The Senate report revealed that the current terrorist watchlist and screening procedures, which were put in place after 9/11 to identify potential threats among travelers, are disorganized and overly inclusive, creating a potential threat to national security.
The Democrats on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee published a 43-page document on Tuesday that criticizes the watchlist and multiple screening procedures for their inefficiency in addressing evolving security threats. The report highlights a lack of supervision and inadequate recourse for Americans who are subjected to incorrect screenings.
According to the report, a watchlist that is not regularly updated and has redundant screening procedures that are not regularly evaluated for their efficiency poses a threat to our country’s security. This could result in outdated information and strain on limited security resources that should be prioritized to effectively protect Americans. Additionally, it undermines the trust of innocent individuals who may be caught in this system without any means of escape.
Based on a recent investigation by CBS Reports, the list has grown by almost double in the span of six years. Senate investigators noted that less than 7,000 of the individuals on the watchlist were American citizens or lawful permanent residents.
The government requires a “reasonable suspicion” to add someone to the watchlist. However, they will not confirm or deny if someone is on the list and they will not reveal the basis of their suspicions. The Senate report states that the watchlist now includes not only known or suspected terrorists, but also individuals connected to them.
According to the report, American travelers may undergo screenings for a variety of reasons, including potential inclusion on the terrorist watchlist. However, these screenings may be repeated and conducted by multiple agencies, causing concern about the effectiveness and transparency of the watchlist system. Due to limited access and understanding, individuals are often left confused about why they are experiencing difficulties while traveling.
The report stated that if someone is identified as a potential terrorist, their only option is to request for help from the government, which can be a challenging and unproductive process.
The report emphasized the importance of safeguarding Americans from terrorist attacks, but also raised concerns about the potential for abuse and inadequate means for addressing wrongful screenings by the government, which could undermine civil rights and liberties.
The committee has requested a reassessment of the watchlist system and for the Department of Homeland Security to present a proposal to Congress for improving the process of correcting mistaken identifications and increasing transparency regarding screenings.
“In order to safeguard our nation’s security and ensure the safety of travelers, it is imperative that we are implementing efficient and respectful measures that uphold the civil rights of our citizens,” stated Senator Gary Peters of Michigan, the chair of the committee.
Reporting was contributed by Erin Cauchi.