ALEXANDRIA, Va. – The government is rapidly expanding the number of names it accepts for inclusion on its terrorist watch list, with more than 1.5 million added in the last five years, according to numbers divulged by the government in a civil lawsuit.
About 99 percent of the names submitted are accepted, leading to criticism that the government is “wildly loose” in its use of the list.
Those included in the Terrorist Screening Database could find themselves on the government’s no-fly list or face additional scrutiny at airports.
It has been known for years that the government became more aggressive in nominating people for the watch list following al-Qaida operative Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s failed effort to blow up an airplane over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009.
But the numbers disclosed by the government show submissions have snowballed. In fiscal 2009, which ended Sept. 30, 2009, 227,932 names were nominated to the database. In fiscal 2010, which includes the months after the attempted Christmas bombing, nominations rose to 250,847. In fiscal 2012, they increased to 336,712, and in fiscal 2013 nominations jumped to 468,749.
The government disclosed the figures in a civil lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the no-fly list.
At a hearing Friday, government lawyers urged a judge to dismiss the case, claiming state secrets will be exposed if the case proceeds.
U.S. District Judge Anthony Trenga issued no immediate ruling but expressed deep skepticism of the government’s motion.