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Weekender: 280,000 on NSA Watch List with 'No Terror Affiliation.' WHY?

The Intercept, which originally published the Edward Snowden classified materials, appears to now be publishing materials from a new NSA leaker, and the results are disturbing. The leak involves the number of people on NSA watchlists, and reveals that the organization is tracking 280,000 people who have no terrorist affiliations. But why, and who are these people? So far, that information has not been forthcoming, and the agency certainly doesn't plan on explaining itself. The number of people on the watchlist who have no terror affiliations is vastly larger than the number who do.

The documents obtained also reveal that the Obama Administration has engaged in a truly extraordinary expansion of the terrorist screening system. The no-fly list has exploded in numbers, along with the numbers of people caught in the watchlist net who apparently don't belong there.

The classified documents were prepared by the National Counterterrorism Center, which is the primary agency responsible for tracking international terrorists--and, apparently, other people for unknown reasons, or possibly for no reason.

Officials don't need any reason to put somebody on the watchlist, another abuse that is in urgent need of correction. According to documents published by the Intercept, they not only don't need "irrefutable evidence" or even "concrete facts" to put somebody on the list, only what is defined as "reasonable suspicion." But apparently that is much more broadly defined than suspicion of terrorist affiliation, in that most of the people on the list are stated not to have any terror affiliation at all.

The Obama Administration, out of helplessness and fear, is casting such a broad net that it is, in effect, no net at all. Given the way that this system appears to be malfunctioning, it is all but certain that it will fail to detect real terrorists in time. It was in full operation during the Boston bombings in April of 2013, and didn't even come close to preventing that disaster.

So what has it prevented? Anything? The government won't say, which likely means that the answer is 'nothing.' And why would it? It's a passive system that depends almost entirely on tracking internet activity. Terror groups can easily 'game' it, creating fake terrorists for it to follow, while they stay offline and communicate in other ways. In fact, it is as likely to be an impediment to effective investigation by wasting manpower and creating a false sense of security.

The president has said that his greatest fear is of a nuclear weapon being detonated in Manhattan. As Whitley Strieber has pointed out, an even greater fear should be the sudden destruction of Washington while all branches of the government are in session and the president is in the White House. But one thing is certainly true: planning for an act of nuclear terrorism is not going to be done online, by text, by email or even by telephone. In other words, it is going to be entirely invisible to this vast, essentially empty net.

What to do to prevent it? First, there must be much more concentration on tracking nuclear materials. Now that Russia has ceased to co-operate with the US in this effort, greater vigilance is essential. In addition, our ports must be effectively protected with detection devices and a much more aggressive onboard search program than is now in operation.

By placing all of its eggs in the internet basket, the NSA has all but guaranteed that we will be blindsided by the next terror attack, while at the same time spreading distrust of the government via its willingness to indiscriminately invade our privacy.

Read our online privacy Weekender to orient yourself about how to preserve your privacy while surfing the internet.



Can someone tell me --Am I on that watchlist??? I wonder if the names will be published. Now about my next-door neighbor... He should definitely be on it!

FYI--my wife and I just purchased a new car. When we took delivery of the car, the salesperson told us that he had been required to submit our names to a national terrorist watchlist before the car could be sold to us. Has anyone else had this kind of experience? I have to wonder how widespread this practice has come to be.

For years, every time I went through the security system before getting on a plane, an attendant would look at my drivers license, get this shocked look on their face and pull my to the side and search me. After thinking about it long and hard, the only thing that I could think of that I did to look like a danger was the signature I put on an Earth First petition. Don't I have a right as an American Citizen to sign petitions that I agree with? ...or maybe it's that I have been a non-materialist seeker for so long. Whatever, I never figured out what they were seeing on my drivers license. Anybody know?

Being on a list of any kind can be a disturbing experience. When I lived in New Jersey, the motor vehicle record of a man with the same name as mine, who was arrested for DWI, was linked to my record (my record being clean). I happened to be planning a move to New Hampshire and was inquiring with my auto insurer what the new auto rates would be when I was told about the DWI on my record. After contacting the Division of Motor Vehicles, I found out that I was supposed to attend a mandatory class for DWI offenders. Never having been notified about this class, I would not have known to take any action to straighten this out. I can't say for certain, but most likely a bench warrant would have been issued for my arrest for not attending the class. Finally, after convincing the Division to investigate, they sent me a letter indicating that my motor vehicle record was clean. I keep this letter in my glove compartment to this day. Although I can't prove it, I believe this incident also cost me a job opportunity that I was fully qualified for.
A second incident happened here in New Hampshire. I was out walking my dog one day and stopped to talk to an elderly neighbor. I noticed that a little down the street from my house was parked a large black SUV. The SUV pulled out quickly and swung around in front of me. The window opened and a man flashed his U.S. Marshall badge. He looked at me and asked me what my name was. When I replied, he said that I wasn't the right guy he was looking for but that I had the same name. He was looking for a felon. The man was polite enough, no harm done, but I can't imagine what my neighbor was thinking. So even if your name is not on a list, terrorist or otherwise, you might be mistaken for someone else who is on the list with the same name as yours. So, effectively your on the list. This is another reason why having such a broad list of names on a terrorist list is a bad idea.

I wonder that this is not a mechanism et al to sully the reputation of a Government that could otherwise be of, by, and for the people with corporations serving same where it's appropriate, instead of the present repellant inverse currently endured, and so contrive us to vote for less and less of it?

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First of all, the name appearing in the beginning of the article is Eric Snowden. The man's name is Edward Snowden. He's kinda my hero.

Yep! I'm sure I'm on somebody's list and not too worried. The last list I knew for sure that I was on, was the Dean's List at my local junior college. I cried for a whole day because I thought it meant I was failing and would need to go see my counselor or something...like the college version of having to go see the principal for screwing up. I discovered it wasn't a scary list to be on, when my neighbor called and I told her. How funny and embarrassing.

I've signed so many petitions on-line & in person that I can't keep track. Our government is creating such a stupid mess of information which should always remain private, that I'm sure it will backfire some fine day for them.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I'll take EDWARD Snowden's great advice and not put any private information about any of my clients into email or my computer, for that matter. Also, I have no cell phone & don't want one. xoxo

The main problem with the whole system that it has been designed in such a way that it cannot work. By casting too wide a net, it casts no net at all. That's why it failed to detect the Boston Bombers. It will be largely a matter of chance if it identifies any other terrorists in time, either. Over the years, with one president after another afraid to curtail it for fear that the result will be a terrorist act on his watch, it will grow to include millions of innocent people. Meanwhile, because it gives officials a false sense of security, real terrorists are far more likely to succeed.
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