More than 40 percent of the people on the U.S. government's terrorist watchlist computer database have no known affiliation or link to any terrorist organization.
There are a total of 680,000 people listed as “known or suspected terrorists” on the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE), notes The Intercept, which cited classified government documents from the National Counterterrorism Center.
However, 280,000 people on the list are not affiliated with any terrorist group.
This non-affiliated group is larger than the real terrorist groups Hezbollah, al-Qaeda and Hamas combined.
“If everything is terrorism, then nothing is terrorism,” former FBI special agent David Gomez told The Intercept.
“You need some fact-basis to say a guy is a terrorist, that you know to a probable-cause standard that he is a terrorist,” added Gomez. “Then I say, ‘Build as big a file as you can on him.’ But if you just suspect that somebody is a terrorist? Not so much.”
The area with the second largest number of “known or suspected terrorists,” according to the U.S. government's database, is tiny Dearborn, Mich., which just happens to have a large Muslim population.
Right before The Intercept published their report today, the Associated Press suddenly published its own mostly positive article about the U.S. database, which The Intercept believes was leaked by the U.S. government, noted The Intercept writer Jeremy Scahill on Twitter.
This claim was echoed by The Huffington Post, which reports that the U.S. government tried to "spoil the scoop" with its positive spin on its watchlist.
According to the Associated Press report, which cites the National Counterterrorism Center as its only source: "The government does not need evidence that links someone to terrorism in order for the person to be included in the database."
"The database was created after the 9/11 terror attacks when it became clear that the government's terror watch list was ineffective. The watch list was once maintained in a rolodex and in paper notebooks, according to redacted photographs provided by the National Counterterrorism Center," adds the Associated Press.