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40% Of People On Terror Watch List Have No Terrorist Ties

Unknown Lamer posted about a month and a half ago | from the friendly-neighborhood-terrorist dept.

Privacy 256

Advocatus Diaboli (1627651) writes with the chilling, but not really surprising, news that the U.S. government is aware that many names in its terrorist suspect database are not linked to terrorism in any way. From the article: Nearly half of the people on the U.S. government's widely shared database of terrorist suspects are not connected to any known terrorist group, according to classified government documents obtained by The Intercept. Of the 680,000 people caught up in the government's Terrorist Screening Database — a watchlist of "known or suspected terrorists" that is shared with local law enforcement agencies, private contractors, and foreign governments — more than 40 percent are described by the government as having "no recognized terrorist group affiliation." That category — 280,000 people — dwarfs the number of watchlisted people suspected of ties to al Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah combined.

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But they're Americans, aren't they? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47613293)

I guess it's a matter of perspective.

What a shocker! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47613297)

Let the government do as it pleases in the name of stopping terrorism, and it will abuse its powers? Wow! It's not like history has countless scenarios like this or anything.

Re:What a shocker! (5, Insightful)

NotDrWho (3543773) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613507)

Most of us (on /. anyway) realized right after 2001 that the "We're trying to catch terrorists!" excuse would be used to steamroll over the rights and protections of pretty much EVERYONE. The T E R R O R I S T boogeyman has become a goddamned golden license to do anything for the CIA, NSA, FBI, ATF, etc.--all the way down to the local yokel sheriff who uses his new toys and tools to spy on his wife.

It was never about terrorism. It was about exploiting terrorism to create the police state they always wanted.

Re:What a shocker! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47613821)

Maybe they will conclude that not being a terrorist is a sign that you are a terrorist.

Karel K., Twibright Labs [twibright.com]

Re:What a shocker! (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613955)

There's no need to even postulate that they want to create a police state; it's simply the cheapest, easiest way to appear to be responding decisively to a threat. When it's cheaper and easier to ignore freedoms than protect them on the path to security, and security is the topic of the moment, what vote-hunting politician of any stripe is going to give a damn?

High success rate or lots of unknowns? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47613749)

I would have expected that well over 90% of people on the terror list have nothing to do with terrorism. So, this number is actually quite low, and if true, means that (1) the government is successful in identifying terrorists, and (2) there are really LOTS of terrorists on the planet, which is really worrying.

I strongly suspect that 40% are confirmed false positives. Then there is a large group that they don't know yet, but who are just innocent and mostly harmless.

Re:High success rate or lots of unknowns? (4, Interesting)

tysonedwards (969693) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613989)

Not necessarily, it means "links / associations" to terrorists.

Example:
Jeff is a Terrorist.
Jeff has a brother named Bill.
Bill has a wife named Jessica, a child named Mary, friends named Sarah, Mitchell, and Parker, a boss named Paul, goes to a bank on 53rd st. who employs 31 people, he goes to a grocery store on 17th ave. who employs 44 people, ...

This could very well be controlled spin to ensure that the numbers are propped up to make it look like they are mostly accurate based on the undefined term "links / associations", which could be as loose or as specific as you want it to be.

One would hope that that would mean providing aid in some way rather than "I know him", or "I know someone who knows him", or worse, "I've once spoken to him" or "I've once spoken to someone whose spoken to him" but we frankly don't know.

Simply a devils advocate answer on my part. May very well be that the remaining parties on the list are there for good reason and the 40% here are purely accidental inclusions. I'd personally suspect that there's an ex-girlfriend or two that made the list somehow, someway to otherwise make life hard following a bad breakup.

So 60% positive ? (0)

Pascal Sartoretti (454385) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613329)

Then it means that 60% from this list have terrorist ties ? Good result.

Re:So 60% positive ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47613369)

Yes and it appears the Terrorists have won.

They Might Be Giants (the movie, you nimrods) (2)

Thud457 (234763) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613909)

Given that 99% of us are terrorists, I would say the terrorists have lost.

Re:So 60% positive ? (4, Insightful)

31415926535897 (702314) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613371)

Then it means that 60% from this list have terrorist ties ? Good result.

No. No it's not. Not for any meaning of "good result".

Re:So 60% positive ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47614061)

Well not if your going to look at the glass half (OK 60%) empty. You have to learn to be an optimist.

Re:So 60% positive ? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47613375)

40% known to be false, 60% not yet, 0% provable in a court of law. Good result indeed. This is why the government detain suspect forever and never go to trial.

I think it is over due that we put the state on the fascist watch list.

