Sunday, August 17, 2008

There are about one million names are on the Terrorist Watch list.

Why is 7-year-old John Anderson from Minneapolis on the national Terrorist Watch List?

He pushed Tommy too hard on the playground.
His July 4th birthday means he distracts other Americans from celebrating their country.
John didn’t pick up the blocks during playtime.

The truth is that we don’t know how he got on the Terrorist Watch List. Or if he can get off it. It took an Act of Congress to get Nelson Mandela, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, off the list.
This ever-growing and ineffective Watch List demonstrates what's wrong with the U.S.

Take our national security quiz to learn about other frightening national security “tools.”

The questions above might be light hearted, but the problems Americans face everyday due to overzealous security measures are real.

According to USA Today:

John Anderson of Minneapolis, [now 7] was first stopped at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in 2004, when his family took him for his first airplane ride to Disney World. "We checked in at the ticket counter, and the woman said in a stern voice, 'Who is John Anderson?' " says his mother, Christine Anderson. "I pointed to my stroller."

Her son is allowed to fly. But because his name is flagged, his family cannot print out a boarding pass for him online and he must check in at the ticket counter so an airline official can see that he's a child.
Learn about more outrageous DHS behaviors by taking the ACLU’s security quiz today.

After you take the quiz, make sure you forward it to your friends and family so they can learn about these measures which are supposed to protect us, but instead strip us of our basic rights with no additional security.

Thank you,

Anthony D. Romero
Executive Director
government’s current approach to security: it’s unfair and a waste of resources. And when our government wastes time and money like this, we are all put in more danger -- not less.

Take the Quiz

Answer the following 7 questions to discover some shocking news about the TSA and your privacy and security. After you’re done taking the quiz, share it with your friends and family.

Question 1 of 7: Which of the following names are on the Terrorist Watch List?

Terrorist Watch List Hits One Million Names

ACLU launches online watch list complaint form

CONTACT: (202) 675-2312 or

WASHINGTON, DC - The nation's terrorist watch list has hit one million names, according to a tally maintained by the American Civil Liberties Union based upon the government's own reported numbers for the size of the list.

"Members of Congress, nuns, war heroes and other 'suspicious characters,' with names like Robert Johnson and Gary Smith, have become trapped in the Kafkaesque clutches of this list, with little hope of escape," said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "Congress needs to fix it, the Terrorist Screening Center needs to fix it, or the next president needs to fix it, but it has to be done soon."

Fredrickson and Barry Steinhardt, director of the ACLU's Technology and Liberty Program, spoke today along with two victims of the watch list: Jim Robinson, former assistant attorney general for the Criminal Division who flies frequently and is often delayed for hours despite possessing a governmental security clearance and Akif Rahman, an American citizen who has been detained and interrogated extensively at the U.S.-Canada border when traveling for business.

"America's new million record watch list is a perfect symbol for what's wrong with this administration's approach to security: it's unfair, out-of-control, a waste of resources, treats the rights of the innocent as an afterthought, and is a very real impediment in the lives of millions of travelers in this country," said Barry Steinhardt, director of the ACLU Technology and Liberty Program. "It must be fixed without delay."

"Putting a million names on a watch list is a guarantee that the list will do more harm than good by interfering with the travel of innocent people and wasting huge amounts of our limited security resources on bureaucratic wheel-spinning," said Steinhardt. "I doubt this thing would even be effective at catching a real terrorist."

Controls on the watch lists called for by the ACLU included:

  • due process
  • a right to access and challenge data upon which listing is based
  • tight criteria for adding names to the lists
  • rigorous procedures for updating and cleansing names from the lists.

The ACLU also called for the president - if not this one then the next - to issue an executive order requiring the lists to be reviewed and limited to only those for whom there is credible evidence of terrorist ties or activities. The review should be concluded within 3 months.

In February, the ACLU unveiled an online "watch list counter," which has tracked the size of the watch list based on a September 2007 report by the inspector general of the Justice Department, which reported that it was growing by 20,000 names per month.

The ACLU is also announcing today the creation of an online form where victims of the watch list can tell us their stories. We will collect those stories and use them (with permission) in various ways to advance our advocacy. A link to the form is available online at or directly at

The watch list counter and other materials are available at: