Terrorist Watch List at 755,000 People

The terrorist watch list has grown to over 755,000 people.

The governments terrorist watch list has swelled to more than 755,000 names, according to a new government report that has raised worries about the lists effectiveness.

The size of the list, typically used to check people entering the country through land border crossings, airports and sea ports, has been growing by 200,000 names a year since 2004. Some lawmakers, security experts and civil rights advocates warn that it will become useless if it includes too many people.

“It undermines the authority of the list,” says Lisa Graves of the Center for National Security Studies. “Theres just no rational, reasonable estimate that theres anywhere close to that many suspected terrorists.”

Obviously not. Of course, protecting the country from terrorism is only the ostensible purpose of the list; it’s actual purpose is to provide cover for the bureaucrats who maintain it. When looked at from that perspective, the list is obviously quite effective. Soon, it will be mathematically impossible for a terrorist to board a plane and not be on the list.

It’s brilliant CYA but awful counter-terrorism.

FILED UNDER: General
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Ugh says:

    I don’t know what percentage of DHS is solely dedicated to CYA BS, but I’d bet it’s in the high 90s.

  2. James Joyner says:

    I don’t know what percentage of DHS is solely dedicated to CYA BS, but I’d bet it’s in the high 90s.

    Well, it’s less than that because there are large components that have real, pre-9/11 missions. The Coast Guard being the most obvious example.

    But the creation of DHS itself was a CYA move, after all.

  3. Triumph says:

    I wish the defeatocrats like John Kerry would read this article. To think of the War On Terror as a simple “law enforcement” shows serious shortsightedness when the Terror Army numbers three quarters of a million people.

    To put that in perspective, the Army of Terror is 50% bigger than the Army of our most immanent threat, Iran.

    This is exactly why we need to invade Iran, ASAP.

    As it stands now, with one member taken down the Axis of Evil Army numbers around 1.6 million (1 million from North Korea and 575,00 from Iran). If the 3/4 million-strong Army of Terror joins the Axis of Evil the combined force will be about the size of the Chinese Army.

    This is pretty troubling. If we can knock off Iran, we can try and isolate the Army of Terror until we exterminate them. The possibility of an AoT and Axis of Evil alliance must be stopped for the sake of civilization.

  4. yetanotherjohn says:

    Unless they have a “Sandy Berger pants” insurance policy, every bureaucrat who has to pass judgment on whether to add a name or not to the list knows that if the named person does end up doing something nefarious and wasn’t put on the list, their life will become a living hell in front of congressional investigation committees. On the other hand, the down side of adding a name that really doesn’t need to be there is minimal. It just makes the system a bit creakier, but it is hard to place the blame for that on any one bureaucrat.

    Ergo, the names will continue to be added to the list.

  5. Fersboo says:

    I don’t see the problem with the list’s size as much as that being a government list, the probability that it will not be properly maintained and updated approaches 1.

  6. another matt says:

    It reminds me of my college days when I would watch a fellow classmate reading a text and marking it with yellow highlighter. Often I would see that the reader was highlighting more text than not, which to me seemed to contradict the very purpose of highlighting text in the first place!

    If this list continues to grow, it might make sense to start compiling a shorter list of “safe” people that should not be harassed when traveling…

  7. Fersboo says:

    It reminds me of my college days when I would watch a fellow classmate reading a text and marking it with yellow highlighter. Often I would see that the reader was highlighting more text than not, which to me seemed to contradict the very purpose of highlighting text in the first place!

    Watch list 775,000

    World Population ~6,000,000,000

    775k/6000000k=0.000129

    Don’t think that is the issue Another Matt.

  8. davod says:

    Fersbo beat me to the world population. Numbers mean nothing unless you place them in perspective.

    There are also over a billion Muslims in the world. It is estimated that ten percent could be radical Jihadists. We should be complaining about the lack of names, not the 775k on the list.

  9. Grewgills says:

    It is estimated that ten percent could be radical Jihadists.

    By whom?

  10. Fersboo says:

    By whom?

    The same people that estimate that 10% of the US is gay?

  11. Grewgills says:

    The same people that estimate that 10% of the US is gay?

    I didn’t realize the Kinsey Institute studied radical Islam.

  12. Fersboo says:

    I didn’t realize the Kinsey Institute studied radical Islam.

    I didn’t either, I was just asking.

  13. Fersboo says:

    I didn’t either, I was just asking.

    Umm, I meant I was guessing. d’oh