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The Rapidly Expanding, Secret 'No-Fly List'

List has doubled in past year to 21,000

Common Dreams staff

The classified list of individuals on the U.S. government's "no-fly list" has more than doubled in the last year. The list now has jumped from 10,000 a year ago to 21,000 now.

The ACLU has said, "A secret list that deprives people of the right to fly and places them into effective exile without any opportunity to object is both un-American and unconstitutional."

The government also has a much larger list, called the Terrorist Screening Database, with approximately 510,000 names currently on it. The smaller no-fly list is a subset of that.

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According to the Associated Press:

The flood of new names began after the failed Christmas 2009 bombing of a Detroit-bound jetliner when the US government lowered the standard for putting people on the list and scoured its files for anyone who qualified. "We learned a lot about the watchlisting process and made strong improvements, which continue to this day," said Timothy Healy, director of the Terrorist Screening Center, which produces the no-fly list.

Among the most significant new standard is that a person doesn't have to be considered only a threat to aviation to be placed on the list.

People considered a broader threat to domestic or international security or who attended a terror training camp are also included, said a US counter-terrorism official who spoke on condition of anonymity. As agencies complete the reviews of their files, the pace of growth is expected to slow, the counter-terrorism official said.

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On its website the Terrorist Screening Center writes this of its mission:

Consolidate the Government’s Watchlists into a Single Database

Before the TSC was created, various government agencies maintained nearly a dozen separate watchlists designed to screen persons of interest to U.S. law enforcement and intelligence officials. While some lists were shared, there was little integration and cooperation, and there was no central clearinghouse where all law enforcement and government screeners could access the best information about a potential person of interest. That all changed when TSC consolidated the government’s approach to terrorism screening and today, the TSC is the global authority for watchlisting and identifying known and suspected terrorists.

Maintain the Terrorist Watchlist, the No-Fly List, and the Selectee List

The Terrorist Watchlist (a.k.a., the Terrorist Screening Database or TSDB), contains thousands of records that are updated daily and shared with federal, state, local, territorial, tribal law enforcement, and Intelligence Community members as well as international partners to ensure that individuals with links to terrorism are appropriately screened. The No-Fly and Selectee Lists are two much smaller subsets of the Terrorist Watchlist.

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In June of 2010, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the no-fly list.

"More and more Americans who have done nothing wrong find themselves unable to fly, and in some cases unable to return to the U.S., without any explanation whatsoever from the government," said Ben Wizner, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. "A secret list that deprives people of the right to fly and places them into effective exile without any opportunity to object is both un-American and unconstitutional."

"Without a reasonable way for people to challenge their inclusion on the list, there's no way to keep innocent people off it," said Nusrat Choudhury, a staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. "The government's decision to prevent people from flying without giving them a chance to defend themselves has a huge impact on people's lives - including their ability to perform their jobs, see their families and, in the case of U.S. citizens, to return home to the United States from abroad."

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