ETK Introduction: The potential connection of these three stories to this website is that many of the groups with access to the watchlists may in fact be universities and medical facilities who are using “watchlisted individuals” as non-consensual human experimentees.
I. Judge orders feds to list private groups receiving watchlist
By MATTHEW BARAKAT –
2/22/19 1:11 PM
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — A federal magistrate on Friday ordered the government to disclose to him and to plaintiffs’ attorneys a list of private organizations that receive access to the government’s list of known or suspected terrorists.
Judge John Anderson issued the ruling at the conclusion of a hearing in U.S. District Court in Alexandria which he angrily questioned government lawyers about their failure to previously disclose that hundreds of private entities like universities and hospitals receive access to the list.
The government admitted earlier this month in a court filing that private groups like universities and hospitals receive access to the list, after denying in previous court hearings and depositions that they do.
A government lawyer said the oversight was a mistake and there was no intention to deceive.
“We didn’t catch that one,” government lawyer Antonia Konkoly said of the misstatements about the list, noting that the watchlist administration is “a very broad operation.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations is challenging the watchlist’s constitutionality. It says innocent Muslims are placed on the list by mistake and suffer numerous consequences as a result.
The government also revised its estimate of how many private groups get access to the list, from more than 1,400 to fewer than 700.
Konkoly, the government’s lawyer, said the initial estimate given earlier this month of 1,441 contained numerous duplicates. She said it’s hard to determine an exact number because many of the private entities have similar names, and some of the recordkeeping goes back to “before the age of modern computing.”
CAIR’s lawyers have long suspected that the list is disseminated much more widely than the government has acknowledged. The broad terror watchlist contains hundreds of thousands of names; the much smaller no-fly list is culled from the watchlist.
CAIR’s lawsuit is filed on behalf of Muslim clients who say they have not only suffered travel consequences as a result of placement on the list but also difficulty in processing financial transactions and interactions with law enforcement.
At Friday’s hearing, Konkoly said the private groups receiving the list are “law-enforcement adjacent” entities like police forces for private universities and railroads.
“There’s nothing shocking about any of the entities on the list,” Konkoly said.
“What may not be shocking to you may be shocking to me or shocking to the plaintiffs,” Anderson responded.
As a result, Anderson ordered the government to provide him a list of the private agencies. He also ordered, over the government’s objection, that the CAIR attorneys be permitted review the list at a secure government location. But the attorneys will not be allowed to keep a copy of the list and are barred from disseminating it publicly.
Lena Masri, a CAIR attorney, called Anderson’s ruling “a huge step forward to help us understand the breadth of the dissemination.”
That breadth of dissemination is a key aspect of the CAIR’s lawsuit, because the plaintiffs allege that the list is shared so broadly that people suffer consequences in all aspects of life.
Anderson said he was frustrated that the government did not provide accurate information about the list’s private dissemination until roughly two years after the lawsuit was filed, despite specific orders from a judge to come clean on this very topic.
He also expressed frustration that the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, which manages the list, had insufficient answers about how other government agencies share the list. The fewer-than-700 entities referenced in the lawsuit refers only to those private entities that get the data directly from the Terrorist Screening Center. It does not count what other government agencies, like Customs and Border Protection and the Transportation Security Administration, do with the list.
The TSA shares its data with airlines, but Anderson questioned Konkoly about who else might receive the list. Konkoly provided assurances that private corporations like banks and car dealerships don’t get the list, but Anderson questioned how she could state that confidently without knowing more about the workings of the other government agencies.
“You don’t know what (the department of Homeland Security) does with the information,” Anderson said.
CAIR lawyer Gadeir Abbas said it’s become clear over the course of the lawsuit that so many government entities are intertwined with the collection and dissemination of the watchlist that nobody truly knows its scope.
“Each agency claims they don’t know what the other agency is doing,” he said.
II. APNewsBreak: Feds share watchlist with 1,400 private groups
By MATTHEW BARAKATFebruary 20, 2019
FILE – In this Jan. 30, 2017, file photo, attorney Gadeir Abbas speaks during a news conference at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Washington. The federal government has acknowledged that it shares its terrorist watchlist with more than 1,400 private entities, including hospitals and universities, prompting concerns from civil libertarians that those mistakenly placed on the list could face a wide variety of hassles in their daily lives. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
FALLS CHURCH, Va. (AP) — The federal government has acknowledged that it shares its terrorist watchlist with more than 1,400 private entities, including hospitals and universities, prompting concerns from civil libertarians that those mistakenly placed on the list could face a wide variety of hassles in their daily lives.
The government’s admission that it shares the list so broadly comes after years of insistence that the list is generally not shared with the private sector.
Gadeir Abbas, a lawyer with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which has filed a constitutional challenge to the government’s use of the watchlist, called the government’s admission shocking.
“We’ve always suspected there was private-sector dissemination of the terror watchlist, but we had no idea the breadth of the dissemination would be so large,” Abbas said.
The watchlist is supposed to include only those who are known or suspected terrorists but contains hundreds of thousands of names. The government’s no-fly list is culled from a small subset of the watchlist.
Critics say that the watchlist is wildly overbroad and mismanaged, and that large numbers of people wrongly included on the list suffer routine difficulties and indignities because of their inclusion.
The government’s admission comes in a class-action lawsuit filed in federal court in Alexandria by Muslims who say they regularly experience difficulties in travel, financial transactions and interactions with law enforcement because they have been wrongly added to the list. The Associated Press is the first to report on the disclosure after reviewing the case documents.
Abbas said now that the government has disclosed how many private entities receive access to the Terrorist Screening Database, the official name of the watchlist, it now needs to explain exactly which private entities are receiving it and what they’re doing with it. He’s asked a judge to require the government to be more specific. A hearing is scheduled for Friday.
“Are universities taking TSDB status into account in making admission or disciplinary decisions? Are Inova Alexandria Hospital’s building security personnel screening visitors against the TSDB and denying entry to listees? Is Motorola screening its software engineers who work on cellular infrastructure equipment against the TSDB and firing listees? Plaintiffs have no idea,” Abbas and co-counsels Lena Masri and Carolyn Homer wrote in a brief submitted Friday.
In depositions and in court hearings, government officials had denied until very recently that the watchlist compiled by the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center is shared with private entities. At a pretrial hearing in September, government lawyer Dena Roth told U.S. District Judge Anthony Trenga that the Terrorist Screening Center “does not work with private partners, and that watchlist status itself … is considered law enforcement sensitive information and is not shared with the public.”
Despite that assurance, the judge ordered the government to be more specific about how it disseminates the watchlist. Trenga said the plaintiffs are entitled to the information to try to prove their case that inclusion on the list causes them to suffer “real world consequences.”
In response to Trenga’s order, TSC Deputy Director of Operations Timothy Groh filed a written statement earlier this month acknowledging that 1,441 private entities have received permission to access the watchlist. Groh says those private entities must be in some way connected to the criminal justice system. He cited police forces at private universities, hospital security staff and private correctional facilities as examples.
It is not clear what restrictions are placed on how private institutions use the list.
The FBI did not respond to emails and phone calls seeking comment.
Hugh Handeyside, attorney with the ACLU’s National Security project, said the government’s disclosure is “noteworthy in that it corroborates what we’ve long suspected, but it still leaves unanswered several important questions.” He said more information is needed to know how private entities use the information.
“The likelihood of stigma or adverse consequences is increased” every time the government shares the list with a private organization, a foreign government or any other agency, he said.
The exact number on the list is kept secret by the government, but it acknowledged in an earlier lawsuit that it adds hundreds of thousands of names to the list every year. It also emphasized that names are routinely removed from the list.
In some quarters, the government has been criticized for failing to widely disseminate the list to private agencies who might need to know about suspected terrorists. A 2007 report from a government watchdog criticized the government for just that.
Abbas, though, said the problem with disseminating the list is that the list itself is so faulty and littered with so many innocent names that, for all practical matters, the list is merely a compilation of “innocent Muslims who have never committed a crime.”
“It is a fool’s errand,” Abbas said of the watchlist’s purported goal. “They are trying to predict, among the innocent, which people will be terrorists. That is an impossibility.”
This story has corrected the spelling Gadeir Abbas’ first name.
III. More than 1,000 private entities have access to terrorism watch list, government says
By Rachel Weiner
Muslims who have been put on the government’s secretive terrorism watch list are demanding to know more about the 1,441 private entities that have access.
The number was revealed recently through litigation in Alexandria federal court, one of a half-dozen lawsuits related to the watch list filed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations. On Friday, CAIR will ask a federal judge to force the government to release the names of the private entities and explain how they access the list.
The massive, classified database was created after the 9/11 terrorist attacks to track people deemed potentially dangerous who had not committed crimes. In litigation, CAIR has argued that the terrorism database and the no-fly list that comes out of it ensnare and stigmatize innocent people.
In a deposition last October, an FBI official said he was “not aware of any” private entities that had access to the database through the National Crime Information Center.
In a court filing, which was first reported by the Associated Press, the FBI acknowledged that more than 1,000 actually did have that access.
These firms are providing criminal justice services, according to the FBI — for example, private prisons, university police and private security companies that work in government facilities or hospitals. The Transportation Security Administration also shares watch-list information with airlines.
But lawyers for CAIR say they believe the dissemination goes further, citing plaintiffs who say they have had trouble getting loans or keeping bank accounts open without explanation.
CAIR’s attorneys argue that the conflicting information from the FBI casts its handling of the list into doubt and shows the need for more transparency.
“Either they knew that they were being deceitful or the FBI exercises so little care with the watch-listing system which implicates more than a million people,” said CAIR attorney Gadeir Abbas.
In a statement, the FBI said the database “is not shared in its totality with state or local police departments or the private sector.” Only the smaller “known or suspected terrorist” list is available to them, the FBI said, and they can’t scroll through the data but must search for a particular name.
Entities requesting the data must be providing services for “the administration of criminal justices services,” the FBI said, and “must comply with agreements to ensure the security and confidentiality of the information.”
Hassan Shibly, one of the plaintiffs and the leader of CAIR Florida, said he has been on and off the watch list since he was 18 years old and has gone through long searches at airports at least 20 times.
“It’s just a consistently humiliating experience that doesn’t make the country any safer,” said Shibly, now 32.
All 25 plaintiffs were taken off the list after filing the lawsuit, but Abbas said they have continued to face problems because of their earlier inclusion.
Devlin Barrett contributed to this report.
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