A group of politicians wants to turn terror watch lists into a tool that can be used to strip any citizen of his or her Second Amendment rights, but there’s a lot they’re not telling us about how those lists work.
“After Sept. 11, common sense dictates that the federal government stop gun sales to suspects on the Terrorist Watch list,” US Representative Peter King (R-New York) said.
King and US Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) co-sponsored a bill that would prevent people on the list from buying guns and also would give the US attorney general the power to place names on the list.
But the list often includes names of innocent people who don’t deserve to be on the list and who would have their constitutional rights infringed, say both the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
The Senate rejected a similar bill this month.
The ACLU said it does not oppose all gun regulations but believes the watch list is “error-prone and unreliable because it uses vague and overbroad criteria and secret evidence to place individuals on blacklists without a meaningful process to correct government error and clear their names.”
“Regulation of firearms and individual gun ownership or use must be consistent with civil liberties principles, such as due process, equal protection, freedom from unlawful searches, and privacy,” the ACLU said.
More Than 1 Million Names on List
The government keeps different lists, but one such list includes about 1.5 million names, of which about 15,000 are US citizens or residents, according to FactCheck.org. A different list, the no-fly list, has more than 80,000 names, and 1,000 are citizens or residents.
For years, civil rights lawyers have alleged that the lists are full of names of innocent people.
“It is beyond easy for a government official to ‘nominate’ someone for listing, yet exceedingly difficult to be removed,” Ramzi Kassem, a professor of law at the City University of New York, wrote in The Washington Post.
Kassem heads the Creating Law Enforcement Accountability and Responsibility project (CLEAR), which has sued the government over the lists.
“Because the lists are shrouded in official secrecy, the public knows very little about them,” Kassem wrote.
According to the government’s own guidelines, “concrete facts” are not required to get included on the list. All it takes is “reasonable suspicion.”
“In fact, the guidance carves out a number of loopholes that dispense with reasonable suspicion altogether,” Kassem wrote. “Immediate family members of a suspected terrorist can be listed, as can other associates not themselves known or suspected to be involved in anything — and, finally, individuals with only ‘a possible nexus’ to terrorism. It is unclear what ‘a possible nexus’ actually means, and whether it is any different from a mere hunch.”
The only way Kassem was able to get four innocent men off the watch list was to sue the federal government.
“One of them was unable to visit his wife and three daughters in Yemen for years as a result. Another did not see his wife and family in Afghanistan. Yet another could not care for his ailing grandmother in Pakistan. And the fourth lost his job, as it required air travel,” Kassem wrote. “Only days before the first major court appearance in the case — presumably to minimize embarrassment in a public hearing — government attorneys informed us that all four of our clients had been removed from the list and should no longer face trouble traveling.”
Ted Kennedy’s Name on the List?
Incredibly, there is no official process for citizens to find out if they are on the watch list — or to get their names taken off it if they are.
“In fact, the government most often will not even tell our clients they are on a watch list, stating in its letters that it ‘can neither confirm nor deny any information … which may be within federal watch lists,’” Kassem wrote.
Names on the no-fly list included a 4-year-old boy who had been on the list since he was seven-months old, Off The Grid News previously reported.
The late U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy, in 2004, famously learned his name was on the list when agents tried to block him – on five separate occasions – from getting on a plane.
President Obama, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump all have said persons on the no-fly list or watch list should be barred from having guns.
“The NRA believes that terrorists should not be allowed to purchase or possess firearms, period,” the NRA said in a June 15 statement. “Anyone on a terror watchlist who tries to buy a gun should be thoroughly investigated by the FBI and the sale delayed while the investigation is ongoing. … At the same time, due process protections should be put in place that allow law-abiding Americans who are wrongly put on a watch list to be removed.”
Which side are you on? Share your views in the section below: