FBI Monitoring 1,000 People a Day on Watch List

It's time to revisit Operation TIDE, the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment. The Washington Post reports it's quadrupled in size and the FBI is now monitoring 1,000 people a day.

Here's how it's done:

Each day, thousands of pieces of intelligence information from around the world -- field reports, captured documents, news from foreign allies and sometimes idle gossip -- arrive in a computer-filled office in McLean, where analysts feed them into the nation's central list of terrorists and terrorism suspects.

....President Bush ordered the intelligence community in 2003 to centralize data on terrorism suspects, and U.S. agencies at home and abroad now send everything they collect to TIDE. It arrives electronically as names to be added or as additional information about people already in the system.

Here's the danger for us ordinary folks:

At any stage, the process can lead to "horror stories" of mixed-up names and unconfirmed information, Travers acknowledged.

....In 2004 and 2005, misidentifications accounted for about half of the tens of thousands of times a traveler's name triggered a watch-list hit, the Government Accountability Office reported in September.

In other words, it's a vacuum cleaner. Some examples:

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) said last year that his wife had been delayed repeatedly while airlines queried whether Catherine Stevens was the watch-listed Cat Stevens. The listing referred to the Britain-based pop singer who converted to Islam and changed his name to Yusuf Islam. The reason Islam is not allowed to fly to the United States is secret.

So is the reason Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian, remains on the State Department's consular watch list. Detained in New York while en route to Montreal in 2002, Arar was sent by the U.S. government to a year of imprisonment in Syria. Canada, the source of the initial information about Arar, cleared him of all terrorism allegations last September -- three years after his release -- and has since authorized $9 million in compensation.

There's no adequate mechanism in place to get removed from the list.

A unit at the screening center responds to complaints, he said, but will not remove a name if it is shared by a terrorism suspect. Instead, people not on the list who share a name with someone listed can be issued letters instructing airline personnel to check with the TSA to verify their identity. The GAO reported that 31 names were removed in 2005.

31 out of thousands of complaints.

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    shredding the constitution (none / 0) (#1)
    by profmarcus on Sun Mar 25, 2007 at 10:02:53 AM EST
    it's not like this stuff hasn't gone on before, or for a long time... what's different is the scale and the overt nature... reading this kind of story ten years ago would have ignited outrage, thirty years ago it would have precipitated resignations, and forty years ago, there would have been mass protests in the streets... today...? we read it and think, hey, no surprise here...

    And, yes, I DO take it personally

    Wow! (none / 0) (#2)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sun Mar 25, 2007 at 10:52:08 AM EST
    Did you see the NYPD surveillance story? Can you write smething on that? I just threw up a cut and paste job.

    I just bumped it to the top (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Mar 25, 2007 at 12:08:24 PM EST
    you did a fine job with it.