Who’s Watching The Watch Lists?

The FBI’s own Inspector General has just concluded a comprehensive study of the massive “Terrorist Watch List” maintained by the Bureau, and the results should worry us greatly. The report issued at the conclusion of the IG’s study describes a process of developing and maintaining the Watch List that is so flawed as to actually pose a “risk to national security.”

Let’s start with the basics. First of all, maintaining a watch list containing names and identifying information on persons who are known terrorists, suspected terrorists, or associates of known terrorists, makes sense. Such a list containing fewer than two dozen people — as was the case prior to the attacks of September 11, 2001 — would be a joke. But maintaining a list with more than 1,100,000 entires with only some 68,000 of those entries constituting “known or suspected terroriost identies” — which is what the current watch list is comprised of — is ridiculous. The first list was far too under-inclusive; the current list is far too over-inclusive.

A major part of the problem with the current Watch List, as identified by the Inspector General, is that controls designed to limit and evaluate what names and information go into the system, are simply not followed. For example, the audit found that:

  • Inaccuracies were rampant
  • Entries were incomplete
  • Watch list records are not consistently updated or purged
  • FBI field offices at times bypassed FBI headquarters in order to circumvent the quality-control mechanisms designed to maintain an accurate Watch List
  • Many Watch List entries contained information “unrelated to terrorism”

In fact, the audit revealed a process so disorganized that “the actual number of individuals the FBI nominated to the terrorist watchlist since its inception is unknown.”

It would be bad enough if all the inaccurate, irrelevant, outdated, and unnecessary information contained in the Terrorist Watch List related only to foreign persons. The problem is compounded greatly, however, because many of the more than one million entries contain names of and information about American citizens. The fact that a person’s name and/or identifying information appears on the Watch List means that that person’s freedom can be curtailed. In other words, a citizen whose name has been improperly placed on the Watch List, or which has not been removed when it should have been, can be denied the ability to travel on a commercial plane; denied credit when his or her name is run through a credit check; denied a job because they could not pass a background check; or harmed in other ways that require a background check of some sort. This poses a serious risk to the privacy and other civil liberties of American citizens.

On the other hand, because of defects in how the Watch List is handled, names of many persons associated in some tangible way with terrorism or terrorists do not appear on the list even though they should. This, as the IG correctly concluded, poses a serious risk to our national security.

The astonishingly sloppy manner in which the government continues to maintain what should be a focused, limited and carefully monitored Terrorist Watch List poses a serious risk to our country and to our citizens. The Obama Administration should immediately address and correct these abuses.

27 comments Add your comment


May 8th, 2009
10:00 am

Sounds similar to the way credit reports are handled doesn’t it Bob. All of these lists should be accurate and the keepers should be liable for damages to persons harmed by this reckless abuse of innocent people. This is another fantastic example of how government and powerful private organizations are allowed to be unaccountable for their sorry practices no matter how badly someone is harmed. It’s time for mechanisms that protect those exposed to this reckless mining of worthless data and to give those harmed recourse.

Bob J

May 8th, 2009
10:23 am

And the crazy thing is the Ameircan people want the government to have more power? Why? They screw up enough stuff. I think its time to form a milita… wait dont shoot it was a joke….

Liberty's Wing

May 8th, 2009
10:30 am

Similar to that nasty old Patriot Act, Bob?

Thanks to you – you were responsible for starting much of this garbage.

Like McCain, you got it turned back on you, and now you don’t like it.


May 8th, 2009
10:31 am

This is yet another example of the Orwellian police-state empowerment, which was enabled via the 9/11 false-flag op. It’s all about expanding control over the populace will usurping (& eventually ending) Constitutional rights. Look to the UK police-state (London’s “Iron Triangle”) with their “Big Brother” surveillance, bio-metrics, etc. for an example of what’s planned for the U.S. Using (supposed) “terrorism” as a pretext for a police-state is typical Globalist Elite M.O.



