Big Brother is watching--all one million of you.
The watch list of terrorism suspects recently passed 1 million names--which translates into about 400,000 people, according to NewsMax.
Are there really nearly a half-million terrorists among us?
The number of times we've agreed with the American Civil Liberties Union can be counted on one hand, but this appears to be one of those rare occasions: the list is too big to be effective.
The list is one of the "most effective tools" implemented after 9-11. The Bush administration disagreed. The Department of Homeland Security is like any other government bureaucracy: more interested in job security than effectiveness.
Prior to September 11, the no-fly list had just 16 people on it.
Either the DHS is so effective and have discovered 1 million (minus 16) new terrorist names in the last 7 years. Or, more likely, the list has a lot of people on it "just to be on the safe side".
Which is fine--unless your name is on the list by mistake. Which happens more frequently than is publicized.
Otherwise, how to go about checking out the 1 million? Are terrorists sprouting like weeds? Is the DHS lazy about checking out these thousands of potential terrorists? Does anyone care?
"America's new million-record watch list is a perfect symbol for what's wrong with this administration's approach to security: it's unfair, out-of-control, a waste of resources (and) treats the rights of the innocent as an afterthought," ACLU technology director Barry Steinhardt said in a release.
President George W. Bush ordered in the current list in September 2003 as a way to wrap several growing terrorism watchlists into a single government database compiled and overseen by the FBI, through a Terrorist Screening Center.
Suspected terrorists or people believed to have links to terrorism are included on the list, which can be used by a wide range of government agencies in security screening. About 50,000 individuals are included on the Transportation Security Administration "no-fly" or "selectee" lists that subject them to travel bans, arrest or additional screening.
Ted Kennedy, civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis and Cat Stevens (now Yusuf Islam) have all had their troubles with their names being on watch lists. One can understand Senator Kennedy having problems if the watch list contained names of members of Congress spouting nonsense--but Senator Kennedy a terrorist?
He's not that ambitious.
[Terrorism Screening Center spokeman, Chad Kolton], cited a report last year by the Government Accountability Office that said there was general agreement within the federal government that the watch list had helped to combat terrorism.
"The list is very effective. In fact it's one of the most effective counterterrorism tools that our country has," he said.
About 400,000 individuals are included on the list, about 95 percent of whom are not U.S. citizens or residents, Kolton said. The watch list also includes separate entries with aliases, fake passports and fake birth dates, bringing the total number of records to more than 1 million, he said.
TSA spokeman Christopher White said Kennedy and Lewis were never on the list, and that problems they reported were due to their misidentification with names properly on it.
One of the least effective ways of identifying ineffective government programs would be to survey government bureaucrats; yet, "general agreement within the federal government" that the list is effective seems to indicate the use of that benchmark.
When new government agencies or programs or regulations or laws are proposed, critics rightly point out the bad things that can happen with nearly all things government. Proponents pooh-pooh the critics' claims, many times calling them preposterous.
It's not that poorly-constructed government programs, agencies, regulations or laws start out as being malicious--it's that they become that way due to the very inefficiencies of large government.
The watch list is a perfect example of this.
The watch list is "very effective"--unless your name mistakenly winds up on it.
1 million names on the watch list and the refusal to profile targeted groups of air travelers--while there are thousands of unknown persons passing through a still-unsecured southern border--makes no sense.
Except to those running government bureaucracies.
image: propaganda posters
* Terror Watch List: Over 1 Million Names and Growing
* U.S. Terrorism Watch List Tops 1 Million