Two year after the terrorist attack of 9/11 government officials developed the Terrorist Screening Center as a security measure to help protect our nation from further subversive terrorist activities.The TSC were the keepers of the “Terrorist Watch list.” Since its inception, the watch list has been rumored to have ballooned to well over a million names. The list includes suspected members of Al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations, terror financiers, terror recruiters and people who attended training camps as well tens of thousands of name that the Department of Justice says were placed on the list erroneously and without justification. People’s names are added to and removed from the watch list every day, and most people never know whether they’re on it. According to the Department of Justice 35% of the names on the list are outdated and the list is ineffective as a security measure.
So we have this bloated list of potential terrorist 35% or more of which are outdated and tens of thousands more who don’t really belong on the list in the first place! Yet once your name is placed on the list it is damn near impossible to get it off, there is no due process or court proceeding for innocent people to get their names removed from the list. No such system has been created. It’s a complete mess. We’re left with a list that is error filled and hard to manage, a list that creates a working nightmares for security screeners and a living hell for innocent citizens unfortunate enough to be on the list.
And just how effective is this so called watch list in the fight against terrorism? Depends on who you ask. There are those who praise the system and there are an equal number of naysayers. But the facts speak for themselves. The list may successfully keep terrorist and others off of planes but it doesn’t stop them from arming themselves! Did you know that last year 247 people on the terrorist watch list were able to legally purchase firearms? And they did so after going through all the state and federal background checks. About the same number purchased guns in 2009 as well.
Can you believe it? It is not illegal for people on the list to buy firearms! If you’re one of the innocents on the list I guess that’s fine, but what if you’re a terrorist or have terrorist leanings? Somethings not right. There is definitely something wrong with the nations gun laws. The government can prevent gun purchases for any number of reasons but being on the nations terrorist watch list is not one of them. Nowhere does it say anything about the watch list. So convicted felons, illegal immigrants, fugitives and mental cases cannot buy weapons, but people on the watch list can! But you’ve got to remember, the watch list is secret and generated at the government’s discretion. It is not a list of people convicted of terrorism crimes. Talk about a loophole! Between February 2004 and December 2010, 1,453 people on the terror watch list have attempted to buy firearms or explosives. Of those, 90 percent of the people were allowed to go through with their purchases. 90 percent!
Why you ask? the answer is an interesting one. It seems that every time someone tries to buy a gun in the U.S., the background checks include the terror watch list. When there is a match, the information is immediately shared with the FBI terrorism unit. The lead agent reviews it, records it and may or may not block the purchase. 90% of the time he does not. Why you ask? Well to deny the people on the watch list the opportunity to buy guns would mean the government would have to tell them they are on the list. A person who knows he is on a watch list could change his behavior or even his identity to avoid detection, and the Government doesn’t want that.
There are those in Congress and the DOJ who believe the Attorney General should be given carte blanche authority to block the sale of guns to people on the list. They view the problem as a homeland security issue and not a gun issue. However the powerful National Rifle Association ahs flexed its political muscle and with the support of the American Civil Liberties Union has been able to ward off efforts to make this change. They believe the watch list lacks integrity and includes law-abiding citizens who are mistaken as having terrorists ties. They feel it’s wrong to arbitrarily deny a law-abiding person a guaranteed constitutional right. They further believe that a political appointee, such as the attorney general, should not have the discretionary authority to decide that someone on the watch list is so dangerous that he should not be allowed to buy a gun. So what we have is a politically sensitive, gun control hot potato that even President Obama has steered clear of.
Is the Terrorist Watch List a viable tool in the fight against terrorism? I believe so, but it needs work and a lot of it. The TSC and DOJ need to get together and clean up their act and they need to do it now. They need to recreate the list made up solely of suspected members of terrorists organizations and those affiliated with them. Innocent Americans should not be on the list! The time for watching and waiting is over! Instead of a watch list we need a “Terrorist To Do List.” Anyone legitimately on that list should be arrested, prosecuted and punished!