Re:So 60% positive ? (0)

naris (830549) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613737)

Hey! At least 1% is provable in a court of law!

Re:So 60% positive ? (5, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613379)

No, I suspect it's much lower.

They know that 40% have nothing to do with terrorism, and one suspects it's much higher than that.

Basically they're taking a scatter-shot approach, and don't need to justify it, and don't give a damn that they're impacting people's lives with bad information.

These guys would be just as happy to go with the "everyone is a terrorist until proven otherwise model", where the proven otherwise occurs when you're dead.

It makes it so much easier to be fascists when you don't need to justify your lists of people to watch out for.

They've already more or less admitted that they have absolutely no control with these lists, and that any agency, for any reason, without any actual evidence can add someone to the watch lists.

This allows them to be both a malicious cancer and incompetent morons without recourse.

Re:So 60% positive ? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47613437)

My wife is probably on that list. She ordered two small pressure cookers via Amazon recently one for her and one for our daughter. But it was TWO. Automated add to terror list.

Re:So 60% positive ? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47613543)

My wife is probably on that list. She ordered two small pressure cookers via Amazon recently one for her and one for our daughter. But it was TWO. Automated add to terror list.

You should see that this is a good thing overall. The quicker this list can be proven worthless in the eyes of everyone, the faster it will become a heated target within politics, ripe for attack. It's own absurdity will remove it's power to abuse.

Re:So 60% positive ? (3)

kilfarsnar (561956) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613933)

My wife is probably on that list. She ordered two small pressure cookers via Amazon recently one for her and one for our daughter. But it was TWO. Automated add to terror list.

You should see that this is a good thing overall. The quicker this list can be proven worthless in the eyes of everyone, the faster it will become a heated target within politics, ripe for attack. It's own absurdity will remove it's power to abuse.

I somehow doubt that. In my experience absurdity is no obstacle for a policy; especially one driven by fear. As flawed at it is, if we get rid of the list terrorists will start downing planes left and right. You wouldn't want that, would you? Would you?!

Re:So 60% positive ? (1)

naris (830549) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613763)

She should of of ordered High Explosives and Timing devices instead and she would of avoided getting on the list!

Re:So 60% positive ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47613723)

These guys would be just as happy to go with the "everyone is a terrorist until proven otherwise model", where the proven otherwise occurs when you're dead.

Right. It's very similar to the policy Obama's administration uses to identify militants suitable for drone strikes.

Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will [nytimes.com]

It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.

Re:So 60% positive ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47613731)

They've already more or less admitted that they have absolutely no control with these lists, and that any agency, for any reason, without any actual evidence can add someone to the watch lists.

Let's think this through for a minute... So you would rather that the list be made up of persons with known terrorism group allegiances, and that any and all supporting information also be cataloged in the same place so that the list is audit-ready to outline exactly who is a terrorist, why, and how we know that? Yeah fucking right. The list itself would be a roadmap for how the US finds and tracks terrorists. You're just going to have to unwad your panties on this one, you don't get to decide who the defense department targets since you are completely unqualified to do so and frankly, don't know shit about mitigating the risk of terrorism.

Re:So 60% positive ? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47613781)

You're just going to have to unwad your panties on this one, you don't get to decide who the defense department targets since you are completely unqualified to do so

You're defending scumbags in a government that is known to be hostile towards civil liberties and the constitution (NSA, TSA, etc. come to mind). Why?

Also, I would rather not have these things at all, because denying people rights or abilities based on some secret list is disgusting and unconstitutional. Due process is necessary.

Re:So 60% positive ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47613871)

Well AC, your post implies that you possess some knowledge that the rest of /. lacks, so please explain how the defense department goes about determining who should be put on the terror list to us poor, dumb, civil libertarian crybabies. We breathlessly await your insights on the subject.

Re:So 60% positive ? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47613877)

So you would rather that the list be made up of persons with known terrorism group allegiances, and that any and all supporting information also be cataloged in the same place so that the list is audit-ready to outline exactly who is a terrorist, why, and how we know that?

Yes. Yes, I actually would rather that the secret list our government uses to strip rights away from citizens to actually be targeted at the people that our government claims it is targeting rather than just random individuals.

What? You didn't realize how fucking stupid you sounded when you typed it out? Well then...

Re:So 60% positive ? (2)

PoisOnouS (710605) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613981)

They've already more or less admitted that they have absolutely no control with these lists, and that any agency, for any reason, without any actual evidence can add someone to the watch lists.

Let's think this through for a minute... So you would rather that the list be made up of persons with known terrorism group allegiances, and that any and all supporting information also be cataloged in the same place so that the list is audit-ready to outline exactly who is a terrorist, why, and how we know that? Yeah fucking right. The list itself would be a roadmap for how the US finds and tracks terrorists. You're just going to have to unwad your panties on this one, you don't get to decide who the defense department targets since you are completely unqualified to do so and frankly, don't know shit about mitigating the risk of terrorism.

Apparently, the people in charge are also completely unqualified. By your logic, we should simply sit back until they've fingered everyone as a potential terrorist. Then there won't be anyone left to complain.

Re:So 60% positive ? (4, Insightful)

kilfarsnar (561956) | about a month and a half ago | (#47614003)

They've already more or less admitted that they have absolutely no control with these lists, and that any agency, for any reason, without any actual evidence can add someone to the watch lists.

Let's think this through for a minute... So you would rather that the list be made up of persons with known terrorism group allegiances, and that any and all supporting information also be cataloged in the same place so that the list is audit-ready to outline exactly who is a terrorist, why, and how we know that? Yeah fucking right. The list itself would be a roadmap for how the US finds and tracks terrorists. You're just going to have to unwad your panties on this one, you don't get to decide who the defense department targets since you are completely unqualified to do so and frankly, don't know shit about mitigating the risk of terrorism.

We don't need a list at all. We didn't need one before 9/11/2001 and we don't need one now. The CIA and whomever else were tracking the hijackers before they attacked. They just failed to stop them for whatever reason. Two of them were living with an FBI informant for crying out loud. We didn't need a list to know they were with Al Qaeda and where they lived in the country.

We don't need a list. And no speech about how we need Col. Jessup up on that wall will convince me otherwise.

Re:So 60% positive ? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47613873)

Basically they're taking a scatter-shot approach, and don't need to justify it, and don't give a damn that they're impacting people's lives with bad information.

A scatter-shot approach? There are fewer than 700,000 people in the database. There are more than 300,000,000 people in the United States. If the list consists only of Americans, that represents about 2 tenths of a percent of Americans. There are about 7,000,000,000 people in the world. If the list consists of people of all nationalities, that represents one ten thousandth of a percent of all people.

They obviously aren't just selecting a statistically valid sample set of people on this list.

Re:So 60% positive ? (4, Insightful)

truedfx (802492) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613393)

It means 60% on that list are suspected of having terrorist ties. It does not mean they really do have terrorist ties, and it does not mean the suspicion is reasonable. In other words, that 60% would need to be further categorised before it becomes a meaningful statistic.

The 40% on the other hand is already a meaningful statistic.

Re:So 60% positive ? (4, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613455)

The 40% on the other hand is already a meaningful statistic.

Meaningful enough for one to conclude that if the real numbers were out there, they'd be doing about as well as random chance (hey, they have a 50/50 chance of being right), and quite probably are doing FAR worse.

If they're admitting that 40% don't have any ties, you can probably assume that the number of people who don't belong on the list is much higher.

This is what happens when you have secret lists, and no evidentiary threshold to apply to put people on it.

Overall, I'm going to conclude these agencies are at least 40% incompetent.

Re:So 60% positive ? (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613655)

> Meaningful enough for one to conclude that if the real numbers were out there, they'd be doing about as well as random chance (hey, they have a 50/50 chance of being right), and quite probably are doing FAR worse.

Lots of medical tests are worthwhile with a lot more than 50% false positives. The problem with this 40% statistic is that it falls well short of traditional thought that it's better to let 10 guilty go free than convict 1 innocent. If this were just a list that got you watched it would be one thing. But this has other more serious consequences.

Re:So 60% positive ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47613715)

If this were just a list that got you watched it would be one thing.

And that one thing is "tyranny." They should have to have actual, real proof before they can do a damn thing.

Re:So 60% positive ? (2)

gstoddart (321705) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613729)

Lots of medical tests are worthwhile with a lot more than 50% false positives.

Sure, and there are objective criteria involved in those, and objective results.

This list boils down to some police officer, informant, agent, intercept, or disgruntled asshole said "I think he's a terrorist, and I have nothing to support that".

It then goes into the ever growing list of people whose lives will be fucked with for no good reason, and to justify these spy agencies and their lists full of terrible data.

You're damned right this has more serious consequences, which means it should also require some credible evidence, instead of any law enforcement officer anywhere being encouraged to add people to the list "just in case".

I see this list as nothing more than the scope creep of fascism, and will be defended by the fascists as a necessary tool. Accurate information is a necessary too. Garbage information is just a recipe for abuse.

Right now, either through laziness, incompetence, or spite, a huge amount of people can add pretty much anybody to this list. In fact, they're encouraged to.

