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Terrorist Watch List - Facts and Fiction

The more time that passes, the more certain individuals insist that steps that our government has taken since September 11th to protect us, actually encroach on their rights. One area of “myth” exceeding truth and reality is the so-called Terrorist Watch list (or “No Fly” list). In response to the ACLU’s claims of abuse and inconvenience, the TSA is fighting back.

Widely circulated in “certain circles” are the claims that the Watch List contains the names of over 1 million people (terrorists). Aside from the fact that the Terrorist Watch List is not a product of the TSA (TSA subscribes to the information through the F.B.I.’s Terrorist Screening Center. And with that in mind, the TSC has publicly stated that it has “only” 400,000 names on the list (actually less than), and that about 95% of them are not U.S. citizens and most are not in the United States. Further, the actual “No Fly” and “Selectee” lists contains the names of fewer than 50,000 people.

Individuals on the no-fly and selectee lists are identified by law enforcement and intelligence partners as legitimate threats to transportation requiring either additional screening or prohibition from boarding an aircraft.

Yet all passenger manifests are matched against this list.

What is the truth about who is on the terrorist watch list and what benefit has it served?

The 1000’s of Americans reportedly detained simply are not being detained. According to a GAO Report last October, the Terrorist Watch List has identified nearly 53,000 matches with the list between December 2003 and May 2007. It has clearly helped in the fight against terrorism. Its use has also enabled law enforcement to identify situations when known “bad actors” were found to be together.

So, let’s get to the core issue. I have been travelling a great deal over the last few months, certainly much more than I have since before September 11th. I have not lost a single one of my rights. I stand on the security line, I remove my shoes and place my laptop in its own bin, and I walk through the magnetometer. The entire process, even in the most heavily travelled airports at peak travel time, has taken no more than 15 minutes. It is simply part of the process. Of course I have nothing to hide. The interesting part of this is to witness the bahvior of other people. I’ve heard people complain about the delays. I’ve seen people try to go through security with a pocket knife in their possession. I’ve seen people complain when having their 20 oz. bottle of soda confiscated, or their shampoo taken. I’ve even sat in front of a “fool” who insisted that it wasn’t necessary for him to turn off his cell phone after being asked nicely to do so by the flight attendant (I have no idea what effect an activated cell phone really has on flight safety, but a rule is a rule). It’s people who don’t know enough to follow the rules and procedures who inconvenience me when I travel.

As for the “No Fly” or “Selectee” lists, as far as I’m concerned, they protect me from being blown from the sky. Know the truth before you believe the myths about air travel. All of this security? Its a good thing. Of course, it’s pretty easy for me to say. I’m not on any list, and I haven’t been selectively screened since insisting that a supervisor inspect the carrying case of a sensitive piece of electronic equipment.