The National Counterterrorism Center maintains a central repository of 325,000 names of international terrorism suspects or people who allegedly aid them, a number that has more than quadrupled since the fall of 2003, according to counterterrorism officials.
The list kept by the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) — created in 2004 to be the primary U.S. terrorism intelligence agency — contains a far greater number of international terrorism suspects and associated names in a single government database than has previously been disclosed. Because the same person may appear under different spellings or aliases, the true number of people is estimated to be more than 200,000, according to NCTC officials.
The NSA is a key provider of information for the NCTC database, although officials refused to say how many names on the list are linked to the agency’s controversial domestic eavesdropping effort. Under the program, the NSA has conducted wiretaps on an unknown number of U.S. citizens without warrants.
Civil liberties advocates and privacy experts said they were troubled by the size of the NCTC database, and they said it further heightens their concerns that such government terrorism lists include the names of large numbers of innocent people. Timothy Sparapani, legislative counsel for privacy rights at the American Civil Liberties Union, called the numbers “shocking but, unfortunately, not surprising.”
“We have lists that are having baby lists at this point; they’re spawning faster than rabbits,” Sparapani said. “If we have over 300,000 known terrorists who want to do this country harm, we’ve got a much bigger problem than deciding which names go on which list. But I highly doubt that is the case.”
If most leads from surveillance are “washed out” then just imagine what the scale of surveillance must be to yield a list of 325,000 names. Staggerring!