If you were to learn that you were wrongly placed on a watch list, good luck getting off it. As Scahill and Devereaux reported , you can file a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security's Traveler Redress Inquiry Program, which begins a review "that is not subject to oversight by any court or entity outside the counterterrorism community. And if you were to get your name removed from the watch list, the intelligence agencies aren't even obligated to inform you of your updated status.
The secretive nature of the terror watch lists has come under court scrutiny recently. A federal judge ruled in June that the government must develop a new process under which individuals can challenge their inclusion on the no-fly list. The judge found the current process "wholly ineffective.
Or somebody else could just think you're a potential terror threat. You could be a little terrorist-ish, at least according to someone. Or you could just know someone terrorist-y, maybe.
Finally, you could just be unlucky. Calling all HuffPost superfans! Sign up for membership to become a founding member and help shape HuffPost's next chapter. Join HuffPost. Nick Wing. Suggest a correction. Today is National Voter Registration Day! The official airline of the Boston Red Sox painted an Airbus A to match the team's grey road uniforms.