Ich Bin Ein Terrorist

Megan McArdle observes (via data from the ACLU) that over 900,000 Americans have their name on various terrorist watch lists.  One could argue that this is perhaps four orders of magnitude off the actual number of active terrorists running around the country.  How can such a travesty occur?  Well, its the government, and McArdle points out, unsurprisingly, its an incentives issue.

Can some smart lawyer from the ACLU find a way to void this list on due process or maybe 14th amendment grounds?


  1. Bearster:

    I don't think one could argue that the number of Americans who are terrorists or working to aid and abet terrorists is 90.

    I don't believe it's 900,000. And this number may reflect the politization process.

    On the other hand, a watch list has to include more people than only terrorists because the government does not have perfect knowledge.

    This whole issue depends on whether you regard this as a war against a real enemy, or whether you regard this as a tiny group of criminals. The proper way to prosecute a war is not the same as the proper way to prosecute a criminal.

  2. Gabriel Malor:

    The question is what injury is caused by having one's name on a terrorist watch list. If there is no harm other than whatever nominal damage (no pun intended) exists for being on the list then there isn't really a case to be made.

    Does anyone know what happens to folks who get their names put on a watch list?

    Then, you'd have to look at whether that injury is impermissible under federal law.

  3. High Up on Heaven:

    Terrorism is a tactic, not an ideology. Therefore, unless any of the people on the watch lists have committed acts using terrorist tactics, the number of actual terrorists on the watch list is zero.

    The list is just that, a watch list of people who the government thinks are prone to commit terrorist acts based on their ideologies. Like most government activities, the identification of peoples' predispositions is dreadful and the definition of terrorist predisposition is severely ambiguous. The range of ideologies include a very small minority of militant muslims among us, who may be a danger to the general public, and a vast majority of political activists, who are only a danger to the kleptocrats in charge. Ron Paul activists, watch your backs.

    I cannot attest firsthand the disadvantages of being on a watch list, but I have heard that people have been denied being able to board airplanes and do anything else that now requires government permission to do.

  4. Matt:

    "Does anyone know what happens to folks who get their names put on a watch list?"

    It seems that many people on that list are prevented from flying on commercial airplanes: