The US government has made a watch list, officially called the Terrorist Screening Database, which includes names of hundreds of thousands of people living across the world.
A report by the New York Times published over the weekend showed that federal agencies have had at least 700,000 people on their “terrorist” watch lists.
According to the report, the list has been compiled with no sufficient scrutiny over how the determinations are made or how the terrorist label, with which federal agents mark people, is going to affect them.
“There’s no indication that agencies undertake any kind of regular retrospective review to assess how good they are at predicting the conduct they’re targeting,” the paper quoted Anya Bernstein, an associate professor at the SUNY Buffalo Law School, as saying.
Washington also refuses to confirm or deny if someone’s name has been entered onto the list or even make public the criteria for placing people’s name on the list.
In January 2005, former Stanford University PhD student Rahinah Ibrahim was handcuffed and detained by police at San Francisco International Airport without explanation when she arrived there with her teenage daughter for a flight to Malaysia.
Finally, she was allowed to fly home to Malaysia but she has not been able to return to the US to complete her studies because the State Department revoked her student visa. The federal government had put her name on its watch list.
“People are harmed by being on these watch lists. They’re harmed by being not allowed to fly. They’re also harmed by being subject to a lot more scrutiny from law enforcement officers every time they run into them,” Bernstein, the author of “The Hidden Costs of Terrorist Watch Lists,” told Democracy Now on Monday.