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“Terrorist watch list” quadruples in size

The Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE) is a storehouse for data about individuals targeted by U.S. intelligence agencies’ global network of informers.

In 2003 it had fewer than 100,000 files. Today it has 435,000 files. Information comes from anywhere, and is usually not checked for accuracy. Thousands of additions are made each day. The director is a Jew named Rick Kopel. Under his guidance, Muslims are the fastest-growing category. Statistics are kept on nationality and ethnic and religious groups.

Foreigners and U.S. citizens are combined in one database. The bar for inclusion is low, it is impossible to get off the list.

The Government Accountability Office says that in 2004 and 2005, misidentifications accounted for about half of the tens of thousands of times a traveler's name triggered a watch-list hit.

Critics say the database collects too much information about Americans, and does not stop terrorists.

No one knows who is on the list. If you are suddenly barred from traveling, you cannot find out why.

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) said his wife had been delayed repeatedly while airlines queried whether Catherine Stevens was Cat Stevens, the British pop singer who converted to Islam in 1977 and changed his name to Yusuf Islam. Mr. Islam is not allowed to fly to the USA to give a concert, or for any other reason. Rick Kopel refuses to say why.

Another Muslim, Maher Arar, remains on the State Department's consular watch list. A Syrian-born Canadian, Mr. Arar was detained in New York while en route to Montreal in 2002. The U.S. government sent him to Syria (an “axis of evil” country) where he was tortured and imprisoned for a year. Canada later cleared Mr. Arar of all terrorism allegations, and ordered Canadian taxpayers to give him $9 million in compensation.

Every night at 10 pm, Rick Kopel’s TIDE center sends an unclassified version of that day's harvest to another Jew named Glenn A. Fine, who oversees the database at the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center. (However TIDE's most sensitive information is restricted to Bush and Cheney only.)

Between 5 and 6 a.m., analysts drawn from various agencies begin a review process at the FBI’s Crystal City office.

Decisions on what to add to the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center master list are made by mid-afternoon. The FBI adds 1,000 to 1,500 new names to its own database each day. Total FBI listings were about 235,000 names as of last fall.

Various other agencies decide which names to put on their own target lists: the Transportation Security Administration's "no-fly" and "selectee" lists for airlines; Consular Lookout and Support System at the State Department; the Interagency Border and Inspection System at the Department of Homeland Security; and the Justice Department's National Crime Information Center. The criteria each agency use are classified.

Over 30,000 individuals on the TSA's no-fly list (mostly Muslims) are prohibited from entering the USA. With little to go on beyond names, airlines find frequent matches, causing long delays at airports.

TSA receives thousands of complaints each year, but no name is ever removed from the TIDE database. CBS's "60 Minutes" noted that 14 of the 19 hijackers from 9-11were still listed --five years after their deaths.


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