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EPIC FOIA - FBI Watchlist

Latest News

  • Nation Mourns Death of Nelson Mandela, World Leader who Appeared on US "Terrorist" Watch List: Former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela has died. He is revered in the US and around the world for helping to bring about the end of apartheid, for leading his country into a new era, and for championing the cause of human rights. Until 2008, Mr. Mandela, a member of the African National Congress and a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, also appeared on the US "Terrorist" Watch List. Documents obtained by EPIC under the Freedom of Information Act in 2012 revealed a broad legal standard that allows the US to place someone on the Terrorist Watch List virtually forever. Mr. Mandela's name was taken off the list in 2008 by a formal act of Congress. Approximately 700,000 people are currently tracked by the US Terrorist Screening Center. For more information, see EPIC: FBI Watchlist (National Terrorist Screening Center) and EPIC: Mandela and Privacy. (Dec. 6, 2013)
  • Documents Obtained by EPIC Reveal FBI Watch List Details: EPIC has obtained documents that reveal new details about standards for adding and removing names from the FBI watch list. The documents were obtained as the result of an EPIC Freedom of Information Act request to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI's standard for inclusion on the list is "particularized derogatory information," which has never been recognized by a court of law. Also, individuals may remain on the FBI watch list even if charges are dropped or a case is dismissed. The New York Times broke the story and posted the documents obtained by EPIC. For more information, see EPIC: FBI Watch List FOIA and EPIC: Open Government. (Sep. 28, 2011)

Background

There has been very little public information about the criteria for adding or removing names from the Terrorist Screening Center Database or the No Fly List.

In the past five years, reports of the size of the No Fly List and Selectee List have varied from 44,000 and 75,000, respectively, in 2006, to 3,400 individuals on the No Fly List in 2009. Most recently, the No Fly List was said to have increased to 6,000 individuals between December 2009 and May 2010. There is a clear lack of accurate information in the public domain on the size of the No Fly List and Selectee List. There also appears to be no recent data on the number of United States citizens on the lists, even though tens of thousands of Americans are potentially affected.

EPIC's Freedom of Information Act Request

On June 7, 2011, EPIC submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the Federal Bureau of Investigation for agency records related to the Terrorist Screening Center Database and No Fly List. EPIC requested the following agency records:

    1. All documents detailing the criteria used to place an individual who is already in the TSDB on the No Fly List
    2. All documents detailing the criteria used to place an individual who is already in the TSDB on the Selectee List
    3. All documents detailing the criteria used to remove an individual from the No Fly List.
    4. All documents detailing the criteria used to remove an individual from the Selectee List.
    5. All documents relating to the current number of individuals of the No Fly List.
    6. All documents relating to the current number of individuals of the Selectee List.
    7. All documents relating to the current number of United States citizens on the No Fly List.
    8. All documents relating to the current number of United States citizens on the Selectee List.
    9. All documents detailing whether individuals on the No Fly List have been notified of their presence on the list.
    10. All documents detailing whether individuals on the Selectee List have been notified of their presence on the list.

On September 28, 2011, EPIC released documents obtained from the Federal Bureau of Investigation as a result of EPIC's FOIA request. The disclosed documents include previously secret FBI Watch List Guidelines from 2010, previously secret FBI Watch List Guidelines from 2009, a Report to Congress on the Terrorist Screening Center, and previously classified answers to questions by members of Congress.

Documents

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