Federal government shares terror watchlist with over 1000 private groups: report

The federal government shares its terrorist watchlist with more than 1,400 private groups, according to court papers reported on by The Associated Press.

The AP reported Tuesday that Timothy Groh, the deputy director of the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center (TSC), said in a written statement to a federal court that 1,441 private entities can access the watchlist, which is compiled by the center.

ADVERTISEMENT

Groh's statement came as part of a class-action lawsuit in federal court in Alexandria, Va., brought by Muslims who say they have been wrongly included on the list.

To have access to the watchlist, the groups must be linked to the criminal justice system, Groh said, according to the AP. He reportedly pointed to police at private universities, security staff at hospitals and private correctional facilities as examples of groups who have access.

The FBI did not immediately return a request for comment to The Hill.

The government has previously denied disseminating the list to private groups, the AP noted. The AP reported that government lawyer Dena Roth said at a pretrial hearing last year that the TSC "does not work with private partners, and that watchlist status itself ... is considered law enforcement sensitive information and is not shared with the public.”

Gadeir Abbas, an attorney with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told the AP that the government's use of the watchlist is 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.

Abbas and other attorneys have asked a judge to force the government to provide more details on which private groups are accessing the watchlist and how those groups are using the list, according to the AP.

Abbas also told the AP that the list has so many incorrect names that it is essentially a collection of "innocent Muslims who have never committed a crime.”

“It is a fool’s errand,” Abbas said. “They are trying to predict, among the innocent, which people will be terrorists. That is an impossibility.”