May 8th, 2009
10:41 am

one man’s terrorist is another man’s patriot. as you point out, Mohammed Atta, et al WERE on any number of CIA, FBI, INS “watch lists” prior to 9/11 and as we have learned, “watch lists” are useless if nobody is watching the names on the list. the new lists are nothing more than the government’s attempt to create the illusion it cares about “homeland security”. it doesn’t. it cares about “government security” which is consolidating and enhancing its power at the expense of civil liberties. does anyone on this blog trust politicians and government worker bees to interepret or define terms like “threat” or “terrorist”? when will you people learn this is not a liberal v. conservative issue? the “liberal” Obama Administration has used the Bush-created Department of Homeland Security to warn of “right wing” domestic terrrorists (a/k/a political dissenters). tonight’s homework is for all to find a copy of The Puzzle Palace by James Bamford. the government (NSA and other intelligence agencies) have been “watching” Americans since the late 1940’s. the policies/executive orders were couched as efforts to enhance “national security” (Cold War). fast forward some 50 years and while the “boogie man’s” ideology has changed from Communism to Islamic Fundamentalism; we are being sold the same story: all you dutiful Americans pay your taxes on time and go about your business and let us worry about your security…” although it seems cliche’ we need to consider what Ben Franklin observed; “…those who would trade freedom for security deserve neither…”


May 8th, 2009
10:45 am

Liberty’sWing, just what did John McCain get turned back on him?


May 8th, 2009
10:50 am

It’s not just the government Bob J. I don’t want corporations having gestapo like control either. They are as bad as government in many cases and held totally unaccountable for the damage they do to people’s lives through mining and dissemination of inaccurate data.


May 8th, 2009
10:54 am

What is the point of even having a watch list or even the very existance of TSA to safeguard commercial air travel? Can’t potential terroists just hide a mile or two away from any airport with a shoulder held surface to air missle launcher (the kind they’ve been using in Iraq for a decade now) and destroy any commerical plane they wish? TSA strikes me as a pathetic (and expensive) attempt to create a meaningless show of force.


May 8th, 2009
11:14 am

Well, in my southern mind you can not have a reasonable watch list as long as you have barriers suchas profiling. It is another hate law. I guess if I were looking for Islamic Extremist, I would body search every blond blue eyed person that came along.

neo-Carlinist putin a remark made by Ben Franklin,”those who would trade freedom for security deserve neither…”. I am sure Ben also had the mind set of a person that protects himself, his family, and his property.

Nancy Pelosi is a lying sack of $hit

May 8th, 2009
11:31 am

CIA Says Pelosi Was Briefed on Use of ‘Enhanced Interrogations’

By Paul Kane
Intelligence officials released documents this evening saying that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was briefed in September 2002 about the use of harsh interrogation tactics against al-Qaeda prisoners, seemingly contradicting her repeated statements over the past 18 months that she was never told that these techniques were actually being used.

In a 10-page memo outlining an almost seven-year history of classified briefings, intelligence officials said that Pelosi and then-Rep. Porter Goss (R-Fla.) were the first two members of Congress ever briefed on the interrogation tactics. Then the ranking member and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, respectively, Pelosi and Goss were briefed Sept. 4, 2002, one week before the first anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The memo, issued by the Director of National Intelligence and the Central Intelligence Agency to Capitol Hill, notes the Pelosi-Goss briefing covered “EITs including the use of EITs on Abu Zubaydah.” EIT is an acronym for enhanced interrogation technique. Zubaydah was one of the earliest valuable al-Qaeda members captured and the first to have the controversial tactic known as water boarding used against him.

The issue of what Pelosi knew and when she knew it has become a matter of heated debate on Capitol Hill. Republicans have accused her of knowing for many years precisely the techniques CIA agents were using in interrogations, and only protesting the tactics when they became public and liberal antiwar activists protested.

In a carefully worded statement, Pelosi’s office said today that she had never been briefed about the use of waterboarding, only that it had been approved by Bush administration lawyers as a legal technique to use in interrogations.

“As this document shows, the Speaker was briefed only once, in September 2002. The briefers described these techniques, said they were legal, but said that waterboarding had not yet been used,” said Brendan Daly, Pelosi’s spokesman.

Pelosi’s statement did not address whether she was informed that other harsh techniques were already in use during the Zubaydah interrogations.

In December 2007 the Washington Post reported that leaders of the House and Senate intelligence committees had been briefed in the fall of 2002 about waterboarding — which simulates drowning — and other techniques, and that no congressional leaders protested its use. At the time Pelosi said she was not told that waterboarding was being used, a position she stood by repeatedly last month when the Bush-era Justice Department legal documents justifying the interrogation tactics were released by Attorney General Eric Holder.

The new memo shows that intelligence officials were willing to share the information about waterboarding with only a sharply closed group of people. Three years after the initial Pelosi-Goss briefing, Bush officials still limited interrogation technique briefings to just the chairman and ranking member of the House and Senate intelligence committees, the so-called Gang of Four in the intelligence world.

In October 2005, CIA officials began briefing other congressional leaders with oversight of the intelligence community, including top appropriators who provided the agency its annual funding. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a prisoner-of-war in Vietnam and an opponent of torture techniques, was also read into the program at that time even though he did not hold a special committee position overseeing the intelligence community.

A bipartisan collection of lawmakers have criticized the practice of limiting information to just the “Gang of Four”, who were expressly forbidden from talking about the information from other colleagues, including fellow members of the intelligence committees. Pelosi and others are considering reforms that would assure a more open process for all committee members.


May 8th, 2009
12:13 pm

neo-Carlinist @ 10:41 – Kudos for your allusion to the phoney “Left vs. Right” paradigm/deception. This is leveraged as another control mechanism by the Elite. By controlling both sides (DNC & GOP “leadership”), the Elite present the illusion of providing a “choice” to the (deceived) masses. What most sheeple don’t realize (& I’ve stated innumerous times), is that the GOP/DNC “leadership” are 2 sides of the same (Globalist Elite controlled) coin. The DC puppets (save for rare patriots like Dr.Ron Paul) have no true, full allegiance to the Constitution or the freedoms confirmed therewithin!


Ray Pugh

May 8th, 2009
12:29 pm

Mr. Barr is the only thing approaching a voice of sanity in the cacaphonous rubber room that is these message boards. You buffoons would be wise to consider his words before spouting your standard knee jerk reactions…

Ray Pugh

May 8th, 2009
12:38 pm

Oh, and for any of you who read Latin, “Quis custōdiet ipsōs custōdēs???”

Wise up knuckleheads…


May 8th, 2009
12:50 pm

Gosh, who could have ever imagined that paranoia and unchecked, unaccountable police powers could be a bad combination that might get abused?

I assume everyone with such concerns has been screaming their lungs out over the P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act for the past five or six years, right? RIGHT?

Democrat Party

May 8th, 2009
12:54 pm




May 8th, 2009
1:08 pm

It’s not to late to repeal it. A stroke of the pen and it’s gone. Or at least rename it so it is more indicative of what it really is. Fascist Manifesto or maybe Citizenry Control Act.


May 8th, 2009
1:56 pm

Not me, Party Boy. I was opposed to this “screw liberty in the name of security” nonsense from the beginning. Can any Bush-backers (or idiots of similar magnitude) say the same?

Democrat Party

May 8th, 2009
2:10 pm

Copyleft, shall I provide you with the long list of democrat supporters of the Patriot Act?


May 8th, 2009
3:01 pm

No need. I know who the cowards are, and I’ve already voted against them.

You’re still having trouble with this whole “I’m right and some Congressional Democrats (and ALL Republicans) were wrong” thing, aren’t you?

Karl Rove

May 8th, 2009
3:35 pm

Nice Ascot, Missur Barr!

allah ahkbar

May 8th, 2009
3:37 pm

ummmm, how do i find out if my name is listed?

Democrat Party

May 8th, 2009
4:00 pm

Copyleft, you voted against Biden? He voted FOR THE PATRIOT ACT! As did Hillary Clinton.

You leftys are idiots.


May 9th, 2009
5:07 pm

who’s watching the watch list? The same lying garbage whom most call our ‘leaders’ in this so-called great country. Meaning, the same who was watching just before 9-11. Ahhh, good times.


May 10th, 2009
4:59 pm

Sound like the Government is ready to start handling all of our health care decisions. Let’s get started.


May 10th, 2009
7:41 pm

I’m absolutely apalled. I was convinced by Dick Cheney that the Bush administration had done an absolutely stellar job in dealing with terror and that Obama was screwing everything up in his first 100 days.

Truth be known, we’ve just been lucky!

reality checker

May 11th, 2009
9:57 am

Yeah, we shouldn’t have a list of people that are potential terrorists and be careful about letting the wrong people in our country. We should just let anyone and everyone in.

Are you people crazy? This is 2009, not 1809. There IS a problem with not being more careful about who goes on the list and how to challenge an entry on the list, but the idea of not having a list seems unrealistic in modern times. Pull your head out of the sand – there are extremists in the world that want to come in and kill as many Americans as they can. Pretending they don’t exist won’t make them go away.

Marsha Bond

May 11th, 2009
1:19 pm

Why are y’all listening to anything Bob Barr has to say? He won’t even come clean about what his REAL RACE is.