The terrorist watchlist has been a tool used by the FBI and Department of Homeland Security to screen potential terrorism suspects for years, with its use growing substantially after the September 11, 2001 attacks. The watchlist is also used for screening government contractors and is shared with state and local law enforcement agencies. However, the standard for inclusion on that list was recently questioned as a violation of due process rights for the Americans who are on it (as of 2017, approximately 4,600 Americans out of 1.2 million total people).
A judge in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia held that the standard for inclusion was too vague, noting that “the risk of erroneous deprivation of plaintiffs’ travel-related and reputational liberty interests is high, and the currently existing procedural safeguards are not sufficient to address that risk.” He also mentioned that the list restricts their ability to fly and engage in everyday activities, agreeing with the plaintiffs that they are flagged with no clear methodology. The judge did not, however, elaborate on the next steps, including addressing the vital question of what remedy is available to adequately protect a citizen’s constitutional rights without “unduly compromising public safety or national security.”
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