Published on WSWS, by Jerry White, 17 July 2008.
One million people – including large numbers of American citizens – are on the US government’s so-called terrorist watch list, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which held a Washington, D.C. press conference earlier this week to mark the ominous milestone.
Since February of this year the ACLU has maintained an online “watch list counter” to track the size of the government’s watch list. A September 2007 report by the inspector general of the Justice Department reported that the list contained 700,000 names and was growing by 20,000 per month. As of this writing, the counter has passed the 1,001,500 mark.
The Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) was set up in December 2003 through a Homeland Security directive signed by President George W. Bush, who ordered the agency to consolidate more than a dozen separate terrorist watch lists maintained by different federal agencies.
The resulting Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB) has been used to detain thousands of people during airport security checks or bar them from flying. Foreign nationals have been held up at US border crossings and prevented from obtaining visas based on the list. Local law enforcement agencies have also accessed the database during routine traffic stops.
The ACLU concluded its press conference by expressing hope that the “next president” would move quickly to fix the excesses carried out by the Bush administration. Any confidence that a Barack Obama White House will dismantle the repressive measures put in place by Bush is an illusion.
Obama has fully embraced the war on terror—both in regards to foreign and domestic policy. He signaled his support for the attack on democratic rights through his Senate vote last week backing the Bush administration’s illegal program of widespread electronic surveillance and wiretapping. (full text).