And it sounds like there are no checks and balances, and no accountability.

Re:So 60% positive ? (1)

SpankiMonki (3493987) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613839)

Overall, I'm going to conclude these agencies are at least 40% incompetent.

That may be true generally, but unfortunately they appear to be 100% competent at at least one thing: cashing the blank check Congress has given them.

Re:So 60% positive ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47613399)

It means that the libertarian movement is growing!!

Re:So 60% positive ? (1)

buck-yar (164658) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613433)

I bet half of ar15.com is on that list.

Re:So 60% positive ? (1)

jratcliffe (208809) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613551)

I highly doubt it, given the government's abject terror of dubbing any right-wing group or action as "terrorist." Remember, terrorists are, by definition, brown people.

http://www.theatlantic.com/pol... [theatlantic.com]

Re:So 60% positive ? (4, Insightful)

JackieBrown (987087) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613759)

After the Boston Marathon Bombing, the tea party were the first people blamed. The shooter of the judge and congresswomen in Arizona was also blamed on conservatives (even though it turned out the guy was a liberal.)

Re:So 60% positive ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47613849)

Really? Waco, OKC, Ruby Ridge, Michigan Militia.... need I go on?

We've weaponized the IRS, whynot the terrorist DB? (1)

PseudoCoder (1642383) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613643)

Let's see who gets a FOIA request for their entry criteria and see what it takes to get into this DB. I've read of at least 2 stories (Army and FBI) where government sensitivity training is already classifying some conservatives or Christians as "extremist", somehow forgetting about the people with the black flag that have a stated goal of terminating all of us.

“It is in the nature of Islam to dominate, not to be dominated, to impose its law on all nations and to extend its power to the entire planet.”

—Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna

"...the Muslim’s real enemies, not only Israel but also the United States. Waging jihad against both of these infidels is a commandment of Allah that cannot be disregarded.”

—Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Muhammed Badi

Re:We've weaponized the IRS, whynot the terrorist (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47613841)

Let's see who gets a FOIA request for their entry criteria and see what it takes to get into this DB. I've read of at least 2 stories (Army and FBI) where government sensitivity training is already classifying some conservatives or Christians as "extremist", somehow forgetting about the people with the black flag that have a stated goal of terminating all of us.

“It is in the nature of Islam to dominate, not to be dominated, to impose its law on all nations and to extend its power to the entire planet.”

—Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna

"...the Muslim’s real enemies, not only Israel but also the United States. Waging jihad against both of these infidels is a commandment of Allah that cannot be disregarded.”

—Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Muhammed Badi

Right, because every muslim is clearly part of the Muslim Brotherhood (a faction operating in Egypt and a few pockets of other middle east countries). Or did you see the word Muslim and just gloss over everything else? Sounds about right, fascist.

Re:We've weaponized the IRS, whynot the terrorist (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47613993)

Right, because every muslim is clearly part of the Muslim Brotherhood (a faction operating in Egypt and a few pockets of other middle east countries).

Sounds about right. Since Westboro Baptist Church are allowed to speak for all of the US I assume that every American agrees with them. I don't see why I should treat Muslims differently.

Democrats hate privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47613435)

Obama - stop posting here

Re:So 60% positive ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47613591)

Then it means that 60% from this list have terrorist ties ?

No. It means that 40% on the list are known to have no terrorist ties whatsoever. The 60% might include "known ties" but also does include "maybe ties", "possible ties", "inferred maybe possibly conceivably ties", and so on. 40% is known to be "we made shit up", who's to say the other 60% aren't?

Especially since the 40% is in fact also "we know we made shit up, and we're not going to do a damn thing about it". The thing is highly speculative, we've known that from the start, but also clearly does not get cleaned up by those that keep the thing. Given that getting off costs something on the order of seven years of litigation against secret rules, secret rulebooks, secret lists, and sundry wanton rampant secrecy, per individual, we can see that this thing will be with us for a while yet.

It means that a hit on the list is has less than 60% chance of success by dint of "protection from terrorist", but it certainly is a lot of trouble for the victim, who is known to be at least 40% likely innocent, and probably much higher. That is no basis of justice. It's thuggery.

Re:So 60% positive ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47613605)

I have to say that was my reaction as well. While this is horrible from a civil liberties perspective, given everything we hear about how sloppy the process is, I would have expected much worse. Of course, there is an obvious action item that comes from that knowledge and it's hard to see how the NSA can argue against cleaning their data (makes their own job easier) without even looking at the ethical arguments..

Re:So 60% positive ? (0)

kilfarsnar (561956) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613869)

Then it means that 60% from this list have terrorist ties ? Good result.

How is a 40% error rate a good result?

Re:So 60% positive ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47614097)

The list is growing at 1,000 new entries per day. That means they're adding 600 new people with "terrorist ties". If they are adding almost 220k people per year that are considered to have "terrorist ties", I question what that even means. Nearly all of these people getting added are coming from 4 US cities. This means that with in a decade, nearly an entire city will be considered to have "terrorist ties".

Terrorist? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47613333)

What does this word mean again? The government doesn't seem to know either...

Re:Terrorist? (1)

miffo.swe (547642) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613395)

The Newspeak definition is easy.

Anyone fighting going against any US interests, first and foremost big corporate interests = terrorist
Anyone fighting that aligns itself with the US and gladly let strip mining emence once they win = freedom fighter

According to the current powers that be... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47613349)

Things like owning a firearm or not being registered as Democrat or Republican makes you fringe. It doesn't take much more than that to become a terrorist in their eyes. Saying something like "I support the constitution" is probably enough to push you into that category.

The one question on my mind (4, Insightful)

Joe Gillian (3683399) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613383)

If there are 280,000 people on the watch list that are there despite having no recognized ties to any terrorist groups.. why are they on the list at all?

Re:The one question on my mind (2)

Agares (1890982) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613593)

Fascism my friend fascism.

Re:The one question on my mind (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47613917)

I doubt that...

More likely is a huge backlog and incompetence (remember you are dealing with a bureaucracy). So someone enters a name poof on the list (guilty with no trial, acted suspicious, etc). Then the 'trial' happens. The trial part is harder as you have to go thru the persons information ALL of it. You want to be sure as they ended up on the list somehow and you dont want to be the guy who pops one off the list and it turns out they did something. So the input rate is greater than the output rate. As getting onto the list is easy (apparently ~1000/~60 per day). Getting off takes a senator writing a letter or someone bothering to look.

Remember from the outside malice and incompetence look identical. I think the level of CYA and empire building is more the cause than some mysterious 'they'. The effect however is the same :(

Now what this alarmist article leaves out though is that list limited to Americans only? Or does it include other countries? Also how did those people end up on the list? Was it past criminal history of similar nature? But with that many people on the list there is bound to be a decently high % that is wrong. It seems to be more of a dragnet of 'bad people'. I thought in this country we had innocent before guilty. But apparently the people who own this list think differently.

Re:The one question on my mind (3, Interesting)

jbeaupre (752124) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613623)

You don't have to affiliate with a terrorist group to be a terrorist. i.e. Unibomber.

But your question is still reasonable: why are they on the list? It must be some other undisclosed reason(s). Some might be valid, some might not.

Re:The one question on my mind (1)

kilfarsnar (561956) | about a month and a half ago | (#47614041)

But your question is still reasonable: why are they on the list? It must be some other undisclosed reason(s). Some might be valid, some might not.

These days if it's undisclosed I assume it is not valid.

Re:The one question on my mind (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47613665)

Lone Wolfs Associated recruits in all major cities. Join now and be the unexpected but suspected!

Re:The one question on my mind (4, Insightful)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613753)

If there are 280,000 people on the watch list that are there despite having no recognized ties to any terrorist groups.. why are they on the list at all?

It's an election year, and nobody wants to appear soft on the wrongfully accused.

Re:The one question on my mind (5, Informative)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613895)

If there are 280,000 people on the watch list that are there despite having no recognized ties to any terrorist groups.. why are they on the list at all?

Political disidints.

And no, I'm not kidding. The government has a long history of describing activism as terrorist activity. Martin Luther King for example.

Re:The one question on my mind (3, Informative)

jeti (105266) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613925)

Probably to satisfy some quota. As seems to be the case for the no-fly list [thedenverchannel.com] .

Re:The one question on my mind (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613963)

Because contrary to its ostensible function, it's a loosely assembled list of people they have a vague notion that they might be worth paying attention to, not cutting-edge intelligence.

Whats to stop them (1)

stewsters (1406737) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613391)

So if they know that 40% don't have terrorist ties, perhaps they should clean up their list?

Re:Whats to stop them (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613521)

Having a terrorist tie only means that your second cousin is friends with a person who has a roommate suspected of being a Hama sympathiser.

Not having a tie, and being on the list, means this person might possible like a build a bomb and blow up some civilians. I am more leaning to the ones with ties are more likely to not belong on the list than the ones without.

Re:Whats to stop them (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613805)

Having a terrorist tie only means that your second cousin is friends with a person who has a roommate suspected of being a Hama[s] sympathiser.

I'm probably on there for using the #StopArmingIsrael hashtag more than never.

Whoops, there I go again.

Re:Whats to stop them (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about a month and a half ago | (#47614047)

As nearly for every pair of persons on the planet yields: they are connected to each other by maximum 5 hops ...

Not having a tie more likely means: they got put into the DB on some suspicion, now we have the confirmation there is no tie, however: they don't get removed from the DB!

Re:Whats to stop them (1)

Jason Levine (196982) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613689)

Because: What if one of those 40% decides to become a terrorist and is allowed on a plane or isn't tracked closely thanks to being removed from the list? Can you prove that none of those 40% will ever become a terrorist in the future? No? Then they need to remain on the list just in case they one day get terrorist leanings.

Seriously, though. These agencies, sadly, seem to think in these terms. Any reduction in surveillance or removal from a terrorist watch list - even if the people being removed have no terrorist ties - is potentially letting future terrorists through. Their ultimate wet dream would be the ability to monitor everything about everyone at once. Only then could they provide maximum security for everyone (from everyone).

Politicians Families? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47613415)

It would be interesting to see how many politicians families and families of DHS/FBI/etc are on the list.

So 40% dwarfs 60%? (1)

wiredog (43288) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613463)

In which mathematical system is 40>60?

Re:So 40% dwarfs 60%? (2)

Karl Cocknozzle (514413) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613555)

In which mathematical system is 40>60?

It does. The list arbitrarily denies the right to free travel and movement among the various states for no reason whatsoever, almost 300,000 people in total. It draws into question the accuracy of the "60%"--that is, if nearly 300,000 people are arbitrarily on the list for no discernible link to terrorism, how many of the "60%" that they claim have ties to terrorism, actually do?

The incompetence of the 40% casts doubt on the claim of "60%" accuracy. I.e. "Of the 60% who do allegedly have terrorist ties, against how many of them is the evidence either completely non-existent or just because some arbitrary bureaucrat somewhere says so?"

That's what people are concerned about. An admitted 40% error rate is appalling, and it leads to wonder "If that's what they're admitting to their superiors, how much worse is the problem, actually?"

Re:So 40% dwarfs 60%? (4, Informative)

gstoddart (321705) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613613)

In which mathematical system is 40>60?

It doesn't, but you need to go a little deeper into the article:

So this is the blurb in the summary:

That category -- 280,000 people -- dwarfs the number of watchlisted people suspected of ties to al Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah combined.

And this is deeper in the article:

The groups with the largest number of targeted people on the main terrorism watchlist -- aside from "no recognized terrorist group affiliation" -- are al Qaeda in Iraq (73,189), the Taliban (62,794), and al Qaeda (50,446). Those are followed by Hamas (21,913) and Hezbollah (21,199).

So, there are 50K more people who are known to NOT have terrorist ties than all of those combined, and several times more than any single category.

Basically the list is useless, because they have more known non-terror linked subjects than they have people with actual links to terrorism.

I'm betting that list is anti-war protesters, people who disagree with the government, or who have done any number of innocent things which you have a right to do.

In other words, pretty much anybody they can find.

Re:So 40% dwarfs 60%? (1)

Jaime2 (824950) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613825)

They didn't say that. They said that the 40% "dwarfs the number of watchlisted people suspected of ties to al Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah combined". That means that the second list is only a small portion of the remaining 60%. It also means that most of the 60% aren't suspected of having ties to the three groups - and therefore also are probably false positives. Note that they said "suspected", most of the 60% aren't even suspected of having ties to the big three.

Why would you expect that they would? (2)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613485)

I do not think it is supposed to be particularly easy to join hamas, particularly for an American. You do not just look up "Terrorist" in the yellow pages and call 1-800-alQ-aeda.

The ability to join a known terrorist organization is limited to a few people based on genes, friendships, and geography.
The ability to hate the government and to build bombs is universal.
Ergo, most terrorists will most likely not have any affiliation is known terrorist organizations.

So what? (2)

Meneth (872868) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613491)

Terrorism doesn't have to be organized. Just look at Breivik!

"Classified" (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47613511)

Isn't it funny how so many documents are "classified" despite having no real national security applications but instead are solely indicators of government incompetence and/or misconduct.

Re:"Classified" (1)

PPH (736903) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613533)

so many documents

Yes. But the exact number is classified.

Only 40%? (2)

freak0fnature (1838248) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613523)

Realistically, how many people share the same name as a terrorist? I had a friend by the name of Chris Johnson who had been flagged. If one Chris Johnson is a bad guy...all the rest are not, and I bet that's a lot of Johnsons. What made it funny was that he had a top secret clearance but still got flagged at airports.

Re:Only 40%? (2)

Misagon (1135) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613775)

Practically every other moslem in the Middle East, I would guess, and a few more.
Some names from Islam's history, such as Mohammed or Ibrahim are very common, as first, last and middle names.
For instance, I know two people named Ibrahim Mohammed, both having being born in Europe, descendants of immigrants and not the least bit religious.

Re:Only 40%? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47613815)

I have a coworker named Chris Johnson, and he even had trouble catching a non-stop flight from a Canadian city to a Canadian city, all because of some black guy named CJ is wanted (my coworker is white).

So.... (1)

Agares (1890982) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613559)

This shouldn't surprise anyone. In these types of situations it is the innocent who are seen as the enemy, not actual criminals/terrorists.

Barak Obama's Secret Terrorist-Tracking System? (1)

naris (830549) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613675)

that was setup by George Bush....

Statistics (1)

PPH (736903) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613685)

All that means is that the selection process has some small error rate. Lets say the list of all travellers is 200 million*. That's about a 1.4% error rate (false positives). Not bad.

Of course, its a bitch for those caught on the list for no good reason. Which is why some quality control measures need to be implemented to improve this number.

*Don't rely heavily on this number. I just pulled it out of my ass to illustrate error rates when selecting a small subset out of a large population.

Not surprised. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47613697)

Here's another:

98% of people on the sex offender registry are non-credible threats to children.

But hey, that boogeyman list really works great as a reelection campaign tool.

40% of 680,000 is useless (4, Insightful)

whistlingtony (691548) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613703)

Let's face it.... a group of 20 people could do major damage to the U.S. If I had cells of 5 people in a few states.... I could cause wide spread chaos and fear. If they were watching 100 people, I'd think the list was excellent. If they were watching 500 people, I'd think the list was almost prudent. That they are watching 680,000 people? That list is USELESS. Needle in a haystack useless.

If there ARE plots to hurt Americans, we need much better, much TIGHTER scrutiny of specific individuals... A Terrorist Watch List, to be effective, should have the top 50 suspects, and their closest associates. 500 people at the most.

That list didn't catch the Boston Bomber..... even though Russia TOLD US he might be a problem. Needle in a haystack.... Forget the 40%. The sheer number of people on that list makes it useless. Lets face it, there are probably a few hundred people out of 300 million that really need watching.

I honestly doubt there are more than a handfull of people inside the US that have: actual terrorist desires, actual terrorist connections, an actual plan to hurt people, and enough fanaticism to overcome the fear of Gitmo or Death. There might be more with one or two of these, but look around you... if we're in so much danger, where's the actual DANGER? Since Sept. 11th, we've had ONE guy, the boston bomber... ok, and a bunch of right wing soverign citizen types.

Actually, I'm much more afraid of a crazy american trying to topple the government (all by himself, of course) than an actual terrorist.

Re:40% of 680,000 is useless (1)

c (8461) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613875)

Actually, I'm much more afraid of a crazy american trying to topple the government (all by himself, of course) than an actual terrorist.

Yeah, the rest of the world is afraid of your politicians, too.

Re:40% of 680,000 is useless (1)

reikae (80981) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613927)

If I had cells of 5 people in a few states.... I could cause wide spread chaos and fear.

If you owned TV networks, newspapers and such you could do it very efficiently. You don't need to directly hurt anyone or mess around with bombs to cause terror.

And that's ignoring the real flaw of the system (3, Informative)

Plumpaquatsch (2701653) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613717)

No terrorist will fly under a name he used before, most certainly not his birth name.

Why do terrorists need a team? (1)

jsepeta (412566) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613721)

A successful terrorist doesn't necessarily need to join a club. Look at the villains our vast comic-book history: they're almost all scarier when they act alone and not as part of some terror franchise.

That number seems low (1)

rfrenzob (163001) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613791)

I've always assumed that if you are unlucky enough to be on a jet that has to make an emergency landing for any reason, you end up on a watchlist somewhere.

Tail light out? Watchlist.
Electrical fire due to a wiring short? Watchlist.
Drunk and disorderly passenger on the same flight? Watchlist.

Re:That number seems low (2)

Lumpy (12016) | about a month and a half ago | (#47614089)

Posting on Slashdot? Watchlist.

Genuine Human: Are you genuine? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47613829)

The RFID Implant roll-out will begin soon enough

you'll have to prove you're a genuine human in good standing.

mark in hand or head

don't take it

Linux users are on that list... (1)

MindPrison (864299) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613833)

...according to themselves:

http://www.securitronlinux.com... [securitronlinux.com]
http://www.techspot.com/news/5... [techspot.com]

You gotta love how "scared" they are of us. They have NO clue.

Re:Linux users are on that list... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47613899)

http://www.linuxjournal.com/co... [linuxjournal.com]

I guess this is one way to respond:

http://www.linuxjournal.com/fi... [linuxjournal.com]
http://www.linuxjournal.com/fi... [linuxjournal.com]
http://www.linuxjournal.com/fi... [linuxjournal.com]
http://linuxjournal.com/files/... [linuxjournal.com]

No terrorist ties (2)

rossdee (243626) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613851)

Well we know what to get them for Christmas then

Heres a marketing opportunity, ties with the logos of the FSF, GreenPeace PETA, Sierra Club, Pirate Bay, or even Charles Schwab (they do IRA's)
 

Only 40%? (1)

bluegutang (2814641) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613853)

I'm surprised.

Unorganized terrorism is bad. The real problem is (5, Insightful)

raymorris (2726007) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613855)

I hate to say it, and I know this will go against the common feeling here, but I think TFS misses the point. Misses by some distance, actually.
Timothy McVeigh wasn't, to my knowledge, associated with any recognized terrorists organizations. That doesn't mean he shouldn't have been on a list of people the FBI is concerned about. Whether or not they are known to be a member of a known terrorist group isn't the important question. (Note also the difference between "we don't know which group they are affiliated with" vs "we know they aren't communicating with any group"). If someone is acting like a terrorist, such as buying explosives on the black market, the government should probably make a note of that fact, regardless of what groups they are associated with or not associated with.

The information in the report that is more concerning to me is that they have added 430,000 names to the "terrorist-related" database in the last four years. That sounds like far too many people. I was surprised the report said they REMOVED 50,000 names in those same four years. That's good news. I'm also concerned about the EFFECTS of being in this database. If there were that many people on the no-fly list, that would be troubling, but I don't think that's the case. If a listed person flies to the middle east and back and that triggers a notification to authorities so they can include that information in their larger understanding of what's going on, that's less troubling.

We should be asking "how is this list used?" and "what ARE the criteria to be put on this list?"
Those, I think, are more important questions than "how many act alone or in small groups, as opposed to recognized organizations?"

Define "known" (3, Insightful)

Overzeetop (214511) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613859)

I know, that sounds like defining "is" or "sex with that woman" but...

TFA indicates that they have no "recognized terrorist group affiliation ties". So does that parse to
(1) American citizens who have no ties to a terrorist group
(2) no known ties to a terrorist group, but the NSA could have metadata that shows contact with one or multiple known members of those groups,
(3) ties to groups which we suspect may have terrorist motives/wings/connections but are not currently recognized as terrorist groups
(4) ties to or current or prior foreign citizenship from state which sponsor or harbor terror groups

Option (1) is what the article would suggest. Here's a similarly ambiguous statement, which is 100% truthful: "Of the 280,000 people on the list who have no recognized terrorist group affiliation ties, none are identified in the article as being Americans citizens." Of course, the infographic indicates that, of the 660,000 people on the watchlist, 3300 are American citizens (0.5%), but not that any of those 3300 are in the unaffiliated group. Which is why I suggest items (3) and (4), which (I'm guessing) make up the vast majority of those in the 40%.

Flight 17 (0)

AlCapwn (1536173) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613865)

Every passenger on a Malaysia Airlines flight is on a no-fly list!

Misleading headline (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613905)

TFA says 40% have “no recognized terrorist group affiliation.” So the Unabomber would fall into this category, as would someone who had expressed a desire to set of a bomb, or someone who says "as a member of the blah blah group I am committed to terrorism" (if there is no recognised blah blah group).

The TSDB tracks names, not people. (1)

wiredog (43288) | about a month and a half ago | (#47613967)

There is a many to many mapping of those. (Should be many to one, but nothing is perfect.)

That is, my slashdot user name is one "name", so is my "real" name that people call me, which is not the full name on my birth certificate. So that's three names for one person.

Also, not all terrorist groups are in the middle east, or Muslim. Several are right here in the US, and Christian. (Or Jewish, not sure if any atheist groups are in the US).

Terrorist Sleeper Database (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about a month and a half ago | (#47614011)

Perhaps they simply put all Doe's and Smith's into the database? (yes, the ' is incorrect but makes more clear the does and Does :) )

Drag the remaining 60% through the legal system (1)

Buchenskjoll (762354) | about a month and a half ago | (#47614051)

... so they can have terrorist suits to go with their terrorist ties.

Same as the 60's (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about a month and a half ago | (#47614083)

The govt had a communist list full of people that the administration did not like.

The "terror list" is honestly nothing more than a shit list.

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