Terrorist Watchlist Violates Constitutional Rights

Terrorist Watchlist Violates Constitutional Rights

Terrorist Watchlist Violates Constitutional Rights

On Wednesday, Federal Judge Anthony Trenga ruled that a terrorist watchlist, used by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, may violate the Constitutional rights of those Americans on the list. Judge Trenga sits on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia and was appointed by President George W. Bush. What does this mean and why should you care?

According to TechCrunch.com, over 1.6 million people are on this worldwide terrorist watchlist, “with roughly 4,600 of those names belonging to U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents”. This list is different from the highly restricted “no-fly list”.

My initial reaction, when I read that the suit was initially brought by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) on behalf of 19 Muslim U.S. citizens, was “so what”? What’s a little inconvenience to keep us safe? Victory Girls’ Narcissi challenged my thinking by saying that the terrorist watchlist (or Terrorist Screening Database/TDSB) was “messy and far too secretive”. And, it turns out that she was right.

This is all about the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution and due process.

The New York Times reported that plaintiffs, represented by the lawyers from CAIR, recounted:

tales of being detained and harassed when trying to enter the country, they argued that they did not receive notice of why they were being put on the list or an opportunity to contest derogatory claims.

One of the CAIR lawyers claimed that the terrorist watchlist is essentially a Muslim watchlist. I don’t believe that, but here is the problem with the TDSB, from the TechCrunch article:

The judge was concerned that mistaken inclusion on the watchlist could have negative implications in interactions with local law enforcement and potential employers or local government services.

“Every step of this case revealed new layers of government secrets, including that the government shares the watchlist with private companies and more than sixty foreign countries,” said CAIR Senior Litigation Attorney Gadeir Abbas. “CAIR will continue its fight until the full scope of the government’s shadowy watchlist activities is disclosed to the American public.”

In other words, being on the very broad Terrorist Screening Database could affect employment or home loans or any number of the things citizens do every day.

We know that we cannot trust the FBI after watching the Trump/Russia probe. We know that we cannot trust the IRS from back in the Tea Party days. When you add in the proposed “Red Flag Laws” for guns that Nina wrote about and you have the end of due process.

As a matter of fact, the FBI has already admitted using the TDBS terrorist watchlist on gun owners. This video is from “Guns and Gadgets” two years ago:

As TechCrunch noted:

The methodology the government used to add names to the watch list was shrouded in secrecy and citizens placed on the list often had no way of knowing how or why they were on it. Indeed, much of the plaintiffs lawsuit hinged on the over-broad and error-prone ways in which the list was updated and maintained.

Speaking of red flags. That’s a big one. The Judge in this case has not issued a remedy. My remedy would be that this whole thing needs to be rethought. We have already ceded too much to the Federal government. We cannot erode due process any further.

Photo credit: The Digital Way/Pixabay.com/Pixabay License

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  • Charles N. Steele says:

    San Francisco Board of Stuporvisors has endorsed adding NRA members to the “terrorist watch list.”

    Rules such as probable cause, habeus corpus, etc. are obstacles to tyranny, and should not be violated/ ignored — these are to protect innocent people, such as us NRA members — not criminals.

    • Kate says:

      I agree!

      • Toni Williams says:


        Credit to Narcissi for helping think through this.


        • NC says:

          Nah. You did all the legwork. I just stated an agreement with the verdict. It’s a good post, and really crunches the nut in the shell. This list, and other secret lists, violate the foundation of the Bill of Rights. There’s no adjudication process, no trial, no appeals, and no notification that one is even on such a list. It harkens back to the NKVD of USSR.
          “No longer subject to party control or restricted by law, the NKVD became a direct instrument of Stalin for use against the party and the country during the Great Terror of the 1930s.”
          This is a very slippery slope. Especially since the database is shared with private companies. I have no doubt that social media and search engines log and comb through everything. (another list one can’t escape). My bigger fear is that an American is detained overseas by a country with few civil rights or due process. I wouldn’t wan to be on vacation and flagged as a “terrorist” because some database has my identity confused or incorrectly listed. That would suck, bigly.

    • GWB says:

      these are to protect innocent people … not criminals
      Well, yes, and NO. We have to protect the rights of ALL citizens, because – to protect the innocent – you can’t know if they’re guilty or not until after the adjudication. We can’t let rogue cops go around nabbing people, and not punish them because the guy whose rights they violated are actually bad guys.

      And, I think you know this, and didn’t intend otherwise, but I can’t just leave those words hanging out there, on a post like this, without trying to straighten it out.

      • Charles N. Steele says:

        Not exactly,really is about protecting innocent people in world of uncertainty. If somehow we could automatically know guilt & innocence with certainty we’d be happy w a very different set of institutions. Ours are for protecting the innocent.

        Contrast w. Chinese system (as described to me by someone in China) of “execute 1, warn 100” … And it doesn’t even matter if the 1 was guilty.

        Regardless, we all agree these Star Chamber lists are dangerous.

        I’m so excited to finally agree with Omar and Tlaib on something! (Heh)

  • GWB says:

    challenged my thinking
    Good. It sucks, but it’s often the people we consider “bad people” in some fashion that we have to defend from this creeping statism.

    Excellent write-up, Toni.

  • Justin o guy says:

    I totally agree. And while they are using reason and legal precedent, maybe now they can get rid of the No Fly list